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August 15, 2003

The story of the beginning of telephone service in the city of Perry was pretty well covered in a Perry Daily Journal news article following a dinner here the night of December 9, 1926, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell's new invention—the telephone. We have already quoted portions of that story, but there's more to tell, and some of it follows. The following is from The Journal's news story after that din¬ner. This is in addition to the account that has already appeared in this column:

"Judge Harris, who claims considerable credit for the training of Henry S. Johnston, governor-elect, in his legal profession, also made it clear Thursday night in his humorous way that he started Johnston on his road to fame when he helped carry a dry goods box' from which Johnston made his first political speech many years ago. Gov.-elect Johnston, although a comparatively young man when the phone made its appearance, recalled many facts regarding the founder of this system and disclosed these facts very freely at the ban¬quet.

"Gov.-elect Johnston also gave a review of the progress of the phone since it had started with the signals used by savage tribes ages ago. Mrs. Henry S. Johnston, in her address, spoke of the Alexander Graham Bell home known as the Bell home in West Moreland county, W. Va. This home was built, by the inventor of the phone as a summer home for the children of Washington and here frequent¬ly Bell sought rest from the worries and cares. It was also Mrs. Johnston's great privilege to know the wife of Alexander Graham Bell.

"John A. Rowley, district manager of Ponca City, was in charge of the banquet Thursday night and introduced the various speakers. Mrs. M.M. Thomas, wife of one of the attorneys in Oklahoma City, opened the evening's entertainment with two vocal solos. She was accompanied by Arthur Johnston on the piano. Mrs. Orville Savage, former manag¬er of the local station (exchange), also sang vocal solos. She was accompanied by Miss Irene Drake of Ponca City. Arthur Johnston of Perry played a piano solo.

"Telephone employees and out of town guests present for the banquet were John M. Noble, vice president, Oklahoma City; E.E. Westervelt, vice president, Oklahoma City; Arthur Wharton, assistant general manager, St. Louis; and R.J. Benza (title and home city not shown in my copy)."

One more bit of information gleaned from The Journal. This is from an article in a 1912 issue: "The great Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Co. was born in Perry 18 years ago (that would make the year 1894), beginning with a single line to Pawnee. While headquar¬ters have since been moved to Oklahoma City, Perry has a modern Central Energy system with 400 local and 300 rural subscribers. Connections with independent lines furnish free service for rural subscribers all over Noble and adjoining counties."

More bits and pieces of early day Perry telephone information will continue in a few days.