September 2, 2003
As we continue these columns dealing with the use of telephones in the early days of this community, here are a couple of footnotes provided by readers:
Elizabeth Treeman Willems remembers hearing about the association of her grandfather, Mr. L.D. Treeman, with Mr. E.D. Nims, along with some other Perry men, who helped establish the first tele¬phone exchange in Perry not long after this area was opened to settlement. The company eventually became known as the Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company, and still later it was the Arkansas Valley Telephone Company. Mr. Nims stayed with the phone company as it became part of Southwestern Bell. He eventually prospered, but Elizabeth says her grandfather apparently chose to go his own way and did not enjoy the financial success of his associates.
I have a copy of the 1909 directory of the Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company and it shows that Mr. Nims was then president of the company. John M. Noble was listed as vice president and general manager, E.E. Westervelt was a secretary-treasurer and Arthur Whorton was auditor. The manager was J. Higgins and the local exchange was in the Hainer building (telephone 305). Mr. Treeman had telephone number 4 at his residence, 1020 K Street. Elizabeth says that number stayed in the family many years. My maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Bucklin, had a phone at their variety store on the north side of the square (number 61), but no residential phone. My Dad's City Drug Store, also on the north side of the square, had number 110 in 1909. The store still had that number when it closed for business in 1940.
The directory had only a few pages, and several of them were taken up with "Rules for Good Service." The book admonished phone users to speak slowly and "be brief but courteous." It also called attention to its "information" service, advising users to ask for that "When you can't find the telephone number you want, or to get answers to any questions regarding subscriber's names, numbers or addresses." Years later Southwestern Bell operators also provided the correct time of day or night upon request. That was when we had actual operators at the switchboard, and not the automated systems that accompanied the use of dial phones.
Friend Don Stoddard has this recollection. Don writes: "While reading about the early day phone system in Perry in your column, it rang a bell that I had read somewhere else about Perry and its early day phone service. It finally dawned on me that it was in Roy P. Stewart's book, Born Grown. Quoting from page 156: The Arkansas Valley Telephone Company began operation around Perry in 1897. The Arkansas Valley firm brought out a number of smaller firms and in 1902 became the 'Pioneer Telephone Company.' Then Pioneer moved into Oklahoma City and was later absorbed by the Bell Telephone Company."
I appreciate these sidelights and I am pleased to pass them on to you. There's still more to be said about Perry's early telephone system, so please be watching for additional columns on this subject from time to time in the near future.