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September 5, 2003

Along with some wonderful photos of Perry's early day telephone exchange, several newspaper clippings from the early 1900s are found in a collection once owned by the late Mrs. Ralph Foster. The clippings deal with the phone company, of course, but they also shed a little light on the social climate of that period. For many reasons, they are valuable and extremely interesting. As you would expect, the paper is faded and very brittle now, but if the clippings are handled with care they can offer a wealth of information. Mrs. Foster (Edna Brown) and my mother (Ivy Bucklin) were close personal friends when both of them were young unmarried women in this community, and I am happy to share portions of these clippings with you in this series of columns about the Pioneer Telephone Company.

First is this one from an unnamed Perry newspaper, headlined simply, "Mrs. Higgins Entertained." The complete story follows: "Perhaps no organization in Perry are recipients of more delightful parties than those participated in by the young ladies in the telephone company employ. This time Mrs. Higgins, of Lawton, wife of the former manager in Perry, was the honoree, last evening at the home of Miss Edna Brown.

"Mrs. Elmer Rice chaperoned the young ladies to the home of Miss Brown, where a most delightful evening was spent. Miss Tillie Ringler (later to become Mrs. O.R. Hall), furnishing such gay conversation that she was elected chief entertainer of the occasion. Flash light pictures, social chat and delicious refreshments furnished a most pleasant evening for the recipients

"Those present were: Misses Ethel and Francis McMeekin, Tillie Ringler, Dorothy Owens, Stella Schott, Helen Manson, Bretta Adams, Mildred Depew, Edna Brown, Mrs. Higgins and. Mrs. Rice."

Now here's another newspaper story from about the same time period.

"Manager Brown"

"Good morning, Manager Brown of the Pioneer (Telephone Company). Goodbye and Godspeed ex-manager Joe Higgins. With a hurry-up call Monday evening Manager Higgins packed his grip and left Tuesday morning for Lawton where he takes charge of the exchange at that place. A deserved recognition of services rendered the company by the promotion to a much more responsible and better paying position.

"With the transfer of Mr. Higgins, Miss Edna Brown, for the past two years a central operator and of late bookkeeper of the office, is promoted to the managerial chair.

"This is certainly a flattering compliment for Miss Edna. She is, so far as we know, the only lady manager in the state for a city the size of Perry and unquestionably the youngest of the lady superintendents. Her endorsements were such that with the transfer of Manager Higgins there was no hesitancy with the head officials of the great Pioneer in selecting her as the guardian of their interests at this place.

"The young lady is certainly to be congratulated upon her promotion which will be appreciated by the patrons of the local office."

So it went in those days, around 1910, in Perry, Oklahoma. We're happy to bring you this reconstruction of two news articles from the local newspaper of that period. Edna Brown went on to become the bride of Ralph Foster, Sr., owner-operator of the Foster Corner Drug, where Mr. and Mrs. Mike Shannon are now the pro¬prietors.

Perry telephone operators in the early 1900s are shown in this picture from the collection of the late Mrs. Ralph Foster, Sr. This bank of switchboards apparently was on the second floor of the Hainer building at the northwest corner of the square, where the First Bank & Trust Co. is now located. Mrs. Foster, the former Edna Brown, was chief operator of the phone company when this photo was made, but no one is identi¬fied in this shot.