Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book
Stories of Early Nichols

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 137

         2 August 1954 - Mrs. Emma Rice cast the first ballot in the Nichols electric power franchise special election. Mrs. Rice’s husband, the late Ralph S. Rice, turned on the first electrical switch at Nichols 16 November 1916. Officials at the election were George Sutton, judge; John Loeb, judge; Ula Han, clerk; Gladys Hillyer, clerk, and Ralph Borgstadt, judge.
         Voters in Nichols approved a 25 year franchise for electrical service 79-51 with Iowa Electric Light and Power Company at a special election. Iowa Electric Light and Power has serviced the community since 1916. Terms of the franchise are outlined in a city ordinance passed by the town council June 18.

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 154
By Peggy Smith

         I was asked to write what I remember of the Nichols Mutual Telephone Company.
         Part of what I remember is what Clifford Hesser, owner of the company, told me.
         At one time the telephone office and post office were located in what is now Elder Implement Company. Cliff and his Aunt Edna had charge of both, and they lived in the apartment above what was formerly Chown’s Appliance. The old Opera House was upstairs in the Elder building. Later the telephone company moved to the building which is now Ma and Pa’s.
         When I went to work at the telephone office, there was a Board of Directors consisting of Bert Metcalf, Will Schmitt, Edna Hesser and Clifford Hesser. Perhaps there was another member. Eventually, Cliff and Edna had control of all the stock, and later Clifford Hesser became sole owner of the company.
         We had nine country lines with eight to ten homes (maybe more) on each line. Each telephone had a certain number of rings as their number. Also, we were connected to long distance by way of Muscatine. We had lines, also, for West Liberty, Lone Tree, and a couple more I don’t recall. Clifford did all repairs for lines and phones; if there was something he couldn’t do, he called a lineman from West Liberty.
         We had the old wooden pay telephone booth in the office, which was mostly used for long distance calls. The telephone exchange service for a private phone was $2.85 a month, plus state tax of 7 cents and federal tax of $1.06.
         After Clifford’s death, Iowa-Illinois bought the telephone company and equipment, and after working for them about one year, we were out of work. I think this was in 1964 or thereabouts.

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 154

         Who remembers “Central?”
         “Central” was the telephone operator for years past, before the dial system. When a subscriber wishes to make a call, he would turn the crank on the side of the box, remove the receiver from the hook on the wooden box that also held the mouth piece, and “Central” answered with a pleasant “Number please.” The subscriber would give the number desired, and “Central” would politely say “Thank you,” and take one of the long switchboard cords, plug it into the number desired and ring the person to whom you wished to talk.
         Often “Central” acted as an answering service – telling the caller that the person they wanted to talk to had just gone down the street to the store or relaying such messages.
         Emergencies were also handled by “Central.” It was “Central” who called all the volunteer firemen when someone informed her that there was a fire on the premises.
         Yes, “Central” knew what was going on in town, but she was essential to our way of life at that time.

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