North Star Telephone Company
(written by Pat O'Dell)
Leo and Normalee Miller of New Market, Iowa, have the business meeting notes of the North Star Telephone Company from 1904-1953. Leo has said he didn't know why they kept such a thing around..well, I do. Normalee and I both have grandpas who were in this group and I'm related to about half of them one way or another.
When the North Star Telephone Company was formed, they purchased a Composition Book, which had 100 pages for 5 cents, to record the proceedings of their business meetings. This booklet contains the original by-laws of the Company and minutes of their meetings until 1953. The pages are reproduced here and you can follow the advent of the telephone in the lives of your relatives.
The North Star area, which was in Dallas township, is north/northeast of New Market. The "Company" met 4 times a year. Often times, these were social get-togethers and at one meeting the cost of the coffee, oysters, crackers and butter were noted and said moneys were taken from the treasury.
There was a warning to all that if they repeated anything they had overheard on the "line," their phone could be disconnected. For all of you who never lived with "ring-down" phones, this needs some explaining. When anyone on this line was called, everyone could hear the ring. Each person's ring was different. One person's ring might be 3 short rings or a long and 2 shorts. You were only supposed to pick up the receiver when it was your ring. Some people had a hard time containing their curiosity at just what the neighbor's phone calls might be about...and just might listen in...and just might repeat whatever the "news" get the idea? This was frowned upon.
Ring-down phones might sound like ancient history to some of you, but New Market had them until the mid-1970's. In some ways, the North Star Telephone Company was way ahead of their time...they banned tobacco smoke in public places in their original by-laws in 1904. They had phones that were not private, usually had a lot of static, and were hard to hear on. Everytime I pick up my phone and try to hear and talk to someone using a cell phone (which I realize can be picked up by a lot of eavesdroppers), I'm reminded of what phones were like in the good ol' days.
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