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Real Stories from Real People that worked
for "Independent" Telephone Companies

As told by Ron Christianson


This is a story about a working magneto telephone system that's still in use today! It's at the Oregon Caves National Monument. It's quite a large complex consisting of a 5-story lodge with about 50 rooms. Many of the rooms have a magneto telephone in them ranging from Leich desk sets to Western Electric single box sets.

There is a Kellogg 20 line desk mounted switchboard in the lobby. There are also magneto telephones in the park ranger station, the maintenance building, the kitchen, the gift shop, the cave tour ticket sales office and various other places. There is even a separate magneto system with four stations in the cave itself with additional lines going out to the ticket office and ranger station.

I have personally maintained the entire telephone system for the past 20 years or so. I finally had to remove the magneto system inside the cave because the original cloth wires (installed in 1920) were constantly shorting out due to rotting cloth resulting from the dampness. I replaced the entire system with 4,500 feet of state of the art six pair "armored" buried drop line, and four newfangled Stromberg Carlson intercom sets. It was quite a job. The cave is nearly 1 mile long and is full of twisting crawl holes. They didn't want any wire showing, so I had to pioneer a "new route" to pull the wire through the cave. It took 10 people to be in strategic places to accomplish this. It took two weeks to finish the job. And yes, I did happen to acquire the magneto sets that I removed! (I put one in our local museum)

The rest of the telephone system is still ringing away and I'm still replacing the No.6 dry cells regularly.



This story takes place in Oregon in the early 70's. I was working for a small independent telephone company called "Redwoods Telephone Company." Redwoods was owned by one person, and served a small community called Cave Junction with a population of 490. We were using an X Y switch and almost everyone was on party lines with coded ringing. Redwoods also served the surrounding area which is heavily wooded and has lots of mountains.  One of the common winter problems we had was a heavy snow load or high wind breaking off branches and sending them crashing through and breaking telephone lines. This sort of thing occurred frequently during winter. Needless to say, the cable splicers were kept busy. Of course there were many other types of winter problems involving dampness, ice, critters chewing through lines and so on.

My story is about a different kind of problem that occurred during the summer. During the beginning of the 70's there was an influx of, what everybody called at the time, "Hippies".

They moved into the mountains and valleys in large numbers. The type of place that they liked to settle in the most, was so far removed from civilization that very few had access to electricity or telephone lines. There was a hippy commune called "Sunstar" that was about 6 or 7 miles past the farthest reaching telephone line in our system. After several years of arguing and squabbling with the telephone company, the PUC, the FCC, the USFS, the BLM, logging companies and private land owners, they finally got easement for a telephone line to run through the woods and along an old gravel logging road that crossed about 8 creeks and 2 rivers. I was sent out there along with Don and Dennis who were the cable splicers to do some construction work and splice cable.

This is where the problems began. The pedestal that we were working on was situated next to the "Dunn Creek Bridge" which happened to be directly above one of the best swimming holes in the valley. All day long there was an endless supply of pretty girls wearing no clothes at all hanging out at the hole! Well......Don and Dennis just could not concentrate on their work!!!! (I could, of course, because I was used to this sort of thing due to the fact that while not at work, I was one of those hippies.) For some odd reason, we had to keep going back to that pedestal over and over, day after day, because we just couldn't get it right! Well, summer finally ended, the leaves started dropping and so did the air temperature. Needless to say, the pedestal was finally wired properly and we looked forward to winter problems again.