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The following was copied from a newspaper clipping that that is in the collection of Vernon Brown.  The name of the newspaper was cut off when the article was clipped but the following was left on: “ESTABLISHED MAY 4, 1883  Subscription Prices $1.50 per.”  “JANUARY 1931” has been typed in the upper left corner.  I suspect the article was clipped from the Brock Bulletin.  Note: I have made minor spelling and punctuation corrections.  Viola Thomas married E.T. “Jack” Little.  She lived her entire life in Brock and is buried with Jack in Lafayette Cemetery.  The photograph below was published with the article.


Photo of Miss Viola Thomas

Miss Viola Thomas

We can scarcely grasp the idea of how quickly the telephone became so popular in just a short time in our community nor the many improvements that were made upon it in a very short time There were no telephone lines here until the year 1898 when the Gilbert family thought a line would be fine to connect the relatives' farms.  That winter poles were set and wires were put up connecting the farm homes of Mrs. Julius Gilbert, her son Frank Gilbert, Fred Donze, and Frank Bailey who lived on the Richard Coryell farm.  Undoubtedly this was the first rural line in the state of Nebraska.  The men folks did the work and with the help of a man from Auburn installed the four telephones.  After all connections had been made, they were given instructions as to the proper use of their telephones.  They were almost afraid to talk in such an instrument as it seemed rather uncanny, but they finally mustered up their courage and did as they were told and soon learned to converse with their mother and other relatives.

This country line was such a curiosity that men were sent here from other counties to look it over and study the mechanism that they might install similar lines in their community.  The telephones in those four homes were so popular that the next year twenty five or thirty other families built other lines connecting with those four, with the central office and switch board at the Frank Gilbert home.  There was some trouble caused in managing the crude six or seven point switches, and it was necessary to have a different tone to the bells to distinguish the different lines, and this was accomplished by tying such things as fence staples to the bells which gave different tones.

Mrs. Frank Gilbert was the first rural switch board operator in Nebraska, and she stated between the jangling bells and crying babies she was a very busy woman.

In another year Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Bailey built the line on in to Brock, and Mr. H. B. Villiars was persuaded to let the line run to his store.  The switchboard, of a later pattern than the partly home made affair which had been in use at the Gilbert home, was installed and Mr. Villiars looked after the switchboard, relieving Mrs. Gilbert of her task.  There was no service except when Mr. Villiars was in the store and no night service what so ever.  Mr. Gilbert still has their first old telephone which is much different from those in use today.

We have taken you back thirty three years that you might understand the difficulties of the first telephone users to get their lines installed.  It might be of interest to some to know how things are done at the present time.

If a farmer or person in town wishes a telephone, they do not have to get out and cut a few poles to string the wires or buy the wire, he just notifies the telephone office and a man is sent to install the phone.  Our telephone line here is owned by the Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co., who are giving us fine service.  Miss Viola Thomas has charge of the local office which position she has filled since November 1929.  We were all pleased to have her in this position as she grew up in Brock and perhaps understands the home people better than some stranger.  Our Telephone line in Brock has seventy six town and one hundred rural subscribers.  You might be interested in knowing that in April and August a "Peg Count" was taken and Miss Thomas states the average was seven hundred calls each day, fifty of which were long distance.  A new metallic system was installed in Brock three years ago and will also be installed on the country lines running out of Brock, in the spring.  This system cuts out all interference.  Miss Thomas puts through many long distant calls from Brock to Denver, Montana, California, Okla., St. Petersburg, Florida, New York, and many other places, the long distant calls are put through in a very few minutes and those who talk say the service is fine and the party can be heard as easily as if one were talking to Auburn.

Each morning one subscriber is called on each line to see if the line is in perfect order, if not Auburn is immediately called and a lineman is sent to find the trouble and repair it.  Miss Viola has lately interviewed thirty people or more to find out if they have any criticism or suggestions for improvement in any manner.

We wonder how many of us would be able to answer a telephone seven hundred times each day and be able to say "Number Please" and a polite "Thank You."

It has been stated that "compared to the achievements of the telephone, Aladdin's magic lamp was but a trivial parlor trick.  Physical laws bow down before it.  What a monument to private initiative enterprise and ambition."

When we are making our "New Years Resolution" we might make one more, and not be cross with our telephone lady.  She is ready, at all hours of day and night to connect your line with long distance so you may speak to friends or relatives in any part of the United States or foreign countries if you insist.


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