The numbers tell the story.
As writer Laurie Perkins points out in her history of the Sand Creek Telephone Company, the progression went something like this:
• 30R, the old crank telephone system used by Sand Creek from its founding in 1908 until 1957;
• GE 6-3563, when direct dialing took over from the operator on duty;
• 436-3397, marking the end of the rotary dial phone and the beginning of the digital era;
• 517-260-1947, the cellular telephone.
Private telephone companies were blossoming by the turn of the 20th century, but rural areas were often a little slower to join in.
Sand Creek was established as a stop on the Wabash Railway in 1881 and it wasn’t until 1908 that telephone service was set up.
Investors formed a board of directors and the decision was made to house a switchboard in Edward Tuttle’s store. His wife, Minnie, became the first telephone operator.
Turn the hand crank to power the system and you were soon connected to the operator.
Homes were contacted via a series of long and short rings. The number 30R listed above, for example, referred to line 30 and three short rings. The number seven indicated two short rings and one long...