Days Gone By - stories from the past

It was dangerous working for the telephone company in the 1950s as this story reveals

Working for the telephone company after college


Clifford Dobyns

telephone car

My first job after college was with a telephone company whose home base was Lexington, Ky. My first assignment was to go to a very rural area of southeast Ky. And determine what level of telephone service the population would be willing to pay for. I was to give the people the choice of whether they wanted 2 party, or 4 party service but I was not to mention private line service. The central city in the area had service but the outlying areas from that city in various directions did not have service of any kind.

I became the assistant

I was given an assistant for the job who was an Englishman. He looked very dapper in his derby hat, mustache, tweed overcoat, and oxford leather shoes with rubber overshoes which covered only the toes and heels of his shoes. My rubber buckle-up boots were much better suited for this assignment since it was winter and most off road areas would be muddy. I also was given the use of a dark green company car (the same color and brand as Federal Agent cars). On our first stop the Englishman tripped and fell into mud higher than his shoes. His derby hat went rolling in the mud and his overcoat had mud on it. I did not laugh!

Once the people knew you were not a Federal Agent they were very nice. We tried to make friends with them and their dogs and to not stare at unusual scenes. Many families had only meager houses and a television set was very important to them and probably was a significant expense.

The bosses were shocked

When we got back to the corporate office and presented our findings, the bosses were shocked. These potential customers had heard about private lines and they wanted that. They also had heard about that brand new thing called a ‘color’ phone and they wanted that also. A couple of weeks after we got back from this assignment the Englishman left the company.

This assignment took several days to complete and even though that was in 1959 I can still remember the nights I spent there in a hotel. The last night I dreamed I was sitting beside of Robert Mitchem in his hot-rod with the secret liquid tanks and we were being chased by a Federal Revenue Agent. I can still see that tommy gun sticking out the window and pointing at us. With superior horsepower and outstanding racing ability, we escaped!


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One comment

  1. Cyn Carpenter

    Electric power was still new in certain parts of Alabama in the 1950s. My mother grew up in rural Geneva county, outside of Slocomb; they did not get power until 1952. I’m thinking that Blount county got power around the same time, given the way the power was added to my house (built in 1935). Indoor plumbing and electricity were added later.

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