Danby Telephone System

Grandma Perry, her time her own after sixteen years as a Telephone Operator, prepares one of her famous pies for baking as her granddaughter, Mary Ralph, 10, telephones a friend on the new dial system installed for Danby by the Rutland County Telephone & Telegraph Company. Behind Mrs. Perry is James Kendall, Company Operator Supervisor, and the now outmoded switchboard. 

A Word About Rates
Rutland County Telephone and Telegraphic Company
Wallingford, Vermont 
August 1, 1951 

Dear Subscriber:

In February of 1948 we mailed to each subscriber a letter of information about the Company. In that letter we outlined some of the immediate plans that we then had concerning the rebuilding and improvement of your telephone system. The work that we scheduled at that time has been nearly completed now. The exception being the work planned for the Danby Exchange. In addition to the jobs mentioned in the February 1948 letter work has continued all the time on other lines and equipment. 

In the conduct of its business the Company operates its toll and exchange wires over 147 miles of pole line. During the period beginning July 1947 and ending July 1951 the Company has rebuilt these lines so that now 85 miles of the total mileage or 58% is now in new condition. A lot of money had to be spent in order to carry on this work. Most of the funds needed for the purpose were obtained through sale of the Capital Stock of the Company. In other words the funds required for this work were secured from sources other than the Company itself. 

We are now engaged in rebuilding all of the telephone plant in the Pawlet Exchange. We hope to complete this project by the end of the year and to convert this exchange to dial telephone operation in February of 1952. The cost of the dial telephones, the switching equipment and the land and building to house the equipment will amount to about $14,000.00 We will also have invested in poles, wires, cable and other facilities at least another $14,000.00. The equipment will be so designed that any subscriber will hear only his own ring even though other subscribers are on the same line. We think that this feature will provide a higher grade of service and will prove to be well worth the additional cost. 

Upon completion of the Pawlet job we plan to start next in Danby and Wallingford. We hope to entirely rebuild the Danby Exchange and place new cable on South Main Street in Wallingford and finish the work during 1952. The Chase National Bank of New York City has agreed to make a loan to the Company for the purchase of the new equipment for the Pawlet Exchange. This bank has also indicated its willingness to make additional loans for new work at other exchanges. The Company, for its part, has agreed with the Bank that it will file with the Public Service Commission a new schedule of rates. 

For a period of twenty years before the end of World War II telephone rates stayed at about the same level. All through the depression years of the thirties and continuing to the end of the war practically all telephone subscribers in Vermont were paying $2.00 to $2.25 per month for rural line service. In spite of inflation and the terrific rise in the price of everything we buy your Company is now getting only $2.25 per month for this service. 

The economic facts of life apply to this Company just the same as they do to any other business. For example: Back in the days when $2.25 per month was the usual price for rural service a pound of telephone wire cost 5c, today it costs 17c. A crossarm cost 90c, now it costs $3.50. A certain size of cable did cost 6c per foot now it costs 30c. 

People in business in the early thirties will remember the prices of that period well enough. Wage earners, no doubt, will clearly recall the prevailing rate of pay for that time. Some phases of that period are really too painful to mention. A detailed comparison is not necessary. Everyone knows that prices are generally two to five times more today. A laborer, farmer, or any other business man knows what the score is. Yet your Telephone Company has been doing the best it could on the $2.25 per month standard of the nineteen thirties.

We doubt that you would expect any laborer, farmer, grocer, or any business-man to stay in business very long and sell his products at the old prices. We doubt that you expect the Telephone Company to do so either. 

Accordingly, before very long we will file with the Public Service Commission a new schedule. The proposed rates will be in line with those in effect with other telephone companies, but, on the whole, somewhat less than the rate in effect for the majority of telephone users throughout Vermont. 

No Public Utility likes this inflation. Such companies are better off with stable rates and prices. When a restaurant-keeper can no longer afford to sell coffee at 5c per cup he merely takes a pencil, crosses out the 5c on the price tag and makes it 10c — then his rate case is over. Public service companies, however, must ask permission from the State Commission, present facts and figures, hire a lawyer and devote much time, effort and money to the proceeding. The result is that rates always lag far behind the inflation. 

This Company may be granted the revenue necessary to stay in good financial health so that it can continue to improve service or it may be denied this revenue so that it will get financially sick and “wither on the vine.” The service then can only get progressively worse. We have tried to clearly state our position. When the rates are filed the rest will be up to you and the Public Service Commission. Naturally all of us in the Company would rather go ahead than go backward. We confidently expect that this holds true for our patrons as well. 

Very truly yours, 
Mgr. H. J. Fletcher

One of our neighboring towns from which we have been employing many men and women for some time is Danby, which is about twenty-five miles north of Arlington and is in Rutland county. Danby is one of the first settlements in Vermont and the principle industries have been for years, lumbering, farming and marble quarrying. It is also the center of the fern picking industry in the entire state. Their telephone system in Danby and nearby Wallingford is not like the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company’s that we have in Arlington. It is an independent line or company headed by Abram ‘Foote. The company does practically nothing to improve their service, apparently all they want is the revenue or profits from the company. The telephones in the residence’s are of ancient style, large wall type with hand crank and when a person desires to call the central office, instead of removing and hearing the operator call for the number or giving a short ring to get the operator, the person making the call has to ring four short rings several times and if the operator is out in the yard feeding the hens, or working in the garden, the call will be answered when she returns to the house. Now then, Madame X wants to put in a call. She rings the crank or cranks the bell and it tinkles four times. She repeats this several times and after a period of time has elapsed, a voice will say; “Hello, who’d you want to get ?” Just then the Madame hears the click of numerous receivers being lifted from the phones in a dozen houses on the line, some of them in the borough and some of them scattered towards Mount Tabor or the Corners. Finally she gets her call through but it is impossible to hear distinctly as there is a buzz in her ear and she can hear the clock in Mrs. Y’s house ticking very plainly . . . . so when a sailor in the navy who is stationed in California, waits until after ten p. m., Pacific time, to put in a call to his wife in Danby Borough . . . it is past one a. m., Eastern Standard Time in Vermont . . . and if Madame X’s phone rings at 1 a.m. all the receivers come off the hooks and the Madame cannot hear plainly so this is what they do now if a call comes through during the wee small hours .. . the operator tells the long distance or toll operator that the line to Madame X’s is busy . . . then she calls the Madame . . . the Madame gets out of bed hurriedly, answers the phone, puts on her coat over her nighty . . . gets into her car and drives madly about a mile to the Borough to the telephone office and by that time the toll operator has tried again to get thru the call and the line is “not busy” and the connection is made and the two lovers have an early morning chat over thousands of miles of wire . . . Someday the N. E. T. & T. Co. will take over . . . we hope . . . 

New Dial System On December 16th the Danby Telephone exchange was “switched without a hitch” to the dial system and  the 123 subscribers affected suddenly realized something was missing from their daily routine, an intimate detail, Grandma Perry’s sunny “number please.” 

The switchboard, now a relic, will have another home. The forty-year-old Western Electric unit has been purchased by Fred Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, formerly of Bennington. Mr. Brown felt sentimentally attached to the switchboard, for through it he carried on many conversations with the Danby girl whom he was to marry. 

Rutland Daily Herald
Friday, December 16, 1960
Progress at Danby Relegates Granda Perry to Baking Pies 
By Aldo Merusi

Grandma Perry’s round-the-clock cheerful “number please” now belongs to the past. At 8 a, m. Friday, the Danby telephone exchange was “switched without a hitch” to the dial system and the 123 subscribers affected suddenly realized something was missing from their daily routine, an intimate detail – Grandma Perry’s “number please.” 

The changeover was negotiated by James Kendall of Wallingford, Rutland County Telephone & Telegraph Co. operations supervisor. Among those present was Mrs. James “Grandma” Perry, telephone operator for 16 years. 

The first number was dialed by Mrs. Perry’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Mary Ella Ralph, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Ralph and a Grade 5 pupil. She dialed without effort (it was “as easy as counting numbers”) her grandmother. The call was put through to the home of Mary’s grand-aunt, Mrs. Dana Perry. Mary chided her grandma for giving er the wrong time of the special Mass. 

Hollister Fletcher of Rutland, company president, who is wintering in Florida, was notified at 1 p.m. that the change had been satisfactorily completed. A luncheon party, celebrating the event, as held in the afternoon at the Ralph home where Mrs. Perry operated the switchboard. Toastmaster was Don S. Arnold, president of the Shoreham Telephone Co. 

Served for dessert at the dinner, attended by company officials and employees, townspeople and invited guests, were five kinds of pies, all made by Grandma Perry. They looked and tasted like the kind of pies that only a grandmother could make. 

Said Mrs, Perry, sadly looking at the now mute switchboard: “It seems so quiet. I don’t know what I’ll do with myself.” 

Observed Kendall, a regular caller at the Ralph home where he had developed a taste for Mrs. Perry’s pies: “You can now give your undivided attention to baking more pies,” 

The switchboard, now a relic, will have another home. The 40- year-old Western Electric unit has been purchased by Fred Brown of Hartford, Conn., formerly of Bennington. Brown felt sentimentally attached to the switchboard for through it he carried on many conversations with the Danby girl whom he was to marry. She is the daughter of Mrs. Lawrence E. Turner. 

Kendall, operations supervisor, explained that Danby is the first town in the state to have a seven-digit dial. Call numbers are 293. He said the company plans soon to convert Wallingford to the dial system. Wallingford is the only town in the company’s chain now not on dial. Changeovers were previously made in Pawlet, Middletown, and Mount Holly. 

Mrs. Perry’s most exciting experience as operator came a year ago last November when five men were trapped by fire in the Vermont Marble Co. Danby quarry. She and her daughter, Mrs. Ralph, were nearly exhausted by the calls that came through the 56 lines, from frantic relatives of the quarrymen, newspapermen from Boston and New York and others. Though no one suffered injury in the fire, word had spread that a holocaust was taking place. 

The funniest (or strangest) happening in the telephone’s nearly 60-year history was recalled by Grandma Perry’s husband. A quarter of a century ago a farmer, needing wire to guy his silo, cut off about 150 feet of telephone wire. He replaced it with barbed wire. Company trouble shooters discovered the switch when service became impaired on that line. 

Said Perry: “As I remember it, the farmer got quite a bawling out.” 

A testimonial party was given by the community for Mrs. Perry last month. 

During it Mott H. Bromley read this tribute. 

So Danby’s coming up in the world. 
A little cement house will take our call, 
But most of us are going to miss 
Mrs. Perry’s “Hello Central” to all. 
Through storm and fire and like, 
She’s worked that ole switch-board.
To her we give our deepest thanks 
The least we can afford. 
For sixteen years, she worked a shift 
At which most of us would balk 
She’s rarely ever had much help 
And worked around the clock. 
So every time I twist the dial 
And answer the ring of the bell 
I’ll be thinking of her, my friends
Who served us so long and so well.