News Column

Switchboard switchup

May 28, 2014

By Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho



May 28--KENDRICK -- The original 1904 Kendrick switchboard has found a new home back in the town it served for 21 years.

The telephone switchboard was returned to Kendrick last week after being housed at the Asotin County Museum for the past 16 years. It will now be displayed with several other historical artifacts from the area in the soon-to-be-completed Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation Museum.

Operated by the Potlatch Telephone Company, the switchboard served as Kendrick's communications network from 1904 to 1925. Asotin County Historical Society Treasurer Ken McLaughlin said an operator would work the machine by watching for incoming calls, then connecting them to a local or long-distance receiver.

"These didn't usually operate at night," McLaughlin said, adding the switchboards were typically operated from someone's home.

The operator had two cords -- one to plug into the caller's line and one for the receiver's line. McLaughlin said the operator would know when a call was coming in and which line was ringing because an assigned metal number flap would begin vibrating. The operator would then plug the two cords in accordingly.

The person receiving the call would know the call was for them by listening for their household's designated ring sequence, said Jo Anne Miller, president of the Asotin County Historical Society. The sequences would consist of a specific number of either short or long rings, or a combination of the two.

"That's how you knew the call was for you -- by counting the rings," she said.

In 1965, Potlatch Telephone Company owners and brothers Otto and Herman Schupper of Juliaetta donated the switchboard to the Lewis-Clark Council Telephone Pioneers, a local organization that closed in the late 1990s. That's when McLaughlin said he approached the historical societies in both Nez Perce and Asotin counties about taking in the switchboard.

Asotin County responded, McLaughlin said. He brought the switchboard with him when he became a member of the historical society in 1998.

Discussions of moving the switchboard back to its hometown began this spring when the Asotin County Historical Society approached the Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation. Miller said the museum was running out of space.

"It's not just for us. It's for Kendrick, too," Miller said.

Museum officials also gave the foundation a number of items that they had duplicates of from around the region, including a homemade wooden ironing board.

"They've really been a good friend to us," Foundation President Sharon Harris said of the Asotin County Historical Society.

The Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation began working with the Kendrick Grange in 2010 to renovate Kendrick'sFraternal Temple building on Main Street. The building will house the museum that is anticipated to open this summer or fall on the second floor.

"We've worked really hard. There have been a lot of volunteers," Harris said.

The Fraternal Temple was built in 1905 and used by a number of local lodges throughout the years, including the Kendrick Grange. Downstairs, in the area that has been renovated to serve as a community center, was once a grocery store.

The renovation to date has cost about $78,000, Harris said. That includes new electrical work, adding insulation between the brick exterior and inside walls, installation of lighting and ceiling fans, new windows, paint and flooring.

"You wouldn't believe what this building looked like (before the renovation)," said Loeda Reil, a member of the heritage foundation.

Reil has been one of the foundation's significant contributors, writing several books on the area's history that the organization has sold as one way to raise money for the renovation. Other funding has been secured through grants and local donations.

"We've just been very fortunate ... a little bit here and a little bit there and it all adds up," Harris said.

The building still needs some work and has to pass inspection before it can officially open, Harris said. But the switchboard will be on display Saturday in the Fraternal Temple building as part of a historical exhibit during the Locust Blossom Festival.

"We're very, very happy to get this and Jo Anne (Miller) has just been wonderful," Harris said.

Rudd may be contacted at erudd@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-8465. Follow her on Twitter @elizabeth_rudd.

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(c)2014 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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Source: Lewiston Morning Tribune (ID)


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