My column of Dec. 4, 2014 was about the early telephone companies that had operated in Highland, including the Highland Telephone Co., which purchased the Farmers & Merchants Telephone Co. in 1909 and then purchased the Central Union Telephone Co. of Highland in March of 1916.
The column was pretty complete, but one day at the Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library, I was looking in their business files for more information to write about. I was in the “T” file and found a group of telephone stories.
I also got additional information from Charles McKittrick and Hugo “Hooks” Werner about later telephone companies in Highland, which I will use in today’s column, including the Bell Telephone News of June 1925 that had an article about Highland and the Highland Telephone Co.
Bell Telephone, at that time, was Highland’s long-distance carrier, so they wrote the following, which I really enjoyed and hope that you will also enjoy. The heading was, “HIGHLAND, Prosperous Dairy Town”.
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The following is from Hugo Werner: “Down in Madison County, Ill., there is a little town claiming the distinction of having the heaviest telephone distribution of any small city in the state of Illinois. The claimant is Highland, which has a population of 2,902 in 1925. Highland reports 1,075 users, of which 250 are farm lines and 825 receiving common battery service within the corporate limits. This represents one station phone to every three and one-half inhabitants. Can you beat it? (Today that would just be a “drop in the bucket”.)
“Highland is located 32 miles northeast of St. Louis on the Pennsylvania Railroad and on Route 11 of the state road system. (I wonder if this Route 11, is correct, as I have been told that it was always called the National Trail and U.S 40?)
“Highland is in the dairy district. The prosperity of which is evident by the April 1925 report of the three banks, the combined resources of which were $3,264,974. (Highland had the Helvetia Milk Condensing Co. plant until 1920, then had St. Louis Dairy and Highland Dairy Farm plants.)
“Highland, while largely a farming and dairy center, is not solely dependent upon rural activities. Manufacturing industries include two shoe manufacturing companies, independently owned and operated; an embroidery works with a nationwide market, a pipe organ factory; a motor truck manufacture and assembly plant; a flour mill erected in 1837-39 and has been in continuous use during the intervening years.
“Highland is a city of owned homes, a fact which largely accounts for the unusual telephone distribution above alluded to. At present, the city is undergoing a physical upheaval, and temporarily, is not a thing of beauty, even though a joy forever. Waterworks is installing new lines, sewerage plant and distribution lines and a new white way systems are being installed simultaneously. This is to be followed directly with street paving of every street in Highland. This will put the city in line with enterprising cities of Illinois.
“Highland boasts a Chamber of Commerce with a membership of 125, which meet and dine every Tuesday night and discusses civic affairs. This is a live organization, gets results, while assisting the city council, which is non-partisan.
“Of the seven original purchasers, five of the original stockholders and officers are: A.P Mosiman, president; Louis O. Kuhnen V.P.; C. T. Pabst, secretary and treasurer; Michael Matter and John N. Stokes, directors. Much of the success of the local telephone company is due to the business acumen of its president, who is also the manager.
“Mosiman is backed by a board of loyal supporters and has pushed the enterprise onward and is second to none in this section of Illinois. Mosiman’s right hand man is the plant superintendent, Bert Virgin, who started as a lad in 1912 and has grown up with it. The company has been exceptionally fortunate in the selection of employees. Their loyal crew has been a source of pride to the telephone company.”
Highland Telephone Co. investors were getting older, and after World War II had ended, they were able to sell to Illinois Commercial Telephone Co. at a nice profit.
The next owner was General Telephone Co., and in 1950, Norman Frankland became the exchange manager for Highland and New Douglas. (Chari Frankland (Mrs. Robert) Hagler, Norm Frankland’s daughter, still lives north of Highland in rural Pocahontas.)
“The phone company bought a site on 12th Street to build its brick exchange building. Both exchanges would have dial phones sometime in 1952. By early February 1953, even all the rural lines had dial service.
“By 1962, Eugene Brown was the manager. The company was handling an average of 12,000 local calls and 960 long-distance calls per day, with the new Direct Distance Dialing. Seventeen telephone girls were out of a job, as they made their last-long distance connections last Saturday night. Seven of the girls were pictured in the Feb.10, 1962 Highland News Leader. Pictured were Joyce Kustermann, Madaline Frey, Louise Ribbing, Genevieve Plog, Bernice Boyer, Lorene Killion and chief operator Martha L. Bellm.
“July 1, 1966, Charles Merritt became the new manager of the General Telephone Co. in Highland.
“By Sept. 1967, they had outgrown the 12th Street office and plant. They added a headquarters for the repair crew on Deal Street in White City. The building was completed in 1968. Merritt also stated that the Pierron area would have private lines, with about half already completed.
“By May 1971, the business office was moved to Jacksonville, Ill., and a small staff remained here for a while.
“General Telephone was purchased by Ameriteck and is now called Frontier.
(Quotes by Chari Frankland Hagler, Charles McKittrick, the late Hugo Werner, Highland News Leader, Bell Telephone News, courtesy of the late Hugo “Hooks” Werner, and my files.)