Lapel’s 1900 telephone system


By Ray Tincher | For The Times-Post

During the year 1900, Lapel had its own telephone system.
Its first directory was issued in May 1900.
Phones were mounted on the wall. A telephone line was installed into your house or business. You were on a “party line” with several of your neighbors, so you had to share the telephone line with them. Some people were even accused of listening to others talk on the phone line.
This writer hates to admit it, but I can remember how the old system worked.
My uncle had one of those phones.
That time period was in the 1940s.
Here are the Rules and Regulations (taken from the “Lapel Telephone Directory”) as to how to make and receive a telephone call:
First, pick up the receiver to check if a neighbor is using the line.
If the line is not in use, the crank on the side of the phone must be turned one round quickly while leaving the receiver on the hook.
Next, take the receiver off the hook and hold it tightly to your ear, standing with your lips directly in front of, and two inches from, transmitter (mouthpiece) on the front of the wooden box.
A telephone switchboard operator will ask you, “What number you want to call?”
The Lapel telephone directory in 1900 had about 60 businesses’ and residents’ phone numbers in it.
Shetterly Bros. was No. 1. Sears’ Meat Mkt was No. 60.
The instructions say next to call by number and talk in an ordinary tone; strictly avoid shouting.
When through talking, give the crank one turn, which signals to operators that a person is through talking; otherwise the line will be reported busy.

When not in use, the receiver must be on the hook.
Lapel Telephone System was owned by E.A. Tull and Co. Here is the list of subscribers in the year 1900:
1. Shetterly Bros
2. Daily, Jas. E.
3. Unable to read
4. Woodward Lumber
5. Lee General Store
6. Lapel Bottle Co.
7. Cas ? Smith
8. Isaac Harshman
9. George Bird
10. Dickey’s Drug Store
11. Lapel Flint Glass Co.
12. Clevenger, Chas V.
13. Ralya, Harvey
14. Blank
15. ? Folyer
16. Blank
17. City Hotel
18. Blank
19. Depot
20. Dr. Moore, J.R.
21. Dickey’s Bakery
22. Hawkins House
23. Dr. Stephenson, T.J. Office
24. Wilcox, J.T.
25. Strickland’s Livery
26. Woodward, Art
27. Lewis, T.M.
28. Bird & Son
29. Waldo, Chas Hardware
30. Bank
31. Wilcox, Harry
32. Dickey, Robert
33. Lefler, Wiley Grocery
34. Clarion Office
35. Bodenhorn, Fishersburg
36. Lawson, Albert
37. Lewis, T.M. Barber Shop
38. Woodward, Lawrence
39. Hutton, Edward
40. Raymond (unknown)
41. Busby, T.M. Post Office
42. Ellison, Frank
43. Merial (?) Restaurant
44. Blank
45. Blank
46. Ward, E.B.
47. Gibbs, Walter
48. Blank
49. Blank
50. Blank
51. Blank
52. Blank
53. City Meat Mkt
54. Blank
55. Manship, A.L. Liveryman
56. Dickey, E.L.
57. Dr. Stanford, H.H.
58. Mckinster, Geo. T. Gen. Store
59. Blank
60. Sears’ Meat Mkt
Next, came the rotary phone.
You were less dependent of the telephone operator. You could dial the number yourself, and you had a phone book listing other residents and businesses (that was followed by Yellow Pages).
The rotary phone was invented in the early 1900s. In the urban areas, it replaced the old wooden phone.
Getting a rotary phone was nice. You were able to call long distances, however, there was a charge. If you lived in Lapel and you wanted to call someone in Pendleton, there was a long-distance charge added to your telephone bill.
Next, your telephone number changed. If you lived in Pendleton, a 778 prefix was added. Lapel was 534, Greenfield was 462, Fortville was 485, etc.
Later came the area codes.
There was an improvement in phone services. You were no longer charged for calling your neighbors in the next town. In addition, 800 numbers were introduced with no long-distance charges.
How did we live all these years without the cell phone? Drivers are being killed, while trying to use their cellphone. People walk into parking meters with their eyes glued to their cellphone. Everywhere you go today, you witness people talking on their cellphone. Some people admit they are obsessed with this invention.
From the first cellphone to the present one, they offer so much information. My grandchildren assist me with keeping my phone in working order.
Back in the Buck Rogers movies, telephones have even surpassed their imagination.
According to cellphone advertising, there appears to be no limit as to where the cellphone is going. How could anyone in the 1900s have imagined the capability of today’s cellphone? What will it offer us in our future that is beyond our imagination?