A party for former party-line operators

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One would get the impression that it was a big family reunion Saturday when current and former employees of Southland Telephone Company and Frontier Communications enjoyed a special luncheon and reunion at Wranglers Restaurant.

They greeted each other with hugs and embraces lasting for minutes as friendships and memories were renewed. Some of the remaining “old time” NUMBERS PLEASE operators, including my wife, Ouida, supervisors, linemen and office workers were there. Julie (Corman) Johnson, daughter of company owner Bill Corman, represented the Corman family and brought dozens of old photographs depicting employees at work and other related Southland operations.

Those “old time” operators entertained us all with their sheer recollection of residential and business phone numbers they punched in when calls were made during those party line days of the nineteen fifties and sixties. One of the most memorable business numbers was Johns Cleaners. And, all of you remember that firm’s advertising slogan, “When Clothes are Dirty-Call 230.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Responding to my Internet, Facebook promo on the reunion, Tommy Gerlach posted “..…I remember hearing Nell Staff tell of using the operators as baby sitters….just put the phone in the crib, walk outside to the neighbors and when the baby cried the operator would call the next door neighbor.” Tommy also recalled 218 as the phone number of a relative. Frankie Donald posted Patrick Plumbing’s number was 704 and Curtis Allen Parker remembered Ted French’s number as 9.

Yes, it was a day of reflection for these fine people and I know they are looking forward to next year when they will come together again for another nostalgic “get to gather.”

Now, some news from years past.  In 1966 ECHS student Francis Earle won a Music Endowment Scholarship to Huntingdon College. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Earle, the musically talented student was a member of the National honor Society.

Outstanding Atmore Training School instructor Bishop Lyons was awarded Vocational Education Teacher of The Year and was later recognized for his unique accomplishments and services at ECHS.

I’d like to give due recognition to William Blackburn who graduated from Escambia county High School back in the sixties. The son of Clifton and Francis Blackburn, he has reached high lofts in Christian Evangelism. Francis and I worked together at The Advance in 1957 when she was our “chief” sales lady. His dad was well known as a state trooper.

Beginning his Evangelism work over thirty years ago, he has been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for many of these years. He preaches between 35 and 40 revivals a year and is in demand as a speaker at state conventions, pastor conferences and evangelism conferences.

His beautiful wife, Gaius, is a full time partner with him as she travels to all his revivals and meetings. She is also highly recognized as a talented writer for the Christian blog, “Love, Light and Truth.”  The family, including daughter Brittany and her family, live in Fort Smith Arkansas.

Watching him play when I broadcast the ECHS games on WATM I remember William as an outstanding member of the Blue Devils team. He was a very talented and exciting player. If my memory is correct he received an athletic scholarship to an Arkansas college where he garnered outstanding accomplishments. That scholarship I am sure laid the groundwork for all that he has achieved today.

The New York Jets released quarterback Tim Tebow this week. The former Florida Gator signal caller apparently never lived up to expectations for this big city professional football team. Or, was he released because of his strong religious beliefs.

Geno Smith, the West Virginia Mountaineer who has as much attitude baggage as Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o’s missed tackles of Alabama’s Eddie Lacey in the college football championship game, will be called on to replace the strong running Tebow. Even opinionated vocal prognosticator and Te’o- loving Mel Kiper was finally reconciled.

The New York liberal media glowed with joy on these developments. They used every opportunity to belittle Tebow each time he publicly pronounced his religious faith. But, he’ll do even better out there in the real world as a champion speaker and motivator. And, who knows, he will probably be picked up by another team.

Mayfest will be here Saturday. I’m looking forward to eating some of those succulent Hot Dogs filled with extra hot mustard and German Sauerkraut. And, I certainly don’t want to miss out on those tasty Funnel Cakes. It should be a great day for the entire family.

I’ll have more news of Atmore’s people, places and events next week.

Lowell McGill can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net.