From time to time I find an item in the old Caddo Herald that gives me pause and usually ends up changing my perspective of local and even national history. Such was the case this week when I read the following news note:
April 7, 1899
The Vinita Leader says the president has approved the act of the Cherokee council granting a franchise in that nation for a long distance telephone from Chetopa, Kansas to Wagoner.
I just could not imagine the Cherokees with long distance telephone service, even though I’ve watched Caroline use the telephone on Little House! I had to find out more, so I turned to Wikipedia and learned this:
"On October 9, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson talked by telephone to each other over a two-mile (3 km) wire stretched between Cambridge and Boston. It was the first wire conversation ever held. Yesterday afternoon the same two men talked by telephone to each other over a 3,400-mile (5,500 km) wire between New York and San Francisco. Dr. Bell, the veteran inventor of the telephone, was in New York, and Mr. Watson, his former associate, was on the other side of the continent. They heard each other much more distinctly than they did in their first talk thirty-eight years ago."
At that distant time, long-distance calling was performed by manually patching in the route of the call by a series of long distance operators; connecting a coast-to-coast call this way thus took up to 23 minutes. A long distance call had to be very important for someone to wait that long! The first customer connected long distance call wasn’t made until after I was born- 1951. That call was made using area codes and it took only 18 seconds to connect the mayor of Englewood, NJ with the mayor of Alameda, CA.
As I read more about our phone service I thought about how much more meaningful these little bits of history are to me personally than the stuff I was forced to learn in school. This is the history that makes our ancestors seem like real people, not just names and dates on a textbook page. How did people use the telephone? Would the average person call back East if someone in the family died, or would they just send a telegram or letter? When did Caddo get its first phone? Where was it?
I found these items in my files:
October 12, 1900
Henry Chiles received a telephone message Wednesday stating that this father who lives at Sherman was very sick. Chiles left on the first train for Sherman.
April 20, 1900
Dr. Long has had connections with the long distance telephone put into his residence and office. The bank will also put in connections.
Telephone Magazine, 1901, Caddo, IT- The Choctaw Telephone Company was incorporated, with A. M. Robertson manager. The company is composed of Caddo men and has bought the Hodges long-distance line, and will put in a local system here. The capital stock is $25,000. and the company is a strong one, including H. M. Dunlap, president of the Caddo bank.
Inquiring minds want to know about real history: real people going about their daily lives while coping with local, state, and national problems just as we do. We need to remember to incorporate a little more of that into our lesson plans when we are teaching history. That’s why my kindergarten class not only talked about Columbus sailing across the ocean, but what the sailors did while stuck on board a ship for over a month.
(BTW- The building in the photo sat at the corner of Buffalo and Main in Caddo.)