Keith Ware tells about the first telephones in Emery County
Sam Singleton introduced the entertainment to open the regular meeting of the Emery County Historical Society. Elise DeBry and Karla Urie sang two songs for the group.
Joyce Staley, society president, introduced Keith Ware. He worked many years for Emery Telcom and has written a book documenting the history of the local telephone company.
"I am pleased to tell folks about their telephone company. It does belong to you. It is a co-op and you own it and run it by electing the board of directors. The company, now called Emery Telcom, serves customers in Emery County, Hanksville and Carbon County with the exception of Scofield. They provide not only telephone service, but internet service and cable TV," began Ware.
Ware told of the period after World War II and the turmoil in the country. People were trying to do everything they could to recover from the war and get life back to normal. "Emery County people wanted to have as much control over their lives as possible," said Ware. "People wanted to have normal dial phones."
At the time, telephone service was available in Huntington provided by Mountain Bell. It was the only town in the county serviced by Mt. Bell and did not serve the people outside of the city limits. The Wall family started a telephone company that served the residents of Castle Dale and Orangeville. It was started in 1914 and was operated by a switchboard, and they also did telegrams. There was one single line into each town, it was a toll line and the phone was usually located in a local business. The calls were 10 cents.
After the war, people in Emery County began to talk about have a telephone system with normal dial phones in each home. Sam Alger from Elmo was pushing very hard to bring telephone service to everyone. Alger began to have meetings with representatives from each city. They even met in Price with Mt. Bell. "Mt. Bell was not interested in serving any more homes in Emery County other than Huntington," said Ware.
Alger and the other representatives did not give up. In 1948 they created a company, the Castle Valley Telephone Association. This company was created with the express purpose of creating modern telephone service to Emery County. The officers were: Dennis Killian of Orangeville, Sam Alger of Elmo, R. Merril Allred of Emery, J. Rulon Nelson of Ferron, Jesse Tuttle of Castle Dale, Duane Jensen of Cleveland, and Merril Day of Elmo. They decided to seek financing, so they went door to door asking for an investment of $25 from every household that was interested in having telephone service.
It was decided to ask the Rural Electrification Association for help with the financing. Their job was to see that electricity was put in to all the rural areas of the country. "This group from Emery County decided to ask them to finance their telephone company," said Ware. "They thought phones were just as important as electricity."
About this time, the Farmers Union formed a chapter in Emery County. They joined the project to help find a way to bring phones to the county.
In 1950, the Emery County Farmers Union and Telephone Association Incorporated was formed. They passed by-laws and began to plot further strategy. At that time, they decided they needed an employee to keep up the records and books. Argene Olsen was then operating the Utah Power and Light office and telephone association approached her about the position. She volunteered to do the work for them and continued for many years. "It was with her help that the telephone association submitted the application to the Rural Electrication Association for funding," said Ware. "They were approved for $222,000 in 1951."
Following the award of the loan, engineers were hired and the work began to get underway. Designs were drawn and bids were let out. The Castle Dale telephone company, owned by the Wall family agreed to sell their entire facility, easements, franchises and equipment to the ECFUTA, for scrap price. All of the city councils were eager to give the additional easement necessary for telephone service.
Not long after the work began, Alger was killed is a car accident, and Norman Behling took over his position. In 1953, service was started in Castle Dale, Cleveland, Ferron and Emery. Some users had party lines and some were private lines. One party service was $4.25 a month, service for a business was $7 a month, two party service was $3.75 a month, and four party service was $3.25 per month.
On Jan. 25, 1954, the new telephone company held their first annual meeting. Construction costs were more than expected and the first loan of $222,000 was raised to $810,000.
Paul Crawford began serving as president of the board of directors in 1971. He served in that capacity for more than 25 years. When Scott Johansen was the attorney for the company, he began negotiating with Mt. Bell to provide the service to Huntington. Johansen convinced them to sell, and Emery County Farmers Union and Telephone Association began to be the service provider for Huntington.
"Those who have served on the board of directors were very dedicated. They donated much time and effort to make the phone company succeed," said Ware.