E. H. HOVEY is soon to retire as switchboard operator at
the Cambridge telephone exchange when it is converted
over to a dial system as a part of the Southern Kansas
Telephone Co., owned and operated by E. B. Mikesell of
Burden.. Starting in 1919 she has served at the board at
various times for a total of more than 22 years.
By Carl J. Whilson
When the dial system replaces
the old switchboard at the Cambridge telephone exchange in the near
future, Mrs. E. H. (Emma) Hovey will have spent more than 22 years
of service at the board as operator.
Although the time has not been continuous, it dates back to July
1919 when she was employed as operator for the old Cambridge Mutual
Telephones in the Cambridge community were installed some years
prior to 1919 and the exchange was located in the business district
and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Davis. A fire destroyed the old
exchange and it was moved to its present location where Mr. and Mrs.
Mrs. Hovey, then Emma Robinson, was for I year prior to 1919 a
telephone operator in Wichita.
She is a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Robinson who lived
in the Maple City, Grenola and Cambridge vicinities.
Started in 919
After her father's death in
1916, she and her mother and sister moved to Wichita. They returned
to Cambridge in 1919, and she took the job as operator. In 1926 a
new switchboard was installed at the Robinson home. Emma placed the
first call over it and since then has placed countless thousands
more. After her marriage she quit her job in Jan. 1927. From then
until Oct. 1930 she and Mr. Hovey lived on farms in Oklahoma and
In Oct. 1930 the job of operator at At Cambridge was open again and
she took it, working until April 1931 when she again quit for 10
years. In 1941 she was back on the job again and worked until 1943.
The period from 1943 to 1947 was again spent on a farm.
Over 8,200 days
When the operator's job was
open once more she took it and has been at the board most of the
time since 1947. The time she has spent as operator all adds up to
22 and a half years, or more than 8,200 days.
Operators in Mrs. Hovey's absence have included Mrs. E. J. Lundy and
daughter Melba, Treva Skinner, and Mrs. Rosella Ross. Mrs. Ross was
on the board from Feb. 1948 to July 1958 as Mrs. Hovey's relief
operator. Since July this year she has been working again as a
relief operator while Mrs. Hovey at times has been busy
re-decorating a house which she and her husband purchased.
When Mrs. Hovey came back as operator in April 1947, the Cambridge
exchange meanwhile had been purchased by E. B. Mikesell, Burden,
owner of the Southern Kansas Telephone Co., which owns and operate~
exchanges also, in Burden, Atlanta, Dexter, Latham and, Grenola.
The new Cambridge dial exchange is located at the northwest corner
of Main and US-160.
For the past two months while
new lines have been built and the dial equipment installed, Mrs.
Hovey's duties have been reduced mostly to the lines in town. There
Have been 60 drops representing as many lines, handled by the
Mrs. Hovey anticipates one last "surge" of operations before she
takes permanent leave of the old board and those many familiar
voices which have come to her over the lines through the years. [n
the cut-over process from the old lines "to the dial system there
will be considerable activity, she pointed out.
In addition to the telephone switchboard duties at the Cambridge
exchange, the operator for many years had had the responsibility of
sounding the town's fire alarm. The alarm switch is located on the
wall within the operator's reach.
During the years she has been I
the operator, Mrs. Hovey has sounded the alarm numerous times.
The most recent was the, night the barn on the Mahan. property
caught on fire. A resident called Mrs. Hovey and reported the fire,
asking: "What can you do about it?" The first thing she did was to
call the Burden fire department. A few minutes after she placed the
call, the line from Cambridge to Burden located close to the burning
barn, was melted and Cambridge was, Isolated as far as telephone
communication was concerned.
During the years, Mrs. Hovey has call in the fire fighters on
numerous building and prairie fires, and assisted in many
emergencies where help was needed.
In the days of the old mutual system, the switchboard operator had
the responsibility of making the monthly toll collections from
Mrs. Hovey recalls the day in
Oct. 1922 when she was just leaving the Cambridge bank after
depositing telephone company collections. As she walked out the
front door, a strange man walked in.
A few minutes later she was busy at the switchboard handling calls
which related to a hold-up at the bank. The man who had. entered as
she walked out was Pretty Boy Floyd. He locked the employees in the
bank and escaped with several thousand dollars.
Telephone patrons in Cambridge and surrounding communities are
pleased at the prospect of improved telephone service through the
new lines and dial. system, but many of them have said that they are
going to miss the personal contacts with Mrs. Hovey at, the
And Mrs. Hovey says she is going to miss those contacts too, but is
looking forward to more free time and less responsibility. Mr.
Hovey, who has operated the Standard Service station in Cambridge
for a number of years is going to sell out and he and Mrs. Hovey are
going to take a little trip they have wanted to take for a long