Mrs. 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 Telephone Co.
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. Hovey live.
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 near Cambridge.
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.

Install Equipment

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 present board.
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.

Town Guardian

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 patrons.

Handled Robbery Calls

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 switchboard.
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 time.