The press release below was written February 27, 1956 by Mr. Woodrow Wollner of General Telephone Company in Madison.
For more than half of Brodhead’s one hundred years, the telephone has been a chief means of communication between the citizens of the community. It was exactly 57 years ago this May that businessmen of the town met in the office of Dr. T.W. Nuzum to lay plans for the first telephone system.
These men formed the Brodhead Telephone Company, with plans to construct equipment necessary to serve 60 telephones. The Jones and Winter Construction Company put in a bid of $3,000 for the work, and the fledgling telephone company authorized them to go ahead.
The first operator of the central office, which was located over the Green County Bank, was Fred Cole, who received $25 a month for the job. Receipts for February, 1900, included $75.80 for exchange service, $20.00 for toll calls, and $2.20 for messenger service; a gross income of $98.00.
Women entered the telephone business just after the turn of the century, and the first lady operators at Brodhead were Mrs. Letha Farnum, and Miss Abbie Emminger who received $15 and $18 a month for the work. In 1908, the expanding company hired Harry Cox as the first manager, and he served until his death in 1943.
Mrs. Lulu Mattison, the present cashier at the Brodhead office, was hired as a part-time operator when she was still in high school in 1913. Since that time, Mrs. Mattison has held just about every job at the telephone office. She has been an operator, chief operator, bookkeeper, cashier, and manager of the Brodhead exchange. There was a time when she computed and made up the bills as cashier, worked as chief-operator during the day, and occasionally filled in as the night switch board operator.
As the company grew in size, the job of manager involved a certain amount of manual labor on the telephone equipment, and a man had to be hired to take over the position. Mrs. Mattison assumed the duties of cashier-chief operator, and with further company expansion, as cashier alone. In all, Mrs. Mattison has completed nearly 43 years of telephone service to Brodhead customers.
Another local telephone veteran is Frank Maveus, who recently retired as a installer-repairman in the exchange after completing 42 years of service. He began work for the Brodhead Telephone Company in 1913 as a trouble shooter and lineman. Frank recalls that he hunted for trouble with a horse and buggy in those early days, and the first trouble truck was a model T Ford.
Mrs. Maude Bowen, present chief-operator, has more than 32 years of service behind her at the local office. She started as an operator in 1923, and worked up to the head operator’s position in 1945. Mrs. Bowen is in charge of a force of nine operators, who work in shifts around the clock in order to complete your call, be it of a social, business, or emergency nature.
Around 1922, the central office was moved to its present position above the Bank of Brodhead. In July of 1945, the Brodhead Telephone Company was purchased by the Commonwealth Telephone Company, whose name was later changed to General Telephone Company of Wisconsin. William Gillman was manager of the exchange from 1945 to 1948, when he was succeeded by the present manager, W.D. Lavasseur. Mr. Lavasseur formerly managed the Argyle and Benton exchanges.
Since its inception 57 years ago, the Brodhead telephone exchange has grown from the original 60 telephones to nearly 1,300 telephones at the present time. In contrast to the early switchboard of 50 lines, the present board has 470 lines and four operating positions.
The Brodhead exchange is part of General Telephone Company of Wisconsin, a member of the General Telephone System which serves almost 2,600,000 telephones in 30 states.
General Telephone Company of Wisconsin operates in 146 Wisconsin communities serving more than 119,700 telephones. It is the largest independent telephone company in the state.