©NABISCO 1966 New Slim Style PREMIUM Saltines are thinner, snappier, noisier; the crispest saltines you can buy. SALTINE CRACKERS Ask any spread. Ask any cheese. Ask any soup. MISSOURI LADIES MJW/, GAB FREELY by Shirley Christian When three-year-old Kenneth Wayne Acker goes to the farm to visit his grandmother, one of the first things he does is to climb up on a stool and begin ringing her antique wall telephone. There's no danger of his calling a stranger as only two close friends share the one-mile private telephone system in Central Missouri with Mrs. Fern Acker. Over its wire each day flies talk of canning, gardening, children and grandchildren, housekeeping, farm club, church, and anything else that enters the minds of the three women. It makes no difference that they have to shout to be heard on it. A short and a long ring on the old box phones means one of the others is calling Mrs. Acker. Three shorts mean a call for Mrs. Lena Null, and Mrs. Hah Marshall answers to a long and two shorts. Once, the task of ringing up the shorts and longs belonged to "Central," but the friendly Windsor, Mo., operator who could locate anyone in the community is gone now, and the women themselves ring each other. Owning what could be the smallest telephone company in the world doesn't mean the three women are opposed to progress. A modern dial phone provided by United Telephone Co. sits a few steps from each of the old wall boxes. Dial phones have some value — such as calling someone not on the private system. It is convenient to have the two phones close together as one often rings when the other is in use, and the women find themselves talking on both at the same time. The three-customer company is what remains of the farmer- owned system that once served many families near Windsor. When dial phones were introduced a few years ago, the three families received permission from United to continue to maintain their own private system as well as to use the new phones. Each of the wall phones is about 50 years old. The line connecting the three farms runs down the opposite side of the road from the line serving United's dial phones. The small system's line, held up by slender tree trunks, is easily distinguished from United's lines strung between tall, massive poles. Sometimes, the women find their system more dependable than the new one. "IIan and Lena are on different dial lines than I am, so if there is trouble on our dial phone I call them on the wall phone. They report it to Sedalia (site of a United office) on one of their dial phones," said Mrs, Acker. "We could be completely shut off without our old phones," Mrs. Null said. But when there's trouble on the women's own line, they can't call Sedalia to get it fixed. Instead, they announce it to their husbands that night at supper, and the men repair the broken wire or put up the blown down pole. The only other expense is buying batteries for the wall boxes every few years. Although all three ladies often talk at once on their own system, it is still the most "private" line they have. Each woman's dial phone is part of a nine-party line. "Why, when you finish talking on that dial phone," said Mrs. Acker, "you can hear five or six others putting the receiver back, all up and down the line." Mrs. Lena Null talks to a friend on the 3-party telephone system shared by three Missouri farm women.
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