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The Last Switchboard


By 1968, North Dakota became one of ten states where all communities used dial telephones. The last manually operated system to convert was in Almont where, for 14 years, the switchboard was housed in Ralph and Pearl Tavis’s living room. Under the same roof, they ran the Tavis Cafe, a hotel and a laundromat.

“All these jobs sure kept us hopping,” Pearl said. “Some days it seemed like we walked a hundred miles and didn’t even have time to sit and visit.”

Service was available 24 hours a day, but there was a “get-out-of-bed” charge for anybody placing calls after 9 p.m.

When Northwestern Bell provided dial-up service to Almont, they put on a luncheon for Pearl, and Governor William Guy cranked out the last call on the old system. Happy to make space in her living room, Pearl handed the old switchboard over to the governor, who accepted it on behalf of the North Dakota Historical Society.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm