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Rural phones: Can you hear me now?Rural phones: Can you hear me now?

A history of rural telephones can be found at GRM Networks in Princeton, Mo.

Mindy Ward

December 27, 2019

16 Slides

I walked past the glass case glancing at a little telephone history and immediately stopped. “I had that phone,” I told my college friend Carol Hein. And in that instant, with that phone, I was brought back in time.

Hein is a marketing representative at GRM Networks, a company that has its roots in rural telephones. She took me on a tour of the company, and we ended up in the lower level of its headquarters for a history lesson.

We walked a long hall where a glass case held some company mementos and a lot of industry history, including original telephones. I stopped the tour for a long look at the vintage Ericofon Cobra table rotary telephone.

Honestly, I never knew the brand name of the phone, but it was the first phone I had in my room in high school. No more running to the wall to place the phone receiver on the hook. Just sitting it down hung up the call. And it looked cool with its long neck or handle.

It was the one where I talked quietly at night to my friends so my parents couldn’t hear. It was the phone my sister and I listened in on party-line calls. But now it is “vintage.”  

It boggles my mind that a telephone of my youth from the 1980s is considered history, but as I stepped back and peered through the display case, I saw how the telephone industry evolved not only in towns but also in rural America.

Thank goodness for companies such as GRM Networks that preserve our history. From the crank phone to building phone lines across the Missouri and Iowa countryside, this company played a large role in bringing communication to farmers and ranchers.

Still, like all businesses, GRM Networks continues to advance its system and offerings for customers. Soon they will bring high-speed internet to farms in the area through a USDA broadband grant.

Despite these advances, I’m still drawn to their preservation of the past. It offers those of us in the now older generation a moment, a spark, that brings back fond memories. So, click through the slideshow to see more phones and telephone memorabilia from GRM Networks.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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