Telephone Comes to Ocracoke (1956)
The first residential
telephone service on Ocracoke Island
was established by Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Company in
charge was $5.00/month. Nearly everyone in the village subscribed...and
holdouts soon signed on as well. Originally the telephones operated via
ship-to-shore shortwave radio frequency. The tower was erected at the
Village Hotel (now Blackbeard's Lodge). A room was added to the hotel
In the early days private telephone transmissions could sometimes be
neighbors over their radios or televisions!
Today, Ocracoke’s land line telephone service operates via
transmission. The tower and equipment building are on Cedar Road (also
the Bank Road).
When I was a youngster there was only one telephone on the island -- at
Coast Guard station. According to cousin Blanche the US Coast Guard had
ship-to-shore radio telephone as long as she can remember, probably
from the time
of the construction of the village station in 1905.
The following article by
Woodrow Price appeared in the
Raleigh News & Observer in
15 – The last link in Ocracoke’s telephone
system was completed today when the local exchange was tied in to the
distance lines in the Carolina Telephone and Telegraph system.
Commissioner Sam Worthington of Greenville closed
the switch which completed the tie-in. The ceremony took place at Wahab
Hotel [Blackbeard’s Lodge] before approximately 35 or 40
islanders, company officials,
“The island has
been enjoying long distance service since
January 14, when three telephones were connected to the mainland by way
short wave radio from a tower on the island to another at Engelhard
been basking in the luxury of local telephone service for two weeks.
“In that two
weeks, they have made a total of 9,390 calls
local. The first day more than 1,700 calls were put in as neighbors
chat with each other over the new gadget and ordered their groceries
many of them decided to buy by telephone that Jesse
Garrish [owner of the Community Store],
who had put his telephone in the office, quickly decided to transfer
it to a counter up front, where it would be more quickly accessible.
88 local telephones have been connected to the automatic exchange,
operates at the rear of the Wahab Village Hotel. This means that more
the island phones [homes] already have telephone service.
“L.W. Hill of
Tarboro, president of the CT&T, said in a
brief talk before the switch was closed today that his company has
$100,000 invested in the Ocracoke exchange. The venture is not
and may never be, he said, because of the island terrain and the high
maintaining service. For instance, it is planned to fly service men in
any trouble develops.
“Hill said the
company’s investment here is approximately
$1,100 per telephone compared to an average in the company system of a
more than $400.
“This was the
111th exchange to be activated by
President Hill, other company officials on hand for
the occasion included Dail Holderness, vice president, secretary and
Jack Havens, vice president in charge of public relations; W.D.
Marshall of New
Bern, district commercial manager; A.N. Mason, general plant manager;
Jones, chief engineer; Earl Baker, local manager; and John Reed of the
advertising and public relations division. Robert Lyday of Rocky Mount,
district representative for the Automatic Electric Co., also attended.
Commissioner Worthington was accompanied by Ralph
Moody, another member of the Commission. In a short talk before he
switch, Worthington said, ‘We realize as the regulating
agency of this and
other companies that projects of this kind are not profitable, but
are necessary for the welfare and safety of a community.’
contributing to the relatively high cost of the
installation here was the fact the company decided to bury its lines
running them overhead. This was done because of the danger of hurricane
and also because of the effects of erosion [corrosion?] on overhead
Ocracoke Island's 1956 Telephone Directory (Cover & Two Pages):
The following story was
told to me by Ocracoker, Al
Helen Dixon Fulcher was 84 years old when telephones were
introduced to the island. The
salesman tried to convince Helen to purchase a telephone. “No,”
she said, “I don’t see any use for one
of those newfangled gadgets.”
salesman, realizing that Helen was advanced in years, tried to entice
pointing out that she could use the telephone to contact a neighbor if
became ill or had an accident and needed assistance.
Helen pointed out that
all of her neighbors were old and
frail. Miss Maude
explained, was in her seventies and “not doin’ too
Ike was nearing ninety. He had one foot in the grave. He
wouldn’t be much help if she called on
Scarborough was almost
eighty, and his wife Sue was not far behind.
Helen certainly couldn’t count on
them for help.
The salesman persisted,
saying he could “connect” her and
she’d be grateful for it.
Finally, in desperation,
she averred that she’d agree if he
could just connect her directly to “Glory.”
Eventually Helen gave in
and subscribed to telephone
service. She would
dial a number, but
her eyesight was failing, and she’d often misdial. Of course, everyone she
connected to on the
island was someone she knew. The
party would try to explain that she’d dialed the wrong
number, but Helen insisted
she’d dialed correctly.
understanding how the telephone system worked, Helen would explain in
exasperated voice that she was calling so-and-so, and would the person
now talking too “please not pick up the phone the next time I
*According to his
obituary, Woodrow Price (1914-2000) was a
“reporter,” a “superb
newspaperman,” “former managing editor of the News & Observer and an avid
outdoorsman who helped establish the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout