Monday, October 24, 2011

Collection Highlight : Tri-County Telephone Company Sales News

On the face, this title doesn't sound too exciting, but if it's one thing I've learned it's that local history treasures don't necessarily always come in shiny packages.

The Sales News, a monthly newsletter published by the Tri-County Telephone Company, South Haven,  begins with the November 1, 1932 issue.  The collection that was donated to the Local History Collection includes everything through the Christmas issue of 1939 in two nicely bound blue volumes.

The Tri-County Telephone Company is a familiar name as we have collected 15 of their telephone directories for Southwest Michigan and continue to look for others.  Until now, however, the company has been a faceless entity.  The Sales News certainly brings the people and history to life.

Some examples guaranteed to tantalize you:

The January 1936 issue includes about 160 full names of employees, ranking their station sales for 1935.  The March 1936 issue includes a page entitled the "Office Dog" and within are biographies of some of the employees.  For Howard Johnson [no, not the motel] we find:

 Johnson, Howard - Douglas Ave, Bangor - Mr. Johnson, member of our So. Div. Const. crew was born at Bedford, Michigan.  He was educated and has spent most of his life at Battle Creek.  He is of Dutch and Swedish descent.  He acquired his first telephone experience as an employee of the Michigan Associated Telephone Co. before becoming a part of the Tri-County organization.  Mr. Johnson likes to hunt; he is an enthusiastic baseball fan.  He is married and thinks his two children are mighty fine.  His hobbies are that powerful "4" Whippet Sedan!

We learned a lot about Mr. Johnson, his family and his ancestry in this one small paragraph.  But, what do we genealogists want more than anything else?  Vital about this entry in that same issue:

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! On Saturday, February 15th, old Grandpappy Stork visited the Robert Eberhard home at Allegan, knighting Bob with the ancient and royal order of fatherhood for the third time and leaving in Mrs. Eberhard's care a bouncing ten pound baby boy.  The other two Eberhard girls are also boys, but old Grandpappy Stork is getting old and sometimes gets the orders mixed.  Three boys! A Grand Family!...

No history, you say?  Guess again.  The September 1933 issue's lead article is entitled "Grand Junction," written by Florence Lee, C.O. manager, and starts out:

If we could turn the sands of time backward or look into a magic crystal at the place where Grand Junction stands today, I think we would say with the poet "This is the forest primeval."  In 1817, the Michigan central Railroad was built; and the year following, the Pere Marquette...As the railroad crossing was completed, a small town seemed to spring into being almost as the mushrooms do, overnight.  The first general store was built by Conrad Crouse, and it was followed slowly by several others.  In the southwest corner of the R. R. intersection stood a large building which was called an Eating House and which was used mainly by railroad hands and traveling men...There was a large sawmill east of town, owned and operated by John A. Write...It was not an ideal place for the town for it was nothing but swamp.  None of the houses had foundations--they had to drive piles into the mud and build their houses up on the piles to keep above the swamp...
The article continues on for another two and a half pages.  This article in its entirety will be reprinted in the Van Buren Echoes published by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society.

The point to be made here is that you now have another item to add to your checklist of sources to consult for possible information about your family.  There are no doubt other newsletters like this around, for businesses of all kinds.  Seek them out.  You may be pleasantly surprised. 

Visitors may view the Sales News anytime during Local History business hours.  Contact the library for more details.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown Civil War veteran
Photographer - Udell, Three Rivers

Can you identify the man in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.