This Week in History – May 22, 2014

The Mesquite Local News has given me the opportunity to celebrate and share stories of The Virgin Valley’s past. I’m excited to share what I find out about the local history. I’m not a native to the Valley but I’m enjoying the opportunity I have to look into and find out more about what has happened in our past and how it influences the future of the Valley.

This week I wanted to take a look at how we communicate, Cell phones have become the primary method to keep in contact it makes me reflect on what use to be a considered a modern marvel. Telephones came up because in the back garden of the museum we have an old phone booth. A patron and I were musing about how we use to see these everywhere and they were the only way to call home. Also how we use to be tied to the landline if we were waiting on an important call at home. I remember my family’s first answering machine and how bummed out I’d be if I missed a call I’d been waiting on.

When we look back at the Valley’s history with telephones they came into town on April 24th in 1909 telephone service was established between Mesquite, Bunkerville and Littlefield. This meant we had a direct line to the outside world a way to communicate with family members working in distant in Las Vegas. The world was starting to get smaller as rail lines and roadways started to cross the country.

At a recent museum activity Geraldine Zarate shared this memory about the telephone company, “My Grandfather John Lewis Pulsipher, started the Rio Virgin Telephone Company and My Mother Hazel White worked as a switchboard operator. I was a small child and often went to work with her. There were not a lot of people with phones so she remembered all their individual “rings” such as; 1 long, 2 short; 2 long, 1 short, etc…” The original switchboard from the telephone company is on display in the front room of the museum along with a wide range of phones from candlestick to the pay phone, which has also become a relic of the past with the development of cell phones and smart devices. The phonebook for the local area in 1973 was printed on blue cardstock and consists of two pages of phone numbers. Many of these lines were party lines, which meant you shared your line with several other families your conversation was anything but private.

We as a community have come along way from then, now there are community members without landlines in their homes and they only have cell phones pay phones have all but disappeared the last time I saw any that were still in operation was up in the Salt Lake City Utah International Airport.

As technology develops and changes it’ll be fun to see what could replace the cell phone and how future generations will refer to our modern technology as dinosaurs.

Erika Kuta Marler is the Coordinator of the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum located at 35 W. Mesquite Blvd. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am-4:00 pm.

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