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Historical Society to 'Cruise Callaway'

Historical Society to 'Cruise Callaway'

September 27th, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Auxvasse resident Art Gresham, who worked for the Kingdom Telephone Company from 1969-85, shows off the crown jewel of his telephone collection. See the rest of it during Sunday's Cruising Callaway to Auxvasse tour.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

AUXVASSE, Mo. — The Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society will dive into Auxvasse's history Sunday.

County residents are invited to join the crew for Cruising Callaway to Auxvasse. It's an adventure to small-town Callaway County filled with historical information and sightseeing.

Tickets cost $10 and can be picked up from the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society or the Auxvasse Community Center on Main Street. Unlike last year, attendees must drive themselves to the Community Center to begin the tour at 2 p.m.; there is no bus.

Among the sights during the cruise is Art Gresham's telephone collection, which will be set up at Kingdom Telephone Co.

"They're nostalgic; they're part of my occupation," said Gresham, who worked in the telephone industry for 36 years.

Gresham got his start in Kiowa, Colorado, in 1954 after his sister-in-law tipped him off about a company that was hiring.

"There are two things I enjoyed about it," Gresham said. "First of all is the customers who were mostly rural people. (Second,) I enjoyed working with electricity and electronics."

He remembers how his neighbor, a former cattleman now in his 80s, would tell exciting stories about his cattle-driving days. He said Kiowa's downtown could have been a set for old Western films: many of the buildings had facades. Kiowa is also where he picked up the prize of his telephone collection.

"It's a special telephone that came from Black Sage Bar in Kiowa," he said. "The lady that owned the building gave it to me. Some catalogues show it as being made as early as 1920, but I've also heard 1924. If it's from '24, it was made two years before I was born."

The telephone is a Western Electric Company model with a chrome handset and earpiece, which Gresham said is unusual.

He arrived in Auxvasse to work for Kingdom Telephone Company in September 1969.

"The thing I remember most about those first two years at Kingdom was that there was lots and lots of rain and lots and lots of lightning," he said. "We'd take the trouble calls, 15, 20, 30 of them a day. Maybe we'd get them all done in one day, maybe not, but the next day we'd have just as many again."

Gresham said the rain kept him and his coworkers on their toes until they could trimmed back the trees threatening local telephone lines.

He stayed with the company until 1985, working his way up to the general manager position. He remembers when Ameren built the nuclear power plant near Reform; — Kingdom installed their phones, he said.

Tour participants will be able to see more of his communication-related collection and hear his stories Sunday.

They'll also hear more railroad history from Mike Offineer, see the history panels in Mottaz Park, visit the Sons of the Confederate Veterans Elijah Gates Camp No. 570 headquarters, and watch a skit.

The skit takes place in October 1861, when Col. Jefferson F. Jones rallied Callaway County men to protect the area from a rumored invasion by Federal troops.