- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

KENDRICK, Idaho (AP) - The original 1904 Kendrick switchboard has found a new home back in the town it served for 21 years.

The telephone switchboard was recently returned to Kendrick after being housed at the Asotin County Museum for the past 16 years. It will now be displayed with several other historical artifacts from the area in the soon-to-be-completed Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation Museum.

Operated by the Potlatch Telephone Company, the switchboard served as Kendrick’s communications network from 1904 to 1925. Asotin County Historical Society Treasurer Ken McLaughlin said an operator would work the machine by watching for incoming calls, then connecting them to a local or long-distance receiver.

“These didn’t usually operate at night,” McLaughlin said, adding the switchboards were typically operated from someone’s home.

The operator had two cords - one to plug into the caller’s line and one for the receiver’s line. McLaughlin said the operator would know when a call was coming in and which line was ringing because an assigned metal number flap would begin vibrating. The operator would then plug the two cords in accordingly.

The person receiving the call would know the call was for them by listening for their household’s designated ring sequence, said Jo Anne Miller, president of the Asotin County Historical Society. The sequences would consist of a specific number of either short or long rings, or a combination of the two.

“That’s how you knew the call was for you - by counting the rings,” she said.

In 1965, Potlatch Telephone Company owners and brothers Otto and Herman Schupper of Juliaetta donated the switchboard to the Lewis-Clark Council Telephone Pioneers, a local organization that closed in the late 1990s. That’s when McLaughlin said he approached the historical societies in both Nez Perce and Asotin counties about taking in the switchboard.

Asotin County responded, McLaughlin said. He brought the switchboard with him when he became a member of the historical society in 1998.

Discussions of moving the switchboard back to its hometown began this spring when the Asotin County Historical Society approached the Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation. Miller said the museum was running out of space.

“It’s not just for us. It’s for Kendrick, too,” Miller said.

Museum officials also gave the foundation a number of items that they had duplicates of from around the region, including a homemade wooden ironing board.

“They’ve really been a good friend to us,” Foundation President Sharon Harris said of the Asotin County Historical Society.

The Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation began working with the Kendrick Grange in 2010 to renovate Kendrick’s Fraternal Temple building on Main Street. The building will house the museum that is anticipated to open this summer or fall on the second floor.

“We’ve worked really hard. There have been a lot of volunteers,” Harris said.

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