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In 1900 Martin Hanson held the first telephone meetings in Palmer, Iowa, but it wasn’t until February 1904 that the towns of Pomeroy and Palmer joined together to organize the Pomeroy-Palmer Mutual Telephone Company. In February 1906 the Company was incorporated.
Chas. Swalin served as the president of the company from 1906 until 1935. Other men who helped form the company were A.G. Quinn as vice president; John O’Brien as secretary; Rudolph Beneke as treasurer; and Chas. Skooglund as the general Manager.
Shares were sold for $50.00. Each member had a right to get a phone to his house for the price of one share. The very first share was issued to Mr. N.A. Blomstrand on April 3, 1906.
The following rules were attached to the company’s By-laws:
- In case of a call from central, all possible speed must be used to clear the line.
- Before making a call, take down the receiver and see that the line is not in use.
- Children should not be allowed to meddle with the phone.
- When your signal is rung, you must take down the receiver and proceed with the conversation.
- All conversations are limited to five minutes, except in a case of very pressing business.
- All ordinary conversations must cease for business messages.
- Anyone taking messages from the line when he or she is not called and circulating the same shall be suspended for a time from the use of the line.
- By paying a fee of 10 cents, anyone not a member may have the use of this line and any other line with which the company has free exchange.
- When a messenger is required, a fee of 10 cents and mileage will be allowed for this service. The messenger fee and toll must be collected by the party whose phone is used and must be turned over to the secretary on demand.
- All conversations, including business, must cease on a call for a doctor.
Managers through the years have been:
Chas. Skooglund (1906-1912); Peter Long (1913); W.H. Westphal (1914-1936); J. Howard Reeder (1937-1938); Rueben Blomberg (1939-1945); John Peterson (1946-1975); Gene Siefken (1975-2003); and Steve Trimble (2003-present).
One of the first operators was Miss Olive Babb. In 1909 operator service was available from 6 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily except on Sundays when it was 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.- 6:15 p.m. Miss Babb’s monthly salary was $32.00.
In March of 1932, after the bank closed with $784.54 of the Company’s money tied up, financial matters looked very bad. It was decided to continue on and hope for the best. With the help of a director’s personal loan, the company operated as usual through the tough years.
The company’s first central office was located across the street from the present office at 306 Main St. Improvements to the building were made through the years. In January 1919 the office was wired for electrical lights. In December of 1936, the old Farmers Savings Bank building was purchased from Dr. C.E. Stewert for $3,000 and the company’s office was moved into the upstairs rooms. The first floor was rented out for living quarters and then later to businesses which included a beauty shop, doctor’s office and the post office. Since then, the company’s office has remained at the same location but have moved down to the first level. Interior remodeling was completed in 1982 with the entire top floor removed. The last remodeling was done in 1992 to its current layout.
Between the years of 1949-1956 due to the fact that Bell and Iowa Continental Companies were switching to dial, it was voted to release the customers in the Pomeroy and Pocahontas area who chose to receive dial service. With the territory changing it was decided on January 9, 1957 to change the company’s name to Palmer Mutual Telephone Company with the business continuing on as usual.
In 1965 when a new automatic electric step-by-step switch costing $36,500 was installed, it made it necessary to replace all of the hand crank telephones with the new dial telephones. The new switch also eliminated jobs of our switchboard operators. Helen Malm was our chief operator for 26 years. During those years some of her assistants were Matilda Behrens, Eleanor Siefken, Lena Arends, Olga Johnson, Mildred Van Hoveln, and Helen Ricklefs. Helen Ricklefs continued on as bookkeeper until 1975 when she resigned, and Pauline Schultz was hired to take her place. In 1978 Deanna Buddin was hired for part time office work. She stayed on until 1986 at which time Debra Lenz was hired to take her place.
The 70’s brought many changes to the company. In 1971 long distance calling was made easier with the advent of direct distance dialing. A CAMA identifier was installed which enabled people to make long distance calls by dialing 1+ instead of going through the operator.
In 1975 John Peterson retired and Gene Siefken was promoted to general manager. Gene had been employed by the company since 1962 as a lineman.
In March 1975 a severe ice storm struck the area damaging rural lines and leaving many customers without service. Many hours were spent replacing poles and wire. As a result of this, the company applied for a loan to bury the outside plant. In 1977 a loan was granted by the Omaha Bank of Cooperatives for $305,000. In 1978 cable was buried, additional line equipment installed in the central office, and the subscribers were switched to single party service.
In 1987, Palmer, along with most other independent companies in the state, purchased shares of stock in Iowa Network Services, Inc. INS gave small independent companies the benefits that only the larger companies had. By using a central switch in Des Moines, we were able to offer our customers the long distance carrier of their choice. This is known as equal access.
Because of the growing need of communication services, it was decided to build and operate a CATV system in the town of Palmer. With the help of other telephone companies, the cables were buried , equipment installed and the system was put into service in September 1990.
As the technology advanced it was decided to replace the step-by-step switch that was installed in 1965. So in 1992 this switch was replaced with a new digital switch at a cost of around $200,000. This allowed the Palmer customer’s access to the newest features available.
1997 brought about the installation of fiber optic cable to replace the copper cable that was being used to access the long distance network. This allowed the company to share in the network costs for telephone and CATV with the neighboring independent companies.
As the Internet became popular Palmer began offering dial-up access to the Internet through NetINS a subsidiary of INS in 1996. Following this the company began offering high speed internet service (DSL) through a neighboring independent in 2001.
In April of 2003 Palmer Mutual hired Steve Trimble as their General Manager replacing long time manager Gene Siefken. Beginning that summer Palmer Mutual began an upgrade to their CATV system to expand it to 860 MHz which allowed us to offer additional Digital and Hi-definition channels via a shared Head End. Of which we are now capable of over 200 channels.
2004 brought another busy year as Fiber Optic cable was installed going West of Palmer to alleviate some problem facilities. All together there was around Ten miles of Fiber installed along with one Fiber Cabinet to provide telephone and data services to those customers. While installing this fiber we continued on to the Exchange boundary with Iowa Telecom for a future fiber lease.
At the end of 2005 Palmer Mutual began considering replacing the Mitel GX5000 switch that was installed in January of 1992. Palmer Mutual went in with six other companies to negotiate a group pricing for a new Soft Switch. By the end of December we had accepted the bid from TAQUA for a T7000 Soft Switch at a cost of $160,000. By July we had moved all of our Town subscribers to the new switch with the rural customers to follow at a later date.
Late in 2006 Palmer Mutual began to design additional Fiber Optic cable placement to upgrade our rural plant facilities. This would allow us to reach all of our rural customers with the features of our new TAQUA switch and to have access to our High Speed Internet (DSL). In the spring of 2007 Palmer Mutual selected Schoon’s Construction out of Cherokee to install Fourteen miles of fiber Optic cable during the summer of 2007.
After the fiber was installed in the summer of 2007 we began the process of requesting bids from vendors for the electronics that would go on this Fiber Optic cable. By March of 2008 we had selected CALIX as our electronics provider and by October of 2008 we had cutover all of our rural customers to this equipment. This now gave all of our customers’ access to our newest features and DSL services. All total this project ran close to $500,000.
Another project for 2007 was the construction of Kossuth, Palo Alto and Pocahontas counties for wireless services through our joint venture with six other companies to offer iwireless cellular services in these counties. In December 2007 Palmer Mutual’s Employee Deb Lenz who had been part time since 1986 became our full-time employee.
Another wireless venture was started in January 2009 for the counties of Dickenson and Emmett. This one Palmer Mutual joined fourteen other companies to begin offering the iwireless service.
In January 2010 our long-time employee Pauline Schultz retired.
In January 2013 Palmer mutual had two long time directors retire from the Board of Directors. Vern Metzger who had served 28 years on the Board of Directors of which 24 of those years were as President and Eldon Peters who had served 27 years on the Board of Directors. Palmer Mutual Telephone Company is very appreciative of the years of service provided.
In 2015, Palmer Mutual started an upgrade in the rural area to Fiber to the Home and connected the first phase of 25 customers to this by November 30, 2015. Along with this, Palmer Mutual’s subsidiary, Palmer Long Distance, joined with Northwest Communications of Havelock to do a joint Fiber to the Business in Pocahontas, under the name of Pocahontas Fiber Network LLC. The first customer was connected on December 31, 2015. Palmer Mutual added a part time employee in Talia Condon to fill the position of Anita Vetter after her retirement.
Throughout 2016-2017 Palmer Mutual continued with their Fiber to the Home construction in the rural areas of Palmer. The partnership to bury Fiber in Pocahontas continued as Pocahontas Fiber Network added more customers in Pocahontas. Our iwireless partnership that started in 2007 was transferred to T-Mobile in 2017 thus ending our cellular offering.
2018 was a frustrating year for our Fiber to the Home as it was very wet and so our Contractor Schoon Construction was unable to complete any of our projects. Palmer Mutual did a small Fiber to the Business in Palmer with our own equipment that year. The wet year also held off any construction in our partnership of Pocahontas fiber Network.
With 2019 Palmer Mutual was able to complete our 2018 and 2019 Fiber to the Home project. This entailed areas to the North and East of Palmer. Pocahontas Fiber Network continued to add Residential Fiber to the Home areas in Pocahontas.
Palmer Mutual’s 2020 Fiber to the Home project included all of our Subscribers south of Palmer along with a few bordering customers that we were able to catch during our fiber construction. Palmer Mutual also evaluated replacement of our Taqua switching equipment that was installed in 2006 and decided to utilized our NICP partnership’s shared switch located in Spencer, Ia.
After 6 years of a 5-year project Palmer Mutual finished its final Fiber to the Home within the City of Palmer. With this Palmer Mutual should be set for all of our future Broadband needs. Palmer Mutual also did some upgrades in our Central office equipment. In April Palmer Mutual added a new fulltime employee in Steve Pelz.
At Palmer Mutual’s January 18, 2022 Annual meeting longtime director Steve Gutz decided to retire from the Board after 30 years. Palmer Mutual appreciates his dedication to the company. Lynn Schoon was elected at the Annual meeting to fill Steve Gutz’s position.
Current Employees and directors are listed below.
Steve Pelz – General Manager
Talia Condon – Office Manager
Andy Lee Peterson – President
Alan Francis – Vice President
Lynn Schoon – Secretary
Michael Plantz – Director
Brian Aden – Director