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History of Mainstay Communications (Part 1)

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Enjoy this first installment from Matt Friesen on the history of Mainstay Communications.

MAINSTAY COMMUNICATIONS 50th CELEBRATION
OPEN HOUSE AUGUST 2nd  9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

As we celebrate our 50th year as a cooperative with an open house at our 1000 North Main St. Office on August 2, 2018, I would like to share a little about how this cooperative came about.

The foundation of this Cooperative started with the articles of incorporation of the Henderson Telephone Association on August 26, 1905, by President J.W. Friesen and Secretary J.J. Friesen. The object of the association was to establish and maintain a telephone exchange system for the purpose of facilitating telephone communication between its members or subscribers of other telephone associations or systems. Throughout the early 1900’s to 1968, the telephone company was represented by Henderson Telephone Company (Town) Associated lines and Farmers Cooperative Telephone Company. On March 18, 1968, the companies were formed into one company–the Henderson Cooperative Telephone Company.

I will have several articles throughout the summer showcasing highlights throughout the cooperative’s history that represent the progress of the company. Let me step back one year before the coop was formed; it was February 28, 1967. The Henderson Telephone Co. (Town) Associated lines and the Farmers Cooperative Telephone Co. shareholders met to vote on the sale of the telephone companies. A motion to adopt the resolution to sell the telephone companies to LT&T was made and seconded. The resolution failed to receive two-thirds majorities and was not passed. Forming a cooperative had been discussed among the companies at different times through out the years. After this vote, it was decided to pursue creating a cooperative.

The Henderson Telephone Company and Farmers Telephone Company met on December 11, 1967. Henderson Telephone Company Chairman C.A. Peters opened the meeting for general business and the discussion was to consolidate the Henderson Town Telephone Company with the Farmers Cooperative Company and form a cooperative. It was moved and seconded to adopt resolution of consolidation–motion carried.

The first meeting of the stockholders of the Henderson Cooperative Telephone Company was held at the Henderson Community School on Monday, March 18, 1968, at 7:30 p.m. Elected to the board was August Franz, C.A. Peters, Sam Janzen, David Quiring, Jacob C. Goertzen, Maurice Janzen, and Darrell G. Epp. At the first directors meeting on March 21, 1968, officers elected were Chairman C.A. Peters, Vice Chairman David Quiring, Secretary Maurice Janzen, and Treasurer Jacob C. Goertzen. This board set the standards for providing the best technologies and services to the cooperative subscribers. The first order of business was to upgrade the telephone office building cable plant and switching for the Henderson exchange. The board contracted RVW Engineering to engineer and design the upgrades. RVW presented to the board plans for a new telephone office building, a plan to bury 151.27 miles of copper outside plant, and to go from the old crank magneto switch to a new step switch single party line system with touch tone dialing. The board approved RVW’s plan and applied for an REA Loan for the upgrades. That same year, Art Mierau was hired as lineman and later became the General Manager of Henderson Cooperative Telephone Company. Art Mierau was a leader not only in the telephone industry but in the Henderson community as well. Art worked for the phone company 20 years. In 1970, REA granted the Coop a loan of $600,000 for the building of a new telephone office cable upgrade and new step switch. Construction started immediately. That same year, Levi Regier was hired as outside plant man. Levi worked for the phone company 25 years. January 23, 1971, there was an open house for the new telephone office and step switch with coffee and donuts being served.

May 7, 1973, the board approved the purchase of a paging unit and a 190 foot tower. That same year, the V-30 ditch witch plow and trencher was added for use in burying cable for the company.

In 1975, the board filed an application with FCC for a mobile telephone service, and in 1976, signed with Motorola to supply that service to our customers.

This technology used the 450MHz band and had a range of 30 miles from the tower. We kept them in service until 1990.

In 1980, a 24×50 addition was added to the east end of the existing building.

In 1982, the board approved to construct and provide cable TV to the town subscribers. They also approved a new 190 foot tower.

From 1968 to 1985 is what I refer to as the analog age of Henderson Cooperative Telephone Company. Look for our next article that takes the telephone company from the analog age to the digital age.

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