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Dial ‘M’ for Mercury, ‘N’ for Neptune
Written by Terry Viel   
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 6:03 PM

This piece is not a parody on the famous movie “Dial "M" for Murder,” but is devoted to a discussion about when Harrison was trying to reach out beyond Meand Ne. Well again this is not about Harrison's contribution to the space program, but when there was an insurgency uprising instituted against the long-established Harrison Telephone Company. A David and Goliath situation in Harrison occurring in the late 1960s.

Up until the late 1960s time period, one Harrison telephone subscriber would be connected to the Meexchange on the Ohio side, having a number like Me4– 2621, or if you resided on the Indiana side your exchange was Ne. This was fine except for one little detail, any calls placed outside the diminutive Harrison exchange was a toll call.

If you had to call Aunt Margret in Miamitown, a toll call. If you needed to call Cincinnati, a toll call. You were only able to dial the Meor Neexchange numbers, which in that time period was about 2000 customers in total, without a toll charge. To complicate the issue, at this time in telephone technology, area codes did not exist. So to call “long-distance," operator assistance was required.

Times were changing, and Harrison was attempting to grow but it had a major drawback," an “Iron Curtain," constricted telephone service. Harrison residents were locked into the limited service provided by the Harrison Telephone Company. There were no other options. In an attempt to change this situation, some local residents, and businessmen formed an insurgency group to take on the monopoly of the telephone company and bring to Harrison what they called "Extended Area Service." Yes, at that time the paradigm for telecommunication service was not as it is today.
Secret meetings were held in resident’s basements to develop a strategy. Communication between the insurgent group was strictly confidential, no phone calls allowed, they did not want the telephone company possibly listening in on their secret meetings and pilfer their strategy to overthrow the phone company. The "Extended Area Service" group met with the Harrison Telephone Company many times but to no avail, an agreement could be not reached.

The insurgency group was persistent, maintaining a pressure for change. Likewise the phone company was stern on it’s position resisting to break the “Iron Curtain” monopoly for obvious financial reasons. Eventually the phone company agreed to let this customers decide the fate of "Extended Area Service," by putting the issue to a vote. The vote did take place and the results were not favorable for change to "Extended Area Service." Too many Harrison residents wanted to keep using their Western Electric rotary phones to call inside Harrison proper.  Many felt no need to call such faraway places as Ross, Hamilton, or halfway around the world to Cincinnati. As long as they could call Orlik’s department store or Klipenger’s hardware store they were happy. All of their other outside needs could be fulfilled by ordering C.O.D. from the Sears catalog.

The "Extended Area Service" team did not give up after their devastating defeat. They kept pushing and pushing, plus change was inevitable. Shortly after the first vote defeating toll free service, the Harrison residents were offered an optional Cincinnati line, or they could stay on their limited Meand Neexchanges. The incorporation of the Cincinnati line into Harrison now made it a more desirable location for locals and new immigrants as well.  Your present 367 and 637 numbers came from outer space, Mercury and Neptune respectively.  Imagine today's "Connected" society not having access to extended area service?

Terry Viel is an avid Harrison history buff who collects and restores vintage Harrison photographs.



0 #2 2013-12-12 16:30
I really enjoy your articles!!
0 #1 2013-12-12 16:29
Terry! I just read your article about "Ronnie"! Thought maybe you'd like little piece of history! "OLD SMOKEY", Russell Fox's racing car! Russ bought this car from my grandfather John Jacobs (my dad Norbert Jacobs', father) I remember when Russ finished customizing the car, he took grandpa for a ride! Dad & Grandpa were so proud that the car was being used and enjoyed by many people in the Harrison area! I wondered what ever happened to Old Smokey??