Little did I dream back in the day when I watched
Star Trek's Captain
Kirk "call" Mr. Spock on that nifty little handheld device that
I would one day have my own and not leave home without it.
Lest we forget there was a time phones
weren't something we carried with us, the Georgia Rural
Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia invites us to visit a time
not too far in our past when the phone was a devise found only
in homes and business and those fast-disappearing little cubbies
known as phone booths.
|A real phone booth
The museum is the labor of love of Tommy C.
Smith, who is the CEO of The Citizen Telephone Co. located
across the street from the museum. The museum itself is housed
in a restored 1820s cotton exchange. It opened in 1995 with
Jimmie Carter as a guest of honor. Some of the switchboards in
the museum were the actual ones used during Carter's campaign.
Exhibits date from 1876 to the 21st Century, however as of yet,
no cell phones are on display. Elizabeth Bass who often conducts
tours, told us, "Mr.
Smith spent seven or eight years preparing to open the museum.
It is the largest
collection containing about 2,000 phones.
There is probably no
phone that's not on display here."
|Switchboard of the mid-twentieth
His grandson, Clint Ledger, began working
with his grandfather around age 13. His favorite phone from
childhood was a Mickey Mouse Phone like the one in the header.
Clint explains the museums origins, &"My grandfather wanted
to put some of his personal collection on display and then it
got out of hand."
|Clint shows off the Wilhelm
Tommy Smith began collection telephones
shortly after he returned from World War II and purchased the
local phone company. We asked which was Mr. Smith's favorite
telephone in the collection. Clint pointed out aan 1896 Wilhelm
Candlestick Telephone. "It's made out of nickel and it's
one-of-a-kind. He was real pleased to get that one. It's the
most valuable phone here. He's been offered $25 or $30,000 for
|The replica of the Alexander
Graham Bell phone
Another favorite is a replica of the
first phone Alexander
Graham Bell used to call his associate and closest collaborator,
Thomas Watson. There are hand-cranked bell phones known as the
Bell Boxes that were
invented by Watson. Tons of wall phones, cases of unusual phones
like the Whisper Phone.
a ccommercial telephone
dated 1877-- there is only one other of its kind in existence--
or a solar battery display from the 1950's. There is even the
McKinley Phone of the type used to report President McKinley's
shooting circa 1897. The pay phone booth is a work of art.
There's even a stuffed grizzly, ‘Bubba the Bear' who sports a
headset. If you dial 1 on his line he'll roar for you.
|Mr. Watson phone exhibit
The museum showcases so much more than just
the age of the telephone. The art work on the walls
depicting local events is by Georgia artists. nautical
devices, vehicles and automobiles including a rare John Deere
Tractor which was one of the first in Georgia with rubber tires.
There is even a room dedicated to the culture of the Creek
Indians. In one mural, they are using smoke signals to
|Some antique phones
The museum is a little off the beaten path
but well worth the trip. Those of us who remember the Star Trek
era will wallow in nostalgia and those who grew up in the cell
phone age will marvel at the quaintness.
For more info:
(No Mr. Spock is not in the museum. I'm
writing this just a few days after Leonard Nemoy passed away. I
want to dedicate this article to his memory. I was a big
Star Trek fan and considered Mr. Spock the best part of the