St. Francis Church

No services were held at St. Francis on January 7 because of the ice storm.  In other news, the photo in the Herald of the building on the southeast corner of the square, taken around 1930 according to Ken Brown, brought back memories of that building from the 1940s when I was a child.  The Herald was still in that building and the Ava Telephone Company office and switchboard were in the inside northeast corner of the building.  The telephone company was owned by Bob Trowbridge and in those pre-dial days was the old-fashioned system run by a live operator who sat at the switchboard and manually connected calls with cords and plugs.  My grandmother Lilly Kester was one of the operators and I remember watching her connect calls on the switchboard.  The switchboard and telephone operator were known as Central and besides connecting phone calls also functioned as an information and emergency center.  I recall a story that illustrates that function.  Several years ago I ran across a photo taken in the 1940s of a group of children, myself included, standing in the garden which was located south of the original Ava Methodist Church, now the Full Gospel Church, and was replaced by the south wing in the 1950s.  I recognized several of the children, but not all of them and we took the photo to Dr. C.E. and Jackie Harlan to see if they could identify more of the children and it turned out that their son Dallas or Dal, who had died in 1947, was one of the children and Jackie told us the story of the day Dallas died.  He came home very ill from school and Jackie wanted to contact Doc to treat him, but Doc was at a home out in the country delivering a baby, so Jackie called Central and talked to Lil, the operator, who was my grandmother Lilly Kester, and asked if the family where Doc was working had a phone.  Lil said no they don’t but their neighbors the Haileys do and so Lil called the Haileys and Edwin went to the farm where Doc was to give him the message.  Doc came back to treat Dal but sadly he died of his illness which turned out to be meningitis.  A couple of years ago Bob Trowbridge’s son, also named Bob, made a nostalgia trip to Ava and reminisced about the phone company.  He recalled how upset people were when the operator was replaced by the dial system because they lost that source of information and help.  The Trowbridge family moved to Springfield and later operated the Trowbridge Book Store on St. Louis Street, which had been Brown’s Book Store.  Bob Sr. died a few years ago at the age of ninety-nine.