Home Page

updated 2010 August 19, 1/17/2016, 3/4/2017 The direct URL to this page is:

Crusty Old Joe's Place

The Norfolk & Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Companies

N&CT&T Central Offices

The Blizzard

Cutovers featuring Sligo

Some CLR cards from 1958.

January 1980 Cross Talk Magazine article on the CT&T - N&CT&T merger:

Cover Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 28 Page 33

April 1980 Cross Talk Magazine on Elizabeth City and Manteo districts projects:

Page 6 Page 7

Photo album

N&CT&T overview and my experiences there.

While I attended school in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, I was a frequent visitor to the local offices of the Norfolk & Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Company at 103 S. Road Street. Mr. White was the manager of the technical stuff. I don't remember his correct title. I made friends with several other employees, notably the ones who repaired the phones in a shop and who were in charge of the supplies. Above the trucks in a barn behind the telephone building, in the attic or loft, they had hundreds and hundreds of old telephones. These were the candlestick types, and some called a "hotel" phone, which was a wall phone in a black metal box with the microphone on the front and the "potato masher" earpiece hanging on the side. From time-to-time I was able to talk them out of a phone or two. At the time, they were just something for me to take apart and play with. Occasionally I could score a wooden magneto phone.

I remember terrorizing my sixth grade teacher with a magneto!

When I completed high school in 1962, I applied to Mr. White for a job. He was interested in me, but there wasn't an opening at the rather small company. Either that or he was just patronizing me. In any event, I had a cousin who attended the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Apprentice School. Well, that was entry by competive exam. OK, I took the exam and got in. About ten years later, because one of the technicians at N&CT&T got the "call" to go work for the new Christian Broadcasting operation in Virginia Beach, there was an opening. Actually, they hired me without much discussion. This was early 1970. Mr. White had died in the meantime. I'm sorry I didn't get to work with him.

Norfolk & Carolina was owned by the Blades family. Mr. Blades, the company president, had an office in an older part of the building. His door was open. You didn't even go past a secretary to get to him. A company that makes me think of Mr. Blades is Beehive Telephone in Utah. Mr. Brothers has written a page of opinion in a national telephone magazine for the past 20 years. It's on their web page under LAST WORD. It's reassuring to know there are still independent telephone companies in the USA.

I worked for Mr. Kermit Evans in the transmission department. We were responsible for all the methods of carrying telephone and special circuits between places. This involved open-wire lines, both physical and carrier circuits, cable carrier, and microwave. In addition, we worked on teletype, government, and other special circuits including railroad stuff. Some of the equipment included Western Electric "H", "O", "N1" and "N2" carrier. Lenkurt 33, 36, 45 and 46 carrier. Panhandle Electrical Equipment Company tube-type rural subscriber carrier as well as their type "X" carrier on cable as well as one shot of "X" carrier on Lenkurt 74 microwave to Corolla, NC. We had Lenkurt 74 microwave at 8 sites and Lenkurt 76 at 5 sites. Later we had Lenkurt 78 radios at two sites. We were the first to install Lenkurt's 91 digital "T" carrier at a remote subscriber location. My friend Aubrey Chambers got his picture on the cover of TELEPHONY magazine for that.

Elizabeth City was a toll center with long-distance operators. We even had a seperate room just for directory assistance operators. The toll boards were Western Electric cord boards. While I was working there they were converted to use keypads instead of rotary dials. I don't remember how many operator positions there were, but it was probably between 25 and 35. Sometimes I worked troubles on the toll test board and worked with the operators. Dated a few too...

The area this company covered was rural. There were two places that were particularly remote. On the NC mainland part of Dare County, the Air Force had a target range. The Navy had one nearby too. Well, not close, but in the same county anyhow. These places were located on topographic maps that had no features within a 15 minute quadrangle. Also no elevation contours. This was swamp. Well, we had buried cable running alongside the roads which ran forever through this swamp. Actually, we had a "X" carrier running about 20 miles from the Manteo (252-473 although it was 919-473 at the time) exchange to the Navy range. Another system paralleled this to the village of Stumpy Point where we picked up a few telephones, and then another system was connected channel-by-channel at Stumpy Point to another system running about 4 channels to the Air Force target range, another 15 or 20 miles down the road.

The other remote site was somewhat more interesting. It was a Lenkurt 74 microwave radio connecting the Strowger exchange at Coinjock (252-453) with the coastal lighthouse village of Corolla on Currituck Beach. This "X" carrier is a FM system running 20 channels, normally on cable. We ran it on microwave for this hop over water. The terminal at Corolla was in a fiberglass hut on pilings. The dish at Corolla was on two telephone poles. Unfortunately there was no road to Corolla. There was also no runway. There was no place to land a floatplane either. The sound was too marshy near shore, and on the other side of the outer banks is the Atlantic Ocean. There was a road at Duck. Yes, Duck is a real place. It's very developed now and the road goes to Corolla, but when I worked there, you had to get a 4wd vehicle and drive up the beach. The beach itself was a pretty hard fast track, but getting over the barrier dunes at Duck and again at Corolla was a bit more difficult. There wasn't much in Corolla. One person ran a small cubby-hole store and post office. I rarely ever saw another person in the village at all. There is a beautiful brick lighthouse there. I think this person was also the lighthouse keeper although I imagine it was mostly automated. he didn't have much to eat for lunch in his store. Actually, you had to round him up just to get him to sell you stuff. The store wasn't locked though. Vienna sausage and saltines was the usual fare. If you click on lighthouse, above, you will find Duck and Corolla have changed a huge amount in 25 years.

During this time, there was still a Coast Guard open-wire line running along the Atlantic coast. We leased a pair or two from them on this line. So after getting dial tone in Coinjock, running it over "X" carrier on microwave, we connected to a pair of 8 gauge open wire and ran it south down the beach and hooked everybody we passed to this party line. These were mostly remote hunting lodges for rich people. They had huge amounts of land reserved in these private hunting facilites.

At the same time we were feeding south from Corolla on this line, we also had a system of the older Panhandle tube-type carrier running subscriber lines north from Kill Devil Hills (252-441) up to Duck on a pair of rented 8 gauge open-wire. It used miniature tubes, but the 50B5 really ran hot! One channel took up about 6 inches of rack space in a pole-mount cabinet at Duck. See the picture at the bottom of this page.

While not remote, we had one crossarm of open-wire from Windsor to Elizabeth City via Hertford and Edenton. Elizabeth City to Hickory line shown at Camden Causeway There was a mixture of Lenkurt 33 and Western "O" carrier and even two physical long-distance trunks working on this line. The Lenkurt 33 was for E.A.S. calls from Edenton, Hertford, and Elizabeth City. We had three crossarms (about 30 wires) running from Elizabeth City across the state line to our Hickory (Cheseapeake) Virginia exchange. At Elizabeth City we had about 12 systems of Western "O" carrier working for long distance and private line circuits between the toll centers at Elizabeth City and Norfolk, Virginia. At the Norfolk end, they had W.E. "N1" terminals. At Hickory, we had a Lynch "O-ON" junction. The circuits continued from Hickory through three repeater huts to the AT&T office in South Norfolk. This was a "N2" cable route for the Norfolk E.A.S. which our Great Bridge and Hickory offices were a part.

Elizabeth City was the center of a very large local free calling area covering all counties north of the Albemarle Sound. It is still the same today. There are audio recordings of calls placed around the N&CT&T area from that era available on the web. Scroll down about three screens or search for "Elizabeth City".

While I worked there N&CT&T built several new Strowger offices. Not listed in any particular order, they are: Woodville (252-264), Sligo (252-232) (see photo at bottom of this page), Piney Woods (252-297), Southern Shores or Duck (252-261). Sligo is technically part of the Moyock exchange area, but it's located miles from the Moyock (252-435) office, and Southern Shores is part of the Kill Devil Hills (252-441) exchange area near Kitty Hawk.

One of the exchanges requiring the most driving time was Buxton (252-995) located on Cape Hatteras and it's other switch located at Hatteras village (252-986) at the south end of the island. Between these two villages is Frisco where I still am in touch with cousins who were raised there. I spent several early childhood summers in Hatteras and have many fond memories.

The central offices (a physical switch location, different from an "exchange" which is a legal territory) in the Albemarle Metro calling area centered in Elizabeth City were all Automatic Electric Strowger exchanges with directors. Only late in my term of employment were they equipped with touch-tone converters. (Kodiak had the same touch-tone converters in the latter days of the X-Y office and I saved a shelf of them.) There is a good discussion of the directors at the website mentioned above that has the audio recordings.

The Dare County offices used straight Strowger switches. That means dial tone came from the first selector. You actually manipulated the switches directly with your dial. If you dialed 987-2221 from the Waves office, the first four digits would be absorbed by the selector. 986-2221 would absorb the first two and cut in on the 6 connecting you to a first selector in Hatteras via a Lenkurt 36 carrier on the Lenkurt 76 radio to Buxton and "X" carrier thence to Hatteras. If you were in a quiet office, say at night, a Strowger switch would sound like this.

Even though I was a transmission technician, occasionally I did troubleshooting of the Strowger switches. Since I didn't have to do routine maintenance on them, I still have a big appreciation of them. I even designed and built some special circuits we needed.

The microwave from Manteo via Waves to Buxton was over water. It faded out frequently even though the shots were solid during clear weather. That's why the whole system is fiber today. When I left in 1980 it was all Strowger and no fiber anywhere. During my tenure, however, I did see the end of the open-wire and a big conversion to "T" carrier on cable. The company was sold to Carolina Telephone about 1978. CT&T was owned by United Telephone which is now named Sprint. Elizabeth City is now a DMS-100.

Toll Test

Click here for bigger image Billy Hassel is shown in this photo circa 1978 at Elizabeth City NC. At the bottom of the picture is the shelf containing the cords, cord keys and dial for the toll test position which occupies the majority of the leftmost bay which you can only see a portion of the jacks. I think this is bay 1228. This toll test position is a duplicate of the ones in the operator's room toward the Road Street side of the same floor. Above the jack field for this bay is the alarm panel. The rounded bottom thing is a monitor speaker. The next bay has a lighter color shelf containing a small wire chief's test panel used for simple cable pair and open wire tests. The open wire testboard was in the other end of the building next to the operators room and was quite a hike from here. We ran multiples of the circuits to this position so we could do simple tests without the hike. The other jacks in this bay were 2-wire test jacks for EAS circuits, full-period circuit test jacks (FTS, Autovon, etc.) and some remote lines for radio staions WCNC and WGAI. The strip between these two bays contained a flip-file with all our test numbers and a little bin above to hold blank trouble ticket forms. The next bay, 1226, contained TR-EM jacks for a wide variety of EAS and Toll circuits. That box that stick out above the jacks is the Southern RR conference bridge. Above the picture in all of these 11-1/2 foot racks was more special circuit apparatus. The interval between these racks contains an Automatic Electric bracket phone with a 1A2 key set above, then three bins for active trouble tickets. Billy is listening at a WE 106 loudspeaker to a juicy conversation between lovers. He is standing in front of a Western Electric 2B signalling test box for the E&M test. We normally used this test box to test circuits since most signalling at this point was E&M. These four bays then had a cross-aisle just to Billy's right then a rack of Lenkurt SF (2600 Hz signalling) units. Just past the bay of SF units were 12 more bays of jacks wired to 4-wire and 6-wire test points for circuits to all points. To the far right along this aisle was another 12 racks of Lenkurt 46A2 mux. At each end of the aisle we had a projection dBm meter accessable from several test panels located in the jack bays. To Billy's far left was a window to Cobb St. at the back of the building. Billy is leaning on the toll distributing frame where all the jacks, mux, SFs, term sets, etc. were cross-connected. Hidden behind Billy's arm is another wall phone wired to the 1A2 key system I installed. If you dialed "811" in the metro area you would get a busy signal. If you held on to that for a few seconds it would ring this testboard. We got a lot of wrong numbers, so I invented this method of confusing the wrong numbers. All the repairmen knew to hold on and listen to the busy signal and after a short delay to give the wrong number caller a chance to hang up without ringing our chimes, it would light lights and ring bells so we could answer. From Dare county, you had to dial "118". Intertoll callers would ring us on another line by dialing "101" on one of our trunks or "919-035-101" from any toll switch in the country. We also answered a few local numbers and a couple of company PBX extensions.


This just in: 1999 April 17.

About borders between numbering areas:

In USA between Virginia and North Carolina there is a small "island" that is divided by the state line. In the Strowger era, the one exchange there was addressed with both NPA's (area codes) as 919-489 and 704-489 (or something close to that, it's been a while and memory fades.) You could call subscribers on any part of the island with either area code therefore the call would be rated at either the intrastate (more expensive) rate or the interstate (cheaper) rate. It is Knotts Island in the Albemarle area. The one dual-addressed exchange was connected to Virginia so the residents of the North Carolina portion of the island had a long-distance call to reach their local county government or state law enforcement. There is still a ferry between the island and their North Carolina county seat at Currituck.

If you were to call Knotts Island with the North Carolina area code, the call would be routed through North Carolina's toll network then back to Virginia making for something of a longish connection. Even though Currituck could make a free call to about ten other counties in the area, they could not make a free call Knotts Island within their own county.

Our company did not serve this island, but we did serve the surrounding territory in North Carolina including a penninsula that was attached to Virginia but extended into our territory. We had a subscriber carrier that ran up into the other company's territory on their cable then back into NC to serve our few customers who would much rather have had service from the land to which they were attached.

There is such an arrangement existing today between Alaska and Canada at Hyder Alaska - Stewart BC. This one is of course international. I don't know the details. The Alaskan students go to school in Canada and the Canadian school is paid by the state of Alaska to teach US history. The only road connection to Hyder Alaska is via Canada.

Knotts island turned up quite a few hits on Metacrawler including http://albemarle-nc.com/knottsisland/

I worked for the Norfolk & Carolina Telephone & Telegraph companies based in Elizabeth City, NC, from 1970 to 1980 in transmission.

Joe Stevens
Kodiak, Alaska