How It All Started
Arthur and Josie Richards / Clyde and Ruby Jo Gibson
There were only about 25 customers when Arthur and Josie Richards first began building and operating a telephone system in Shady Point, Oklahoma in the late 1930s.
They were all on multi-party lines, so community news spread quickly. When the ranch up the road lost a few head of cattle, the whole town knew about it pretty fast, and if your child was sick, many a prayer went up around town within the hour. Even back then the local telephone company brought folks together.
Providing telephone service wasn’t Arthur Richards’ only job. He also operated a service station and grocery store, worked on the railroad, farmed, raised cattle, drove a truck, guided a ferry boat and whatever else was necessary in raising a family. But there was something about the telephone that fascinated him. Telephone operations became his primary occupation in 1941 when the couple purchased the telephone company in Panama, Oklahoma.
At that time, all the telephones in Panama were magneto sets (crank telephones), and subscribers shared party lines. The switchboard was located in the Richards’ home, so you might guess correctly that Mrs. Richards and her daughters were the switchboard operators –24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As technology advanced, Arthur and Josie made every effort to provide the best telephone service possible.
In the late 1940’s they converted the system to a common battery system, so that simply by picking up the receiver a customer could reach the switchboard, without a turn of the crank. Then, in 1951, the first dial system in LeFlore County was installed in Panama.
In 1952, Mr. and Mrs. Richards’ gave their daughter, Ruby Jo, in marriage to Mr. Clyde Gibson. As were the times, Clyde left a very short 3 weeks later to finish his service in the Korean War. After his return, he reclaimed his bride and resumed his career with Dillard’s Department Store as a shoe department manager. Dillard’s was a very small company at the time, but growing quickly. Clyde was asked to help open several new locations across the Southern States, and each time, he and Ruby Jo would pack up their children and all their possessions and head out for a new town and a new adventure. The expression “A Fresh Start” came to have a whole new meaning for them.
After several “Fresh Starts” and many career success’s, Clyde decided he was ready for a change, so in 1957 they returned to the Arkansas/Oklahoma area and purchased the Lavaca Telephone Company in Lavaca, Arkansas from Mr. L. A. Burkley.
Lavaca Telephone Company was also a multi-party line service. After incorporating the company in 1962 and rebuilding the plant and a new business office in 1964, they acquired new territory and upgraded to a 5 party-line service in rural areas and 1 and 2 party-line service in the local town area.
In 1966, Mr. and Mrs. Richards were ready to retire and sold their company to their daughter and son-in-law, Clyde and Ruby Jo Gibson, who are still the current owners today. They combined the two locations under the name of Lavaca Telephone Company.
The telephone industry technology was exploding in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and by 1976 the Lavaca and Panama companies went through an extensive upgrade in the central office and outside plant where the operating equipment is located. This time to all 1 party service. No more party lines! They were among the first in Arkansas and Oklahoma to offer all 1 party service.
With continual growth in technology as well as customer base, Clyde and Ruby Jo were able to convert the existing central office to digital in 1985.
This allowed them to offer their customers custom calling features such as Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Speed Dial and Voice Mail as well as several other options. Their 3 sons, Keith, Dean and Greg now hold positions in the company that gives them a more active roll in the running of the business. In 1997 the Lavaca Telephone Co. changed its operating name to the current name, Pinnacle Communications.
The telephone industry has changed a great deal since 1930, but even though you can’t listen in to the latest “goings on” about your neighbor or send a quick prayer request down the line through the switchboard operator, Pinnacle Communications is still very instrumental in building and bringing the community together by bridging the gap between neighbors, family and loved ones, one phone call at a time.