Do you still call your landline phone service Embarq? OK so now it is known officially as Century Link which was formerly called Century Tel. Embarq was formed from a spin off by Sprint who had bought Centel. Are you following this? No matter for it is BORING. |
But way back there was a man who excites the imagination. His name was Bergie Lee ("B.L") Fisher. Fisher entered this world in 1878 which is eons ago in normal thought but when dealing in electronic communications it is a long time indeed. He grew up on a Franklin County farm and became a school teacher at 19. He married his student, Cora Lee Prillaman, and they operated a country store in addition to the school teaching. Fisher became interested in a new phone which was installed in his store. But the installers had no idea how the thing worked so Bergie took it apart, reassembled it and then bought a book. He was on his way and, being way ahead of everyone else, he soon was in demand as a phone repairman. His fee was 15 cents. That is 15 cents an hour.
Fisher gave up farming and teaching and moved to Rocky Mount to run the Franklin Telephone Co. When he began there were 35 phones in the system but digging holes and placing poles and stringing wire were nothing to these two. There were two since his wife helped. Sometimes he was out after dark up a pole doing work while Cora was holding a lantern with a pie pan reflector to light up the site. By 1913 Fisher had incorporated the Light and Power Company of Rocky Mount and then Fisher Electric Company. Fisher Electric brought lights to Bassett, Rocky Mount and Bassett Furniture. Around 1925 Fisher sold his electric business to Appalachian; telephones were his real interest. Fisher worked hard; built exchanges in Stuart, Stoneville, Mayodan, Madison, Walkertown and Walnut Cove, NC; then bought out Franklin Telephone Co. to merge it with his Fisher and Stuart Telephone companies. He merged them all into Lee Telephone: the Lee name was easy, short, and the middle name of both Bergie and Cora. Soon Lee Telephone covered almost everything between Winston-Salem and Roanoke except the City of Martinsville. Fisher secured that in 1930 for $100,000. And so at the end of Lee Telephone's official first chartered year it served 1000 customers. By 1964 it had 42,700 subscribers. There were many firsts along the way - watch for more info on this.
When B.L. Fisher's will came into play in 1955 he left most of his $1.7 million estate to church related schools and individuals. Asbury Thological Seminary in Kentucky received 50 percent of his wealth. Asbury named its library for B.L. Fisher: view a link here. Thirty-four of Fisher's relatives contested his will for 10 years. Finally the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that, indeed, Bergie knew what he wanted and the will was valid.
Coming soon: B.L. Fisher and the First Methodist Church - at odds.