Part 1: Telephone Company Succeeds Right Through Tough Times
Through years of economic upheaval, including the depression and a major hurricane, four generations of the Green family have kept LaWard Telephone Exchange a viable and community oriented enterprise.,
"I am proud and excited about being part of a family owned business, My entire family has worked hard and sacrificed to keep our customer satisfaction ongoing."
First generation pioneer phone man, Frank Green, owned the Louise Telephone Company as early as 1924. He was beloved by the area and had a strong interest in helping young people and running greyhounds. He spent much of his spare time with both, while hunting rabbits and passing along some of his philosophy. Frank sold the Louise office and in the fall of 1926 he bought the Ganado Telephone Exchange from Oliver Dunlap and Rector Washington for a price tag of $3,000.
Originally LaWard Telephone was part of Ganado Telephone. In July of 1940 Green put an exchange in LaWard. The first generation Green intended for his son Kenneth to operate the exchange in LaWard. Kenneth Green and Vicena Knopp were married on July 23, 1940, with Vicena returning to work operation the switchboard immediately following the wedding, Kenneth received a salary of $75 a month and between he and Vicena the switchboard was operated 24 hours a day. After three months Julia Pryor was hired followed by a Mrs. Duffy. Local banks and individuals loaned Frank the money he needed to keep the company going. It was not unusual for Frank to mortgage the exchanges, equipment, links and even livestock as collateral. Frank sold one-half interest of the Ganado Telephone Company in 1944 to Roy and Gertrude Young. Two years later he sold his remaining one-half interest to Kenneth and Vicena. By 1948 a decision was made to dissolve the partnership. The value of the company was $50,000. The Young's became the owners of Ganado Telephone valued at $34,000 and the Greens, (Kenneth and Vicena became the owners of LaWard Telephone Company valued at $16,000.
In May of that year the LaWard Telephone Company became an independent company. LaWard, Lolita, and Olivia-Port Alto were all served throughout the LaWard Exchange with a total of 172 customers. In 1953 an exchange was established in Lolita. Over the years loans were made through General Dynamics (Stromberg-Carlsen) so equipment could be added and updated. Kenneth Green died from leukemia in July of 1958, which left his widow Vicena running the company. Vicena's brother-in-law, J.T. Maxwell, assisted her. Vicena was left with three young children to raise including Connie, Phillip and Larry. Larry, the oldest, born in 1942, worked after school and during the summers to help out his mom.
The company faced almost total destruction when Hurricane Carla hit Texas in 1961. Very few poles were left standing and there was no service in the area. Larry came home from A&I Kingsville to help rebuild the company. With the help from other telephone companies, loans and a lot of faith, the company was saved. A new face joined the LaWard Telephone family when Larry married Sandra R. Schultz in 1962. Sandra immediately began working as an operator and helped with office operations as the company continued to grow. During the restoration period following Hurricane Carla, the dial office was moved to Port Alto and a new dial office was built in Lolita with XY Stromberg equipment installed. in LaWard the old ring down switchboard was replaced by a new limed oak common battery switchboard. Improvements and updated switchboards continued through the next several years including the first brick office in 1967. By 1977 the company had outgrown existing lines and renovations were being planned. Around this same time, one of Larry and Sandra's two daughters, Terri, showed an interest in the company. "I grew up with my sister Nelda and I being taken on night telephone emergencies," said Terri. "Mom and dad would put us in the car so they could take car of problems with customer service. It was just natural that I began helping with the switchboards and other day to day operations when I could."
The Green family secured a loan from REA and construction of buried cable lines began in 1978. By the end of 1979 customers had direct distance dialing and switchboards and operators were no longer necessary. Today the LaWard Telephone Exchange, Inc. consists of the same three exchanges with 1,262 access lines and nine employees. "The telecommunications business constantly changes and we are committed to providing our customers with the latest technology backed by reliable service," said Larry Green.
Part 2: Company Growing With Technology
For 17 years following their 1962 marriage, Larry and Sandra Green , helped Larry's widowed mother, Vicena, operate the LaWard Telephone Exchange. "We worked together as a family rebuilding after Hurricane Carla," said Sandra. "Together Vicena, Larry and I helped build the company we have today." After several years working outside the family venture following her high school graduation, our daughter Terri joined the company permanently in 1995. Larry officially took over management of LaWard Telephone in 1979. His mother retired in 1986 to her home located in Ganado. She passed away in 2002.
"We serve our LaWard, Lolita, and Port Alto customers and can provide for all their telecommunications needs," said Terri, current manager of the company. "We service access lines and business key systems to data communications links. Our exchange is presently equipped with the latest in digital switching, data and fiber optic technology and features such as tone dialing, call forwarding, caller name and number identifying along with many others. In 1996 we allowed our customers to petition and connect to the eligible expanded local calling areas of their choice. This has allowed them a larger local calling area as well as access to a number of Internet Service Providers. LaWard Communications, a subsidiary of LaWard Telephone, now offers state of the art Interent and telecommunication services. The service is available to both residential and business customers within our exchange as well as surrounding areas. Our telecommunications services include everything from telephone and computer network wiring in residential homes to the installation of key systems and network cabling for business customers. We strive to provide quality service at competitive rates with an emphasis on customer service."
Current officers and employees include Larry Green, President; Sandra Green, Secretary-Treasure; Terri Parker, General Manager; Nick Strauss, Plant Manger; and BJ Bures, IT Manager. Other employees are Glynda Beyer, Miguel Saucedo, Dee Darilek, Cody Parker, and Garrett Kusak. LaWard Telephone Exchange has the honor of being named the first recipient of the Jackson County Chamber Business of the Year Award in 1999. The business encourages employees to volunteer their time to community organizations for the good of Jackson County. They are members of fire departments, the Jackson County Youth Fair Board, Industrial ISD Elementary Mentor program, Go Texan Cook-off, IISD Job Fair and PTA's. The company has been buying fair animals at the Jackson County Youth Fair since 1987. They also sponsor three baseball teams for Industrial Little League. Contributions are also made to the Scouting programs, churches and school fund raisers. "We have been awarding scholarships at Industrial High School since 1998," said Terri. The amount awarded varies from $500 to $2,000 and is renewable for four years if specified criteria is met. The current corporate office, located at 12991 ST HWY 172 S. in LaWard is home to an impressive collection of antique telephones dating back to the 1800's. Larry began collecting old telephones in 1962 and has built a display case to house them. The collection is in the foyer of the corporate office so customers can enjoy viewing them.
Officially retired in 1997, Larry and Sandra Green spend time on exotic hunting trips and have a trophy room at their home in LaWard. The ancestors of Frank Green continue to be major contributors to the betterment of Jackson County and its youth.
*(Partial information for this story was gathered from Hello Texas, A History of Telephony In The Lone Star State. There was a discrepancy in the histories about the date Ganado Telephone, of which LaWard Telephone was a part of, was purchased by Rector Washington and Oliver Dunlap. For information purposes we used the date listed in the LaWard Telephone history.)