Georgia Travel Articles
Little did I dream back in the day when I watched Star Trek's Captain Kirk "call" Mr. Spock on that nifty little handheld device that I would one day have my own and not leave home without it.
Lest we forget there was a time phones weren't something we carried with us, the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia invites us to visit a time not too far in our past when the phone was a devise found only in homes and business and those fast-disappearing little cubbies known as phone booths. antique phone booth at the Georgia Rural Telephone Musuem in Leslie, Georgia
A real phone booth
The museum is the labor of love of Tommy C. Smith, who is the CEO of The Citizen Telephone Co. located across the street from the museum. The museum itself is housed in a restored 1820s cotton exchange. It opened in 1995 with Jimmie Carter as a guest of honor. Some of the switchboards in the museum were the actual ones used during Carter's campaign. Exhibits date from 1876 to the 21st Century, however as of yet, no cell phones are on display. Elizabeth Bass who often conducts tours, told us, "Mr. Smith spent seven or eight years preparing to open the museum. It is the largest collection containing about 2,000 phones. There is probably no phone that's not on display here." Old fashion switchboard at the Georgia Rural Telephone Musuem in Leslie, Georgia
His grandson, Clint Ledger, began working with his grandfather around age 13. His favorite phone from childhood was a Mickey Mouse Phone like the one in the header. Clint explains the museums origins, &"My grandfather wanted to put some of his personal collection on display and then it got out of hand." Clint Ledger in front of Wilhelm Candlestick phone at at the Georgia Rural Telephone Musuem in Leslie, Georgia
Clint shows off the Wilhelm Candlestick Telephone
Tommy Smith began collection telephones shortly after he returned from World War II and purchased the local phone company. We asked which was Mr. Smith’s favorite telephone in the collection. Clint pointed out aan 1896 Wilhelm Candlestick Telephone. “It’s made out of nickel and it’s one-of-a-kind. He was real pleased to get that one. It’s the most valuable phone here. He's been offered $25 or $30,000 for that phone.” Alexander Graham Bell phones and mural at at the Georgia Rural Telephone Musuem in Leslie, Georgia
The replica of the Alexander Graham Bell phone
Another favorite is a replica of the first phone Alexander Graham Bell used to call his associate and closest collaborator, Thomas Watson. There are hand-cranked bell phones known as the Bell Boxes that were invented by Watson. Tons of wall phones, cases of unusual phones like the Whisper Phone. a ccommercial telephone dated 1877-- there is only one other of its kind in existence-- or a solar battery display from the 1950’s. There is even the McKinley Phone of the type used to report President McKinley's shooting circa 1897. The pay phone booth is a work of art. There's even a stuffed grizzly, ‘Bubba the Bear’ who sports a headset. If you dial 1 on his line he'll roar for you.
The museum showcases so much more than just the age of the telephone. The art work on the walls depicting local events is by Georgia artists. nautical devices, vehicles and automobiles including a rare John Deere Tractor which was one of the first in Georgia with rubber tires. There is even a room dedicated to the culture of the Creek Indians. In one mural, they are using smoke signals to communicate. assorted antique phoines at at the Georgia Rural Telephone Musuem in Leslie, Georgia
Some antique phones
The museum is a little off the beaten path but well worth the trip. Those of us who remember the Star Trek era will wallow in nostalgia and those who grew up in the cell phone age will marvel at the quaintness.
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(No Mr. Spock is not in the museum. I'm writing this just a few days after Leonard Nemoy passed away. I want to dedicate this article to his memory. I was a big Star Trek fan and considered Mr. Spock the best part of the show.)
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