Like many of Michigan’s independent telephone companies, we have a colorful history. Kaleva Telephone Company was founded in 1924 with $750 in capital by local business people who wanted telephone service. At that time there were 18 telephone lines.
John Cribbs and his wife, Charmon (Kamppinen), bought the company in December 1948. The Kaleva Telephone Company had 72 phones when the Cribbs took over, today it has about 1068. 1948 was the same year that New York gave up the title of being the only large city to have a rapid transit standard fare of $0.05, when it raised that fare to $0.10. The fare had not been raised since 1904. A gallon of gas only cost $0.16 and a new car was $1230.00, (except for a hot new car, the Porsche, which was introduced that year). It’s amazing that the Kaleva Telephone Company basic local service rates remained the same for over 50 years, in fact, the company’s last phone rate increase was in 1956, and in 1967 each customer received a $0.25 rate reduction!
Everything gradually increased over the course of 50 years but not for Kaleva Telephone Company customers. It took 50 years before a rate increase was forced. 50 years ago the cost to install a telephone was $3.50 – it remained $3.50 until the late 90’s! I used to get a kick out of the expression on a new customer’s face when I told them it will be three fifty to install service and they actually asked “Three Hundred and fifty Dollars?” and were actually more surprised that it is $3.50. Currently it is only $19.75 to install a landline.
“Customer service is our number one priority.” One of the best things about rural telephone is knowing your customers on a first-name basis, Kaleva Telephone Co. is proud of its support of local schools and service clubs. We are happy to work with the Lifeline program to ensure that everyone who wants telephone service in our community receive it.
Kaleva Telephone Company is still a family owned business which now services approximately two-thirds of Manistee County with state-of-the-art digital switching and fiber optic cable. We now offer high speed DSL internet service to our rural area, which has expanded beyond our telephone service boundaries. After a few years we heard the need from our customers for TV Service, so, we started offering digital cable TV service as well.
Yes, when you think about it, things have changed a lot in 69 years, but after all this time there are some things which have remained the same…some things, which fortunately, haven’t fallen by the wayside. One good thing is that Kaleva Telephone Company is still around and thriving after 69 years of hard work and lots of dedication by everyone involved.