Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Phone company's history detailed in new book

 


For a former Green River resident, writing a book for the Union Telephone Company was a unique experience.

Terry Del Bene was contracted by the company to write a book about the company’s history for its 100-year celebration, which took place in 2014. The book titled “Phone Where the Buffalo Roamed: Connecting Neighbors in America’s Outback,” was a product of the contract and an interesting project for Del Bene to complete.

“It does affect where you go in the book,” Del Bene said. “There might be story lines I might have followed up on, but the family wasn’t interested.”

The book, which was published in 2016, covers 100 years of the Union Telephone Company’s history. The company was started in 1914 when John D. Woody founded the company in Mountain View. Back then, John D. hooked up lines to ranch lines so ranchers could call each other up on old phones. It was Union’s goal to unify the rural phone system.

Even though John D. founded the company and put up lines, he had someone else run it for about 40 years until another member of the Woody family wanted to take over that responsibility.

Del Bene said he wants residents to know, there is more to the book than just the history of the company.

“I tried to put a lot of humor in it because corporate history can be dull,” he said. “It reads more like a history of Wyoming seen through this family.”

Del Bene faced other challenges with this book. He said it was tough to research because minutes were not taken at board meetings in the beginning. However, he didn’t let that discourage him.

“I really enjoyed talking with the people. The workers have great stories. They’re out there working in remote areas of Wyoming,” Del Bene said.

For example, one of the workers was going to check on a telephone tower when the worker saw a bear hanging out by the pole. Needless to say, the worker decided to visit the tower another day. This is just one of many stories folks shared with Del Bene.

“There are just a lot of interesting things,” Del Bene said.

As for the family, Howard Woody really stood out to Del Bene. Not only was Howard a frustrated inventor, but he had a pretty extensive military career. Del Bene said all of this is covered in the book.

One thing Del Bene discovered that is still hard for him to believe, is how the company operated at a loss for 75 years. The best way to describe how the company operated financially is to compare it to a ranch. He said while ranch owners make money, they are constantly putting that money back into the ranch to purchase supplies or equipment. Like a ranch, the company continued to build slowly over many years to what is has become today.

In fact, Howard had to work another job for a different phone company. Del Bene said he would work for that company all day and then come home and work on his company’s power lines.

He said to some, 100 years of being in business may not sound like much, but look at what happened in those 100 years -- booms, busts, two world wars and the great depression to name a few of the big ones.

“It’s a family business. It’s still a family business,” he said.

Del Bene, who has been traveling throughout Wyoming to promote the book, said those who are interested in Wyoming’s communication history and the history of the family that lived through it will want to read the book.

The business started to turn a profit when the country started going wireless. Union Wireless, as it is now called, had employees who were really good at putting up towers quickly in tough locations. Del Bene said while other companies would take weeks or even months to put up a tower, Union Wireless employees could do the same work, in a tougher location, in a fraction of the time.

This made the jump to wireless a lot easier for Union Wireless. In 2011, Union

Wireless was given the “Toughest Site Competition” award for its cellular towers.

Those who would like to read the complete history of this company and the Woody family will need to buy the book. Copies are available at any Union Wireless store and Del Bene has stopped by as many as he could and autographed them. He said in the store it costs $19.14. The amount was selected to represent the year the whole company started. The book is also available on the website http://www.amazon.com for $20.

 

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