Tangier in Accomack County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Telephone Office, Post Office & Myrt’s
In front of this is a new home, built on the site of the former Grand Theater, built in 1929 by Gordon Daley, and torn down in the early 1960s.
The Alonzo Moore Store, also known as Myrt’s, was built by William Walter. It was 50' x 75', two stories high with high ceilings and ceiling fans. The upper level was a three bedroom home with a porch along the entire north side. On the ground floor were two large rectangular rooms, including a 40' long marble soda fountain and a dance hall. The front room was a general store that sold canned goods, had a candy counter, nail kegs, a liar’s bench and a pot-bellied stove. Myrt loved to play Chinese Checkers and would always accept the challenge to play. She was also known to be an effective bouncer if things got too rowdy.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Communications • Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1966.
Location. 37° 49.632′ N, 75° Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tangier VA 23440, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Swain Memorial United Methodist Church (a few steps from this marker); Tangier Island (a few steps from this marker); The Parson of the Islands (a few steps from this marker); Dr. Copter — Flying Medicine to Tangier (a few steps from this marker); Tangier Island Veterans Memorial (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Tangier Island Veterans Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Tangier Island World Wars I and II Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Gladstone Memorial Health Center (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tangier.
1. The Tangier Telephone Central Office
Tangier Island is more than 15 miles from the mainland, right in the middle of the widest part of the Chesapeake Bay. It is just a few square miles, home to less than 500 people. The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia (C&P Telephone), a Bell System company controlled by AT&T, built a radiotelephone system
The radiotelephone system by the 1960s consisted of 13 telephone booths scattered by the side of the road around the island with a coin-operated telephone that did not have a dial. You picked up the receiver, waited for the operator to come on the line, and told her the number you wanted to reach. The operator would connect the call, ask the called party to stand by for a call from Tangier Island, and tell you how much money to deposit for the first three minutes. For a long distance call this could be three or more dollars. Each coin would strike a gong (within the telephone were three different-sounding gongs for 25, 10 and 5 cent coins) as you dropped each coin in, the operator would count the gong sounds to make sure you had deposited the right amount. (If you and she disagreed, she would cause the telephone to return all the coins to you so you could deposit them again.) Once the right amount was deposited, she would cause the telephone to capture the coins and say “go ahead, please” to both parties, start the timer, and withdraw from the
The radiotelephone system was noisy with static in the best of times, and would fill with noise during storms near and far, and after dark subject to radio interference. And you could only place outgoing calls: No one on the island could be called by someone else.
In 1966, only three years before man stepped on the moon, residential and commercial telephone service finally came to Tangier Island. C&P had a small building built and installed a Western Electric Step-By-Step telephone switch and a microwave system to connect it to Onancock on the mainland. They buried waterproof telephone cable along all streets and roads on the island and installed about 160 telephones in homes, shops throughout the island and even in a few crab shanties. For the first time, residents could call each other, or call to Onancock and elsewhere in the world from the comfort of their homes. More importantly, anyone in the rest of the world could call them.
C&P Telephone spent a little less than a quarter of a million dollars (1.8 million in today's money) to bring telephone service to Tangier Island in 1966. The first telephone directory for the Tangier exchange was one and a quarter
The telephone exchange on Tangier, from the beginning, was completely automated. There were no telephone operators on the island. When you dialed zero to reach an operator an operator at Onancock would answer. When there were service problems or to install a new subscriber, a C&P lineman would come on the mail boat or passenger ferry from the mainland and use a bicycle to make his rounds. Today Verizon does the same thing except the lineman rents a golf cart.
— Submitted September 11, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
2. Communications on Tangier Island Today, 2016
Don't believe cellular phone company maps. There is no cell phone service on Tangier Island. My phone very occasionally reported one bar of service, most likely a stray signal from the mainland 15 miles away, but even then I could not place a call. I did manage to send out a text message or two many minutes after I pressed send.
Native islanders don’t have cell phones. They rely on land-line telephones wired to Verizon and seem to know most numbers by heart. Ask the cashier at a restaurant if someone could take tourists out on the water and after dialing around for a bit she will find a waterman who is free and willing.
There is internet service on Tangier Island. It is beamed in by line-of-sight wireless to the antenna tower beside the town’s water tower by Northern Neck Wireless out of Kilmanrock on the mainland and distributed out to subscribers in homes and shops. It is not the fastest nor the most reliable service.
— Submitted September 11, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 11, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 734 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 11, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 4, 5. submitted on October 28, 2016, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
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