In 1951, my grandfather, the late Bro. Calvin Gregory, was the first president of North Central Telephone Cooperative, and William B. “Bill” Green, of Red Boiling Springs, who was the vice president, is the only living member of the original telephone board. It is my privilege to honor Mr. Bill Green and NCTC President/CEO Mrs. Nancy White, as they come together to talk about a business that spans 60 years of technology just days before the Annual Meeting of Members to be held Saturday, November 6th, 2010, at the Macon County Junior High School, here in Lafayette. I am dedicating this story to Granddad, who would be amazed were he alive today.

On Friday morning, October 29th, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bill & Joyce Green, along with Nancy White, at the NCTC office, located on Highway 52 By Pass East, here in Lafayette, and I realized a lot has happened in the last 60 years, however for those who remember the events that shaped the lives of the people and changed the world in a remarkable way, the time melts away into a few yesterdays.

“I grew up in Hermitage Springs, where we had an old home telephone company when I was a kid,” Bill began, “unfortunately in the 1930’s, there was a big freeze that destroyed the lines, and when I went to war I couldn’t even call home. So when I began working at the bank in Red Boiling Springs, I started talking to people about a line between Hermitage Springs and RBS, until one day when Will Hall Sullivan came into the financial institution and told me not to do it because of plans to start a telephone cooperative. Of course back then I didn’t know what a coop was, but if it would improve the communications of this area, I was all for it. Just a few months later, Will Hall came back into the bank and asked if I would help sign up members in this area. I went door to door explaining what we were doing, at a cost of $2 per month for customers to use the phone service. We signed up 3,800 members, but when we actually got the cooperative started, it cost $4.40 per month, so only about half of them stayed on, which caused us to operate in the red for the first five or six years.”

“Debbie,” Bill said, “I know when Charlie Merryman, J.W. Ferguson, Carline Williams, Frank Brown, Henry Sloan, and myself, along with your granddad, Bro. Calvin Gregory, got together with Will Hall Sullivan to build a telephone cooperative, we never dreamed of what we have today. We only dreamed of being able to stay in touch with our loved ones and friends. Now we can do that while we’re driving in our cars or we can send them a photograph via e-mail almost instantly. I think it’s only fitting that we pause and thank those founding members who came before us, particularly Will Hall Sullivan and especially Brother Gregory, whose energetic approach to all problems concerning civic improvement led to his election as the first president of the North Central Telephone Cooperative. I am proud to have been a part of the early years and Nancy White is certainly capable of leading us in the right direction for years to come with the ‘welfare of society in mind’.”

“Today Mr. Green,” Nancy said, “Hermitage Springs is one of the first areas that NCTC built fiber optics to the home and the result is that if you live there today you can have the fastest internet, as many high definition televisions as you want as well as phones, wireless routers and security services!”

“It has become apparent to me that NCTC is in the unique position to help our area by building an infrastructure that will not only attract new business and create jobs for the area but most importantly will allow the businesses and people who already live here to have access to the global marketplace.”

“You know Debbie,” she continued, “while we are still 40 miles from the nearest interstate highway we are building the proverbial “Information Superhighway” and we can only imagine what it will bring to the area. The need for education and a workforce to handle the opportunities is great and it’s a perfect time to educate ourselves to take advantage of technology. Any business that uses heavy data processing could locate here, even something like NASA, where a control center could just as easily be here as Houston, Texas. What would your grandfather think of that?”

“Broadband technology is changing the world…As of last week climbers can update Facebook from the top of Mt. Everest! And closer to home Google Earth has started delivering a 360 degree view of streets and points of interest including inside museums and restaurants so you can check them out before going there…anywhere in the world, all available over the internet!”

“While we talk a lot about the new fiber optics network, I am also very excited about what we offer on our regular phone services. For example, did you know that you can make your NCTC home voicemail send any messages you receive to your computer, Smartphone, or office as an email? Simply open the email and it plays the voice message…you may even want to forward your cell phone to your home number.”

“I can’t imagine all the changes to come in our area because of the new network we are building,” Nancy remarked, “but I am positive that over the long run they will include more jobs, easier access to doctors from your home, amazing education opportunities, and surgeries performed from another city using a robot in the hospital right here in Lafayette.”

“My husband Dana and I grew up in Lafayette and Carthage…we love being back here because it’s home and it’s great to see old friends and meet new ones. So if all this technology sounds complicated, please feel free to call and if I can’t answer your questions, one of our employees can,” Nancy concluded.”

You knows folks, there will always be great people among us, leaders I guess you could say; those who take us by the hand with a firm grip and forge ahead into the future, making sure we are by their side reaping the rewards as they pave the way for us into unknown territories. We certainly owe North Central Telephone Cooperative a large debt of gratitude for the many technological advantages that we have today, and I personally couldn’t image Lafayette without the phone company. On behalf of myself and the Macon County Chronicle I want to thank Mr. Bill Green and Mrs. Nancy White for all they have done for Macon County, and you too Granddad, because I know that you are listening.

The Annual Meeting of the Members of North Central Telephone Cooperative will be held at the Macon County Junior High School Auditorium, located at 1003 Hwy. 52 Bypass East, here in Lafayette at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 6th, 2010, with entertainment by the Midstate Quartet to begin at 1:00 p.m.