The Frank Wood Museum
A telephone museum
Lincoln, Nb.
October 25, 1998

We spent a few days in Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska as it was a convenient stop. We wondered down to the “Haymarket” district, which is a half dozen blocks making up historic Lincoln. It is now filled with trendy coffee shops and boutiques, where you can sit on a   Frank Lincoln-01   brick porch and sip Ethiopian coffee and watch the rest of the travelers, mingle with    Map name   the college kids that frequent the establishments. At the far west end lies the train station that was so instrumental in the development of the city. The visitors center and a restaurant now occupy much of the building. In front of the center.  Laura, with her usual exuberance, tried to start up a conversation with a perfect stranger on a park bench. I finally found someone who was able to resist her charm, even though she tried. An antique train now sits where once passenger trains rumbled through. The old water tower still stands as a reminder of times gone by. The tracks are not idle, trains still rumble through on a regular basis.    Frank Woods Museum-03   One of the most fascinating creations of the city is mounted on the north end of the train station complex. After advertising for a Nebraska artist to do a mural involving a historical railroad theme in any number of media, the city of Lincoln selected artist/mason Jay Tschetter’s design of “Old 17”, the first train to enter Lincoln in 1870. Working closely with the Yankee Hill Brick Co., a plywood frame 44 by 16 feet was constructed   Frank Woods Museum-C6   at the Yankee Hill site. Here, clay material was custom blended to form the varying colors. While keeping the bricks moist, hand fashioned wire tools were used to remove unwanted clay until the image appeared.  Once done the bricks were numbered, separated and fired in a slow repeating process. The finished product was transported back to the north wall and assembled using hand blended mortar that complimented the design. The mural was unveiled on August 3rd, 1990 and is unique in both design and construction. I was not able to determine if Jay ever created another mural. One might think he most assuredly would.
From the visitor center, we learned about the the Frank H. Woods Telephone Pioneer Museum. Since my previous occupation (911 dispatcher) dealt with telephones, we decided   Frank Woods Museum-08   to drop by.    Frank Woods Museum-06   While it is presented by the Aliant Communications Inc. which was formerly Lincoln Telephone Company and chronicles that company’s growth, it also has an extensive record of the beginnings of the telephone through replicas of Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone. The day we went our museum guides were a delightful couple. He was a retired long-distance operator and his wife. They were very knowledgeable about the museum and its founder Frank H. Woods. Laura had always wanted to operate one of the plug-in type switchboards, so she couldn’t resist having me take her picture at one, next to their “Mannequin Millie” .  They also had an entire room that depicted a home in the 1900’s where the housewife would take care of the switchboard for the town and if she wasn’t around apparently anyone in the family could answer it. (Bet that would be real interesting if Junior got to it first.) Another type switchboard they feature is one that hangs on the wall and has    Frank Woods Museum-07   weights on the lines themselves to keep the cords taut. In addition to the various types of switchboards there were displays of the different types of   Frank Woods Museum-12   glass conductors that were used on the poles. There was a display that showed exactly how the switching system works when calling from one phone to another. Then there were the PHONES. Starting with the replicas of Bell’s first phones through the hand-crank type, then to the rotary dial phones and finally to today’s modern phones. The one thing I did notice that were missing were the current cordless phones. But with a museum such as this  I’m sure they are something that will be added as they go along. In talking with several people from the Lincoln area I was surprised that none seemed to know about this museum. I guess it is one of those kind that you have to have an interest in communications to really appreciate it’s scope. Although the museum is free, unfortunately it is only open on Sundays from 1-4PM. Unless you call ahead and arrange a special tour. However, I feel it was well worth the time we took to go find it and do the tour.

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