To reach the age of 80 these days is not unusual. However, to reach that mark in a lifetime and still be healthy and active in civic organizations is quite a blessing. This is so with Mrs. Bertie Brown of Civil Bend, well-know telephone operator for Civil Bend Telephone Company and longtime reporter for the Gallatin North Missourian.
Bertie lived in the same house at Civil Bend since 1915, “when I married Frank.” With his death in 1971, she has lived alone in the 7-room house, tending to its upkeep.
She rises each morning around 7 a.m. and begins the day by caring for her dog and five cats. Later, garden work is pursued. She also helps mow her yard, which is about an acre. Up until last year, she mowed it herself.
“I am currently secretary-treasurer of the Linger Longer Club. I was also a 1932 charter member of the organization.” Bertie is a member of the Rebekah Lodge at Pattonsburg and received her 50-year pin four years ago. She is also past secretary-treasurer of the Young at Heart at Gallatin. She served as Civil Bend correspondent for the Gallatin North Missourian for nearly 30 years. “I collect the news by telephone,” she explains, “beginning about 3 or 4 p.m. Sunday. I usually finish by 9 p.m. It goes in the mail at 8 a.m. Monday”
The correspondent says she looks forward to Sunday evenings as she gets a chance to visit with her friends and neighbors. “If one doesn’t keep in touch with people, he’ll get soured on the world,” she philosophized. “Besides, it gives people a chance to tell me their problems, and I tell them some of mine.” She added with a grin and a twinkle in her eyes, “I guess that’s why it takes me so long to gather the news!”
Editor Joe Snyder says “Bertie Brown is one of my favorite gals. She is special not only because she is a fine person, but she’s been one of the most loyal and dependable reporters this paper ever had. Some people send us news when it’s convenient, but Bertie sends it in regularly whether it’s convenient or not, because she feels a responsibility to us and to her readers. I wish everyone was like Bertie.”
From April, 1915, to August, 1960, the Browns ran Civil Bend Telephone Company. Bertie served as linesman, repairman, operator and an answering service for some. “Yearly rates were $10 a year when we began,” she said. “When we quit in 1960, due to dial phones being installed, the rate was $12 a year.” This included 24-hour line maintenance and operator service.
As operator, Bertie was expected to “know the price of eggs, if the mailman was coming, where the ambulance was headed, and other community news. Now one can’t call the operator for anything but a telephone number!”
When not gathering news, working in her garden, or doing housework, Bertie crochets, keeps a scrapbook and watches television. She crochets afghans, shawls, centerpieces and edging for pillowslips. She has kept a scrapbook since 1920. It includes the deaths of friends, relatives and acquaintances and anything of interest in the community.
“Probably the reason I don’t always get my work done is because I have to watch ‘All My Children’ and ‘General Hospital’ on television,” Bertie says. She says she has no specific plans for her birthday. “I usually get a long-distance telephone call from my sister. And a neighbor of mine always takes me out to eat, and I do the same on her birthday.”
— written by Cindy O’Brien for the Gallatin North Missourian, 1976