Monday, October 25, 2010


The first residential telephone service was established by Carolina Telephone on Ocracoke Island in 1956. The charge was $5.00/month. Nearly everyone in the village subscribed...and the few holdouts soon signed on as well. The telephones operated via ship-to-shore shortwave radio frequency. The tower was erected at the old Wahab Village Hotel (now Blackbeard's Lodge). A room was added to the hotel to house the equipment.

In the early days private telephone transmissions could sometimes be heard by neighbors over their radios or televisions!

Today our telephone service operates via microwaves. The tower and equipment building are on Cedar Road (also known as the Bank Road).

When I was a youngster there was only one telephone on the island -- at the Coast Guard station. According to cousin Blanche the US Coast Guard had a ship-to-shore radio telephone as long as she can remember, probably from the construction of the village station in 1905.

I have a copy of one of the earliest Ocracoke telephone directories. When I locate it I'll let our readers know how many telephones were installed on the island during the early years.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article, with a number of photos, documenting the history of water cisterns on Ocracoke Island. Click on the following link to go directly there:


  1. Anonymous12:58 PM

    That was interesting. Did you have a party line?

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Wasn't it (Waverly 8) philip.


  3. I was a youngster in 1956 (twelve years old), and was only here on Ocracoke in the summer, so I don't know if the phones were party lines...but Blanche couldn't remember any party lines. She thinks they were all private lines. Yes, Dale, the exchange was WAverly 8 [928].

  4. Amy just reminded me that even in the 1980s all of the telephones on Ocracoke were "party lines" though only one household was connected to any line. How we knew this was that every number ended in 1 (e.g. 928-5541). But if you dialed a 2 at the end (928-5542) you would still reach the same household...but the phone would ring twice, then pause, then ring twice, etc. Putting a 3 at the end would create a triple ring. Amy used the system with her brother and friends so we would know the intended recipient of an incoming phone call. One ring was for the parents, two rings for Amy, three rings for her brother Stefen.

    Finally a more advanced system was installed, and that eliminated the multiple rings.