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1ST TELEPHONE SWITCHBOARD WAS BURGLAR ALARM AT NIGHT

SHARE 1ST TELEPHONE SWITCHBOARD WAS BURGLAR ALARM AT NIGHT

AUG. 26, MONDAY: Women's Equality Day. Geraldine Ferraro born, 1935.

AUG. 27, TUESDAY: Former President Lyndon B. Johnson born, 1908. Mother Teresa born, 1910. Confucius born, 551 B.C.AUG. 28, WEDNESDAY: Full sturgeon moon. Actress Ruth Gordon died, 1985. Birdwatcher and author Roger T. Peterson born, 1908.

AUG. 29, THURSDAY: Ingrid Bergman born, 1915. John the Baptist beheaded (traditional).

AUG. 30, FRIDAY: Esther Cleveland, first presidential baby born in White House, 1893.

AUG. 31, SATURDAY: Violinist Itzhak Perlman born, 1945. H.D. Thoreau set out in dory from Concord, Mass., on Concord River, 1839.

SEPT. 1, SUNDAY: First woman telephone operator, Boston, 1878. Liquor (except medicinal) banned from U.S. Navy ships, 1862.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: Is it true that the first telephone switchboard was actually a burglar-alarm system?

- S.P., Atlanta, Ga.

Answer: It was both - telephone by day, alarm by night! The first switchboard was installed on May 17, 1877, at 342 Washington St. in Boston, the office of Edwin T. Holmes, who happened to run the Holmes Burglar Alarm Service. The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, gave Holmes a dozen telephones on loan and helped him set up the switchboard. Holmes hired men to operate the switchboard on hourly shifts and it was used as a telephone service in the daytime. At night, it became part of the Holmes security system.

About 11/2 years later, on Sept. 1, 1878, Emma Nutt was hired as the first woman switchboard operator. The next year, Leroy Firman invented the multiple switchboard, which greatly increased the number of calls that could be handled. In 1880, U.S. telephone "subscribers" numbered about 50,000; 10 years later that number had increased to more than 250,000. By 1919, American Telephone & Telegraph was forced to accept dial telephones (formerly rejected by AT&T) under the threat of a strike by the telephone operators. The demand by new telephone owners for switchboard-operator services was growing faster than the available labor supply.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: If you were going to choose one breed of chicken for small-scale (under 20 birds) production, which would you choose?

- M.W., Easton, Pa.

Answer: We're assuming you're looking at egg production, rather than meat. And if that's the case, we advise you that there are as many opinions as there are poultry farmers, but we've always liked the advice of H.A. Highstone, who wrote a handy little book published in 1940 by Harpers, called "Practical Farming for Beginners." Some of what he said is outdated today, but much of it remains true and virtually all of it is entertaining.

He recommended the White Leghorns for egg production, although he admitted that the "flighty and temperamental White Leghorn is not good for the table, except as a fricassee dish" and could "give any prima donna lessons in temperament."

Highstone considered the Rhode Island Red a close second, being hardier and "more docile and tractable." We've personally kept both varieties, and liked them both for their eggs. Highstone described the White Leghorn as the more nervous of the two, saying "the sound of an automobile horn, strangers near the chicken yard, even a differently colored garment worn by the poultryman is likely to send them into hysterics. One bad scare always cuts egg production the next day . . ." In our experience, there was little difference in the nervousness of either variety, but the presence of raccoons cut production drastically, both from sheer nervousness at the presence of the 'coons and from the demise of free-ranging hens.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: For a camping trip, what would you recommend for bug dope?

- K.M., Fort Mill, S.C.

Answer: Well, don't laugh, but have you considered vitamin B1? A study way back in 1943 linked this common vitamin (otherwise known as thiamine) with an increase in mosquito protection. You don't rub it on, you swallow it.

The recommended adult dose is 200 milligrams a day, a relatively large quantity, but it is believed that any excess is eliminated in the urine.

Some people say eating garlic does the same thing.

If you're not up for experimenting with that, you could try the U.S. Army-recommended Deet (Diethyltoluamide), which was chosen out of about 9,000 other compounds. Many commercial brands contain Deet, including Cutter's or Skram or Off. Go for the roll-ons or lotions rather than the aerosols. You get better coverage and it costs less, too.

If you want something for the itch of a sting or bite, try meat tenderizer for the former - any brand that contains papain (from the papaya tree) - and hot water for the latter. It's true, hot water really stops itching, as long as it's hot enough (120 degrees or more). Make a compress of a washcloth and repeat applications as often as you like. If you must bring a tube of something, ordinary calamine lotion is probably your best bet.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

THIS WEEK WITH The OLD FARMER'S ALMANAC

AUG. 26 - SEPT. 1 1996

WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY, AUG. 26

CHANGING TIMES

In the last three decades, women have waited longer to marry and have become increasingly educated and employed. By 1990 a woman's median age at first marriage was about 24, as compared to age 20 in 1960. The number of women enrolled in college between 1960 and 1970 increased by a whopping 168 percent over the previous decade. (The percentage increase for men was at least 23 percent lower than for women.) by 1990 more than 56 million women were in the civilian workplace (over 45 percent of the workforce), and 20 percent of doctors and lawyers were women, up from only seven percent in 1970. As for comparable pay . . . coming soon?

Do you think it would be possible for women to make a worse mess of politics than the men have? -Mrs. Boorman Well, suffragist

TIP OF THE WEEK

Statistically, women prove to be as good a credit risk, or better, than men.

QUICK CUKES AND FETA

1 head Bibb lettuce

2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced

2 medium Vidalia onions, sliced

1/4 pound feta cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Wash and dry lettuce; break into pieces on large salad plate. Place sliced cucumbers and onions on the lettuce. In a blender add cheese, olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Just before serving, pour dressing over cukes and onions and sprinkle with pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The OLD FARMER'S WEATHER PROVERBS

If the full Moon rises clear, expect fair weather. If the full Moon rises pale, expect rain.

If there be a general mist before sunrise near the full of the Moon, the weather will be fine for some days.

If the flowers are unusually fragrant, expect rain.