With a desire to bring quality telephone service to rural America, a group of nine men met for the first time on August 18, 1952 in Girard, Kansas. This meeting began the groundwork leading to the formation of Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative Association, Inc. On July 9, 1953, the first official meeting of the Cooperative was held and the following nine men became Craw-Kan’s first Board of Directors: John Frerichs (President-Chairman), S.O. Frey (Vice-President), John Cukjati (Sec.-Treas.), John DeLange, Walter Fox, Jabe Smith, Thomas Police, Fred Oplotnik, Lawrence Tharp.
Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative Association, Inc. began in March 1954, by obtaining the exchange of Brazilton, Kansas. This exchange had a total of 14 subscribers. On June 29, 1954, the Board of Directors voted to purchase the Hiattville, Kansas exchange from Mr. George Brock. Also, in June 1954, the Board of Directors voted to purchase the Crawford Telephone and Telegraph Company from Mrs. C. J. Yourk, D. O. Shile, and Mrs. Dora Gaitskill. This transaction added the Kansas exchanges of Girard, Farlington, Arma, Cherokee, and a Western Union Teletype Service operated by Craw-Kan, until May 10, 1955. The exchange of Hepler, Kansas, owned by D. D. Ensley and operating under the Hepler Telephone Company, was acquired in July 1954. Since the Cooperative was growing rapidly, the Board of Directors decided, on July 12, 1954, to hire their first manager. Mr. John Frerichs, serving as President-Chairman of the Craw-Kan Board of Directors, was unanimously hired to fill this position. At this time, Mr. Frerichs was also employed as General Manager of the Sekan Electric Cooperative, which had their headquarters in Girard. After negotiations between the Board of Directors of the Sekan Electric Cooperative and the Craw-Kan Board, it was decided he would function as General Manager of both Cooperatives. Mr. Frerichs held this unique position until his retirement on December 31, 1980. During the years of his employment with Craw-Kan, he was instrumental in purchasing the exchanges we have today. He worked hard to build the strong foundation making Craw-Kan what it is today.
By December 31, 1954, the Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative Association, Inc. was in full operation. The Cooperative had 24 employees. There were 15 operators located in the various exchanges, five linemen, one book-keeper, one cashier, one clerk, and a janitor, all located at the business office in Girard, Kansas. The Cooperative consisted of a total of seven exchanges and approximately 1,422 subscribers.
In 1956, the Cooperative continued to grow, with the purchase of Weir, Walnut, Mulberry, Arcadia, Fulton, Devon, and West Mineral, Kansas. Uniontown, Kansas was acquired in 1958, along with Savonburg, Kansas and Prescott, Kansas, following in 1959. Still growing rapidly during the next few years, the Cooperative purchased Columbus, Crestline, Hallowell, Galesburg, McCune, Bronson and Colony exchanges in Kansas. Within approximately six years, the Cooperative had acquired a total of 24 exchanges in Kansas. While purchasing each exchange, the Cooperative was continually making plans to install Stromberg-Carlson central office equipment enabling the Cooperative to eventually upgrade each exchange to a dial system.
On December 19, 1961, the Waco Telephone Company, serving Asbury, Missouri was purchased. The Missouri exchanges of Amsterdam, Amoret, Purcell, Foster, and Hume were added during the next ten years. The Waco Telephone Company, owned by Craw-Kan but operated as a separate company, was merged with Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative, Inc. on January 1, 1975. The Edna Telephone Company, purchased on April 8, 1969, also operated as a separate company until the merger on April 30, 1974. This merger added the Edna, Oklahoma exchange and the Bartlett, Kansas exchange to the Cooperative.
The final purchase, made by the Cooperative in October of 1971, was for the Pleasanton Telephone Company owned by C. E. Tucker. This company was purchased by Craw-Kan, but was operated as a separate company. On January 1, 1981, after the retirement of Mr. Frerichs, Lyndell L. ‘Pete” Hurt was promoted to General Manager by Glade Peel, President of Craw-Kan at the time. Mr. Hurt began his telephone career in 1955, when he started to work for the Finley Engineering Company at Lamar, Missouri. During his 21 years at Finley, he gained engineering experience working with telephone companies in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1976, Mr. Hurt started to work for Craw-Kan where he worked in an engineering and administrative role, and finally as assistant manager until 1981.
During Mr. Hurt’s first year as General Manager the Pleasanton Telephone Company was merged with Craw-Kan Telephone. On April 28, 1983, the Craw-Kan Board of Directors approved the purchase of the Girard Alarm Company from N. T. Jacquinot. This purchase was the beginning of a new Craw-Kan subsidiary. On May 24, 1983, the Craw-Kan Board of Directors approved the Articles of Incorporation for the new subsidiary to be entitled, Craw-Kan Communication Systems, Inc. The subsidiary handles all work related to installation and sales of alarm systems and coordinates a central monitoring station. The installation and sales of satellite television systems was added October 22, 1987.
In June 1989, Craw-Kan entered into an agreement with the Southeast Kansas Regional Service Center at Greenbush, Kansas to construct an educational two-way, interactive television network between four school districts, and the Service Center at Greenbush. All four school districts are in Craw-Kan’s exchange areas. After review and approval by the Kansas Corporation Commission, the proposed network was designated as a ‘pilot’ project to help expedite its completion in early 1990.
Craw-Kan Telephone has a board of directors with a wide range of skills and expertise. Themselves cooperative members elected by vote at our annual meeting, this group provides oversight and leadership to the cooperative. Our board works hard to ensure the continued success of Craw-Kan.
Barry Bedene is a resident of the Arma, Kansas exchange. Barry has operated the Bedene Funeral Home in Arma for over 35 years. He has been the past president of the Rural Fire District #2 for Arma. He served on the board of the First State Bank of Arma, now serves as director on the Exchange State Bank of Girard, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Kansas Funeral Directors Association. Barry is also a former member of the Arma City Council. He was appointed for two terms on the Kansas State Board of Mortuary Arts by Gov. Finney, reappointed as president of this board by Gov. Graves for two more terms, and most recently reappointed as vice-president of that board by Gov. Sebelius. Barry is a member of the Scottish Rites in Fort Scott; the Masonic Lodge in Arma, and the Mirza Shrine in Pittsburg. He has been on the Craw-Kan Board of Directors since 1984.
Roger Doue is a resident of Arma, KS. He was born and raised in the 22 Mining Camp, which is one-half mile north of where he lives today. He attended grade school and high school in Arma. Early in Roger’s career, he spent l4 years in the printing business, working at the Arma Record, Commercial Publishers in Parsons, and Pittcraft Printing in Pittsburg. From l967 to l97l, he was employed as an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance. He then became an agent for Standard Oil of Indiana. As an independent jobber in l975, he started Doue Oil Company which was sold to Mid-West Fertilizer in 2009. Roger serves as manager of Mid-West Fertilizer at the Arma location. He served eight years on the Northeast USD 246 school board and is a member of the Arma United Methodist Church, Arma Lodge #408 A.F. & A. M., 33rd Degree Mason in the Valley of Ft. Scott Scottish Rite, Mirza Shrine , and several other fraternal and trade organizations. Roger has served on the Craw-Kan Board since July 1998.
John Kovacic is a resident of rural Girard. A native of Girard, he attended the Girard schools before furthering his education at Pittsburg State University. John began in the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office as an Assistant County Treasurer in 1972. He was Deputy County Treasurer for one year before being elected as Crawford County Treasurer in 1975. John retired in 2005 after serving Crawford county for 30 years. He is a member of SNPJ lodge #255 in Arma and Sons of the American Legion in Girard. John is also a member of the National Association of County Treasurers and Finance Officers. In 1998, Mr. Kovacic became a certified finance officer through the University of Tennessee. John has served on the board since 2003.
Terry Kunstel is a rural resident and native of Arcadia, KS. He grew up on the family farm north of Arcadia where he continues to farm and raise cattle. Terry also is the co-owner and operator of T and C Wildlife Hunt Club near their rural home. Terry graduated from P.S.U. and has served on the Arcadia City Council and the Sheffield Cemetery Board. He served for seven years on the Craw-Kan Communications Systems board, three years as president. He was a teacher at Arma USD 246 for 32 years, retiring in 2000. Terry has been on the Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative Board of Directors since 1986.
Wilda Pentola is a rural resident of the Farlington, Kansas exchange. Wilda is Girard native where she completed grade school and high school. She attended Pittsburg State University receiving her B.S. in 1966. After receiving her Masters degree she went on to complete her Ed.S, the Educational Specialist degree. She taught school in Carl Junction, Girard, and Erie later working as the Technology Director at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center. Wilda accepted a position as Regional Account Manager with Apple Computer Inc. in Kansas City in 1990. She retired from Apple in July 2002. Wilda currently serves on the board of WestRidge, an assisted living community and on the board of the Hospital Dist. #1 Foundation. She was elected director on the Craw-Kan board in 2002.
Mary Smith is a native of the area and is currently a resident of Hepler, KS. She has two children and two grandchildren. Mary is currently the Treasurer of Hepler, KS, a position which she has held since 1976 and she is also the Treasurer for the Rural Volunteer Fire Dept. She is a former 4-H leader and is presently employed by Diehl Banwart Bolton CPA Office, where she has worked for more than 20 years. Mary has served on the Craw-Kan board since 2007.
Sharon Starr is a resident of Girard and a native of Russell, Kansas where she attended grade school and graduated from Russel High School. Sharon is married to retired teacher Gary Starr. Sharon has served on the Girard Chamber of Commerce as well as serving as president of Beta Sigma Phi sorority in Pittsburg, Kansas. She is an active member of the Haderlein school reading program, a member of Living Faith Church in Girard, and Garden Club of Pittsburg. Sharon retired from Wal-Mart after 30 years of service as a Customer Service Manager. Sharon has served as a director on the Craw-Kan board since 2006.
Randy Vogts is a native and current resident of Girard. He attended Girard Schools, graduating in 1968. Continuing his education at Kansas State University, Mr. Vogts earned a BS degree in Agricultural Economics. Randy’s professional career has been focused on the banking industry where he currently serves as the Executive Vice-President of The First National Bank of Girard. Mr. Vogts has also served on the boards of the Consolidated Rural Water District #1, Crawford County Fair, and Craw-Kan Communications Systems. Through the years, Randy has been a member and held offices in several civic and fraternal organizations. Randy has also pursued his interest in agriculture, owning and operating a small commercial cattle operation.
John Lehman is a lifelong resident of Crawford County. He was raised on the family dairy farm south of Mulberry and spent his adult life with his wife, Betty, on their farm east of Girard. John received a BS degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University. He was employed by The First National Bank of Girard for over 40 years, serving as bank president for over 25 years, until the bank merged into GN Bank in 2019. John has been an active member of numerous local, state and national banking, business, government, civic, religious and charitable boards. He is past chairman of the Kansas Bankers Association, Kansas Pooled Money Investment Board, and Trinity Lutheran Church. John joined the Craw-Kan board in 2019.
*This is not an official boundary map. For the official Kansas Cooperation Commission Telephone Boundary Map, Click HERE