County Life, Cultural Objects

Ballard Telephone Exchange

Associated Person: Effie Burnett Burnette
1940s to 1950s
Conners' Grove (Burks Fork District)

Oak cabinet with plywood back panel

  • Height (upper cabinet): 27 inches
  • Width (upper): 15 inches
  • Depth (upper): 5 ¼ inches
  • Height (base): 31 inches
  • Width (base): 24 inches
  • Depth (base): 14 ½ inches
  • Diameter of mouth piece: 3 ½ inches

This cabinet houses the wiring and equipment needed to manually switch callers on household party lines to their neighbors and to central operators in nearby exchanges. The cabinet has a plug board,  answering cords, and ringing cords which are inserted into the called parties’ listening jacks. Latches on the left side allow the back to be opened for access to the wiring. There is an  operator’s headset and mouthpiece. The base is recessed so that a stool or chair can be fit underneath.

Telephone exchange, party line, home telephone operator
Bio Sketch

Effie Mae Burnett Burnette (1916-1998) was married to  Manuel Orby Burnette. She kept this cabinet in a bedroom and was “on call” around the clock.


The Ballard exchange is the southernmost part of Floyd County. Effie Burnette was the final home switchboard operator.  According to Earl Moles in a year 2000 interview (see our Buffalo Mountain series), Effie followed Frank Vincent and Vivian Sowers Helms, who had taken over from his parents George W. and Rosabelle Helms Helms.