Literature, Poetry and Art Featuring Open Wire


Poetry About Telecom and Open Wire


“Telephone Poles” by John Updike, Photo art by Erik Boucher

They have been with us a long time.

They will outlast the elms.

Our eyes, like the eyes of a savage sieving the trees

In his search for game,

Run through them.  They blend along small-town streets

Like a race of giants that have faded into mere mythology.

Our eyes, washed clean of belief,

Lift incredulous to their fearsome crowns of bolts, trusses, struts, nuts, insulators, and such

Barnacles as comose

These weathered encrustations of electrical debris

Each a Gorgon’s head, which, seized right,

Could stun us to stone.


Yet they are ours.  We made them.

See here, where the cleats of linemen

Have roughened a second bark

Onto the bald trunk.

And these spikes

Have been driven sideways at intervals handy for human legs.

The Nature of our construction is in every way

A better fit than the Nature it displaces

What other tree can you climb where the birds twitter,

Unscrambled, is English?  True, their thin shade is negligible.

But then again there is not that tragic autumnal

Casting-off of leaves to outface annually.

These giants are more constant than evergreens

By being never green.


Great images from Erik Boucher!

Today, I can’t resist to share with you a beautiful close-up!

On it, we have three ( X ) brackets of transposition. This bracket helps to preserved the stability of the impedance and prevent to grow-up

voltage on the longs lines. And always, see the beautiful Domnion and Hermingray insulators.  I think it’s good to include this picture and informations on your site!


Like you, from 1970-1980, I saw the disappearing of open lines of communication.  Until 1980, we had a few lines in action around Lac-St-Jean.  The last open lines disappeared in 2002.  This was the line of telegraph CN [Canadian National Railway] Chicoutimi to Quebec.  I saw, with great sadness, their disappearance after so many years of service.


I worked on the communication lines for Bell Canada from 1986 to 1990 and CN, 1990 until 2000. I did maintain the telegraph open [wire] line between Quebec and Montreal.  It largely follows Highway 20 “Jean Lesage.”  During my years at Bell, I have unfortunately removed open lines and replaced them with multi-pair cables.  The Company wanted to standarize their networks.  When I was later at CN for the maintenance of the telegraph lines between Quebec and Montreal, I spent the best years of my lineman’s life.  Finally, I had the opportunity to repair the famous poles of my childhood!  This is very important because I am lucky enough to take care of the telegraphic lines for ten years.  And it was most years of my life among others.


The mayor of our city is not a big fan of poles and aerial lines whatever the kind.  I would have liked to have preserved a section of the telegraph line between the two cities, Chicoutimi and Jonquiere.  We could convert the power line 220-v to serve the street lights and other equipment.  In short, they are gone and the line insulators remind us of the nostaglia.  But, for me, the networks of open lines of communication still live in my heart!

70-wire toll lead of Bell Canada in Quebec. Photo art by Erik Boucher.

The Case Bracket was adapted for both crossarm mounting and span mounting positions.

Erik Boucher’s re-animated computer created Canadian open wire line pole.

Erik Boucher’s Photograph of Canadian National Railway structure ruins.


“Snow Job” by utility artist, D. G. Schema


This pen and ink drawing, approximately 30″ by 40″, was completed over a two month period in 1992, while residing in Texas.  It is based upon a famous LIFE magazine, “Photo of the Year,” done in 1967 where Burlington-Northern employees completed repairs on a drift of snow so high it actually covered the lowest arm of the railroad’s signal/communications lead.  No pole climbing needed! 


Because it impressed me as a fine photograph, I felt drawn to portray the scene with some significant modifications.  Among them was the addition of an additional ten pin arm on the pole, greater aging of the pole surface, addition of technical features which would convert it from American Railway Association Communications Section specification into a Bell System architecture.  Phantom brackets, a 4-inch point type unit and drop brackets completed the scene.


Reproductions of this drawing are available.  Please inquire.


“Gray & Gold” (1942) by John Rogers Cox (American, 1915-1990)


John Rogers Cox, a truly mid-20th Century American artist, painted Gray and Gold in the beginning of the World War II years, 1942.  As part of a traveling art exhibition during those years, and in support of the patriotic fervor gripping the nation at the time, Cox’ work was notable.  Displayed during the “Artists For Victory” campaign allowed the public to see this particular work, which had been inspired by his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana.  Terre Haute’s public moniker had been to proclaim itself “The Crossroads of America” resulting from a convergence of major arterial roadways in the American Midwest.


In the late 1940s, the Cleveland Museum of Art purchased the work.  It is on display there and this oil on canvas measures about 36 inches in height and is 60 inches in length (unframed). 


I can recall this painting being on loan at our Iowa public library system and being able to rent it for a week to hang at home.  It was one of my favorites . . .


As a small child, the image did not capture authentic open wire as I saw it around me; four pin crossarms without braces and the few standing poles receded into the distance with no conductors . . . yet, the power of the storm and excitement of the high plains profoundly fit into my own personal experiences in Iowa and South Dakota.


Although the illustration brings together the approaching drama of a thunderstorm amidst the momentary calm of a wheat field, as its primary feature, there is some symbolism at work, too.  Cleveland Museum critics point out that the approaching storm defined the then troubling European and Asian wars with which the United States was undividedly preparing to enter.  The bisecting country roads accentuate that America was at a political crossroads–hence this momentary calm was the beginning of an unknown future dynamic.  What was the nation’s future to be?–b27780/cleveland-museum-of-art-posters.htm?RFID=571502&domain=com&keyword=Cleveland+Museum+of+Art&KWID=860270597&gclid=CPqB9-WQqrQCFSWoPAoddj4ATQ&CTID=1755759857

Here’s where you may locate a fine reproduction of this artist and his other works.


“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell (1968)


I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road

Searchin’ in the sun for another overload

I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.


I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain

And if it snows that strech down south won’t ever stand the strain

And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.


And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.


“An Ode to the Telephone Pioneers of Yesteryear”

by Michael Larkin

Those telephone poles have had their day,

I hear you say.

Leaning now towards earth,

That once gave them their birth,

As Douglas fir or Lodgepole pine,

They reached into the skyline,

Carrying their wires of copper,

They once stood tall and proper. 

Now overgrown by woodland green,

As once walks along the narrow boreen. 

Hush! You can almost hear the harsh grating sound,

Of the shovel and spade, as they dug this stoney ground. 

The telephone man, Alexander Graham Bell,

He was told ‘there isn’t a chance in hell’,

That this telephone device

Will ever carry the sound of a human voice.


 “Lines To A Lineman” by AT&T Bell System Marketing Division (unknown date)


No word of pen or stroke of the artist’s hand

No flowered phrase or oratory’s boast

Need tell the story of the world you’ve made.

‘This writ upon the pages of the land

From north to south–from coast to coast.


Those poles you mount–those lengthened strands you strung

Are not just sturdy uprights in he sky

That march across the miles in proud parade.

You’ve made them into words that help and sing

A doctor’s call, good news, a lover’s sigh.


Deep etched in time the record of your skill

The work you’ve done–your willingness to do

The fires and storms you’ve tackled unafraid.

Your signature is carved on every hill

Yours, too, the creed–“The Message must go through.”


“Under a Telephone Pole” by Carl Sandburg


I AM a copper wire slung in the air,

Slim aginst the sun I make not even a clear line of shadow.

Night and day I keep singing–humming and thrumming;

It is love and war and money; it is he fighting and the tears,

thee work and the want.

Death and laughter of men and woman passing through me,

carrier of your speech.

In the rain and the wet dripping,

in the dawn and the shine drying,

A copper wire.”


“Her Lips Are Copper Wire” by Jean Toomer


“Whisper of yellow globes

gleaming on lamp posts that sway

like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog


and let your breath be moist against me

like brighgt beads on yellow globes


the telephone the power-house

that the main wire are insulate


(her words play softly up and down

dewy corridors of billboards)


then with your tongue remove the tape

and press your lips to mine

till they are incandescent”



“The Line Gang” by Robert Frost


“Here come the line-gang pioneering by,

They throw a forst down less cut than broken.

The palnt dead trees for living, and the dead

They string together with a living thread.

They string an instrument against the sky

Wherein words whether beaten out or spoken

Will run as hushed as when they were a thought

But in no hush they string it: they go past

With shouts afar to pull the cable taught,

To hold it hard until they make it fast,

To ease away–they have it.  With a laugh,

An oath of towns that set the wild at naught

They bring the telephone and telegraph.”


“Pick Offs” by Carl Sandburg


“The telescope picks off star dust

on the clean steel sky and sends it to me.


The telephone picks off my voice and

sends it cross country a thousand miles.


The eyes in my head pick off pages of

Napoleon memoirs . . . a rag handler,

a head of dreams walks in a sheet of

mist . . . the palace panels shut in nobodies

drinking nothings out of silver

helmets . . . in the end we all come to

rock island and the hold of the sea walls.”





“The Midnight Ride of W. P. Clark” by Anonymous


The following poem was written and published in Telephone Topics, the newsmagazine of the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company.  Unfortunately, it was written as the result of bad times, reflected on the need for power supplies for communications service when one of the worst sleet and ice storms in over a century pounded Massachusetts and Rhode Island service areas of NET&T in the early 1920s.  This poem, while orginating during in the depths of destruction and despair, valiantly evoked the “Spirit of Service” mantra so typical of the men and women of the communications industry.  Willard Clark was one of several important construction supervisors who kept Delco generators working in Brookline, Framingham, Hudson, Marboro and Concord, Southbridge, Clinton and Leomister, Massachusetts C. O.s.   Hence, you will find it quoted here as found on page 438 of the December 1921 issue.  Author unknown.


“Out from the North, at break of day,

The office got word that the storm held sway;

All power had failed; Woburn was first;

“Bill” Clark just said, “Let it do its worst.”


He grabbed the Delco, and on his way,

Was just in time to save the day.

He stayed right with it, both day and night,

The rain and sleet made a terrible fight.


The Delco kicked, and snorted, and tore,

But “Bill” just  worked and silently swore.

He had Woburn O. K., when he got the word

That Stoneham would shortly go by the board.


Then onto the truck, with the Delco inside,

He made for that town, on a wild night ride.

The batteries were low, but not for long,

“Bill” soon had the Delco singing its song.


He stayed with Stoneham a couple of days,

The stunt that he pulled was worthy of praise.

Of thew work that he did, all that week,

Like the rest of the boys, he’s too modest to speak.


Over thirty exchanges had lost their power,

But at each one was the “Man of the Hour.”

They charged each battery, and slaked its thirst,

The work that they did was for “Service First.”



“Telephone Repairman” by Joe Millar

All morning in the February light

he has been mending cable,

splicing the pairs of wires together

according to their colors,

white-blue to white-blue

violet-slate to violet-slate,

in the warehouse attic by the river.

When he is finished

the messages will flow along the line:

thank you for the gift,

please come to the baptism,

the bill is now past due :

voices that flicker and gleam back and forth

across the tracer-colored wires.

We live so much of our lives

without telling anyone,

going out before dawn,

working all day by ourselves,

shaking our heads in silence

at the news on the radio.

He thinks of the many signals

flying in the air around him

the syllables fluttering,

saying please love me,

from continent to continent

over the curve of the earth.





“The Lineman” by Chan Gardiner

from Electrical Workers Journal

They sings of the men as goes down to the sea;

Of the heroes of cannon and swords;

An’ writes of the valors of dead chivalry,

An’ the bravery of old knight ‘n lords.

They sighs ’cause the romance of knighthood is past

‘Cause there ain’t no ideals any more;

They says that this world’s a rollin’ too fast

To develop that “espirit de corps.”

But them as complains are the ones as don’t know,

Who sits loose where it’s warm and then kick–

They ain’t never seen a line saggin’ with snow

An’ had to get Service back–quick!

They ain’t never struggled with Death at their side,

A-snappin’ and hissin’ and pale–

Nor clung to the towers and grimly defied

The assaults of the blizzards and gale.

They sit and are served with never a thought

Of the fellers out pluggin’ like hell–

To supply at their touch the service they’ve bought

With a light, or the sound of a bell.

These fellers ain’t togged out all shinin’ in steel.

They don’t ride around on no hoss–

They don’t sing no songs about how they feel

In the gales when the feeders may cross.

They don’t wave no banners embroidered in gold,

In Latin nobody can read;

They don’t do no braggin’ of deeds that were bold,

Their motto is ‘SERVICE AND SPEED.’

Their armor ain’t nothin’ but slicker an’ boots

Their weapons are climbers and pliers,

Their battles are fought up where hi-tension shoots

An’ Death lurks unseen on the wires.

They’re fightin’ the gales and the blizzards an’ ice,

Protectin’ the towers and span

With effort not measured in hours or price–

For one Cause–just Service to man!

So here’s to the Lineman–the Son-of-a-Fun

That can do without sleep for a week!

That sticks to the job ’till it’s every bit done

And the feeders can carry the peak.

For his is that Knighthood that’s noblest by far

That higtest and mightiest clan,

That’s fightin’ the battles of Things-as-they-are,

In the cause of the Service of man