Open Wire Personalities and Characters
Song of the Open Wire will be featuring the “famous” and “near famous” of the open wire epoch. We invite nominations of family members, friends and associates whose contributions should be popularly and publicly credited for their work in the communications fields. We seek those who worked with open wire in nearly any capacity. All we require is information sent to the webmaster through the “contacts” button above, briefly specify the reasons for your nomination. If you can provide a brief survey of their career, or if deceased, an obituary, personal narrative, or similar commentary, we wil post it. Photos are also welcome.
This portion of the site is under construction. More will appear later.
Sol didn’t like having his picture taken. This is the best photo of him at work in Alaska.
A Great and Good Man
As a lineman in the Alaska Communication System (ACS), the best crews to work on in the late 50s were those under MSgt George Solomon Sabolsice, known all over Alaska as “Sol.” He had been up there for over 14 years when I met him, and he resembled the squat sergeant in _Beetle Bailey_, though his teeth were in better shape. He had a voice like a ton of anthracite sliding down a chute, and he had been known to chew out lesser men by picking them up with one hand and holding them braced against a wall or a tree while chewing. If you worked for Sol, you _worked_; if you did not, you were sent elsewhere. Yet everyone wanted to be one of “Sol’s boys.”This was not hard to understand. Sol was tough, but he was fair. One of the worst things about being an enlisted man back then was that you could be “loaned” to some officer (usually a Second Lieutenant generated by an ROTC program at a second-rate stae college) when he had some obnoxious detail to perform. Nobody borrowed one of Sol’s boys: you worked for him, the work was important, and he would make damned sure you were with him to do it. He was known to have chewed out officers up to the rank of colonel (though not with the bracing against the wall part), and was ever after avoided by them and left to do his work.
Sol was in charge of the ACS lines from the Canadian border west to Fairbanks and from Tok (then Tok Junction) south to Copper Center. Much of the traffic on those double-armed, 8-pair lines was military, carrying many encrypted messages to the SAC bases forwver busy during the Cold War. Should anything happen to to that 440 miles of wire, it was Sol’s responsibility to fix it–yesterday, if possible. And he was ready to do his best.
The longer I worked for him, the more I became aware of the planning he had been doing during his 14 years: just about every place where the right-of-way left the highway to cut across a hill surprises lurked out of sight of the traffic below. Here stacks of poles and crossarms, there piles of wire, bolts, lag screws, and transposition brackets, and further along, guy wire, anchors, and the like, all in tall heaps to be easy to find under snow. All of this was probably contrary to Army regulations: back then if you had any material without paper, you were presumed to have stolen it. But illegal or not, it was Sol’s, and it was ready for any emergency he might have. I would guess that nowhere along his section of line were you more than 20 miles away from whatever you needed to fix whatever problem you had.
Consider the legal alternative: you need a couple of dozen 25-foot, class 2 poles? Put in a requisition to the HQ in Anchorage (driving past the break to get to a teletype, if the break happened to be between you and Anchorage), and the people there would roust out some men to load a couple of pole trailers and drive them north at about 30-40 mile per hour, depending on conditions. This will take 10 or more hours. You probably will not spend it profitably in winter by digging the holes, as the spoil would freeze solid before the poles arrived and be difficult to tamp.Field expedients. if legally dubious, are time savers; that is why they are so expedient.
During my last 6 months in Alaska, the Army, in its infinite wisdom, rotated Sol, kicking and screaming, back to the states on the theory that nobody should spend so many years in one assignment. Was there such a thing as military intelligence, they would have kept him right there, watching over his caches and keeping them in good order. On the bright side, a couple years after I left, the Army sold the ACS to the Air Force, and that would probably have broken Sol’s heart.
In the late 80s, I looked Sol up. I knew he came from around Pittsburgh, and the spelling of his name (pronounced sa-BOL-ski) was unusual. I found six Sabolsices in the Pittsburgh phone book and dialed the first. A woman answered, and when I told her who I was and who I was trying to reach, she exclaimed, “Oh, Uncle Sol! Of course!” and she gave me his number. I called him and we talked for a good, long time. I was able to tell him how much he meant to me as a young guy, and I am glad I did.
Sol died a few months later. I miss him.
Don Martin (M.J. Kovich)
Donald L. Martin