Jon Radel submitted this fascinating background story about his recently-acquired Vail medal. Thanks!
Theodore N. Vail medal, 64mm silver, awarded to Josephine L. August, telephone operator, Dowagiac Telephone Company, at Cassopolis, Mich., for her actions the night of November 23, 1925. Edge marked "S.43 - 1925".
TWO IN STATE AWARDED VAIL MEDAL FOR 1925
CASSOPOLIS ‘PHONE OPERATOR AND POWERS LINEMAN ARE HONORED
OUTSTANDING ACTS NOTED
Award of the Theodore N. Vail memorial medal of bronze to two Michigan telephone people, an operator and a lineman, for particularly outstanding deeds of public service during 1925, is announced by President Franz C. Kuhn of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company.
The operator is Mrs. Josephine L. August, an employee of the Dowagiac Telephone Company, at Cassopolis, Mich., who, the night of November 23, last, frustrated an attempt by bandits to burglarize the First National Bank of Cassopolis, over which the telephone central office is located.
Mrs. August, hearing the bandits at work in the bank offices below her switchboard, attempted to call the sheriff and the fire department at Cassopolis, but found that the lines had been cut. After several attempts she aroused a residential subscriber of the telephone service and asked him to carry the alarm to the sheriff’s office, which he did.
Bandit’s Attempt Foiled
Hearing shots fired at the alarm messenger, Mrs. August threw a switch, provided by the city, which turned on a number of red lights in the streets and alleys, designed to attract the attention of the night patrolman in emergencies, and then attempted to notify surrounding towns of the bandit raid for the purpose of asking for help. The toll circuits, excepting one to Dowagiac, had been cut, also, evidently by the bandits, but she notified the telephone manager at Dowagiac, who aroused the countryside, villages and towns.
Meanwhile, through Mrs. August’s activities, Cassopolis residents had been aroused thoroughly and the thugs were interrupted at their work and fled, escaping in an automobile. They failed to obtain any of the funds of the bank.
Public presentation of the medals, the twenty-third and twenty-fourth given in Michigan in six years, will be made on dates later to be announced. The award to Mrs. August is of particular significance in that it is the first made to a person not an employee of a Bell company. The Dowagiac Telephone Company is an independent organization but has toll and long distance connections over the circuits of the Michigan Bell Company.
The Theodore N. Vail Memorial Fund was established by Mrs. Vail to perpetuate, among the 300,000 telephone people of the nation, the high ideals of service of the late Mr. Vail, former head of the Bell System, who, at the time of his death, April 16, 1920, had long been recognized as one of the world’s great business leaders and to whose conspicuous service in the telephone field were largely due the expansion of the Bell System and the development of the art of telephony.
Under the terms of the establishment of the fund, bronze, silver, and gold medals are awarded telephone people for acts or services which conspicuously illustrate Mr. Vail’s ideals of public service. The medals are not awarded merely for acts of heroism or spectacular deeds, although noteworthy heroism often characterizes the service performed as in the cases of the two Michigan telephone people whose acts are here cited. Nor are they given merely as a reward for faithfulness in the performance of daily tasks, but rather as special recognition of outstanding acts of service, many of which daily occur among telephone employees, characteristic of the spirit of service throughout the Bell System.
The Wakefield News (Wakefield, Michigan)
Sat., April 17, 1926
[Note: Other sources correctly reported that the medal awarded Mrs. August was silver, not bronze, but otherwise provided many fewer details.]
Wayne Homren, Editor
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