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No Noise, No Pollution, No Crowds and - For Now - No Phones

November 13, 1985

DEWATTO, Wash. (AP) _ In a place that’s a little like the edge of the world and a lot like the middle of nowhere, nobody ever worried about hang-ups, busy signals or numbers, please.

Nobody ever had a telephone. It was one of the last places without service, so they couldn’t have had one even if they had wanted to, which they didn’t. And most still don’t, even though they’ll be able to soon.

″Every time we’ve had a phone, it always rings when you’re outside, and you just about break your neck to get in and answer it, and then they hang up on you,″ said Wayne Jackson, who lives here on the Kitsap Pennisula about 80 miles west of Seattle with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Others in his family want a phone, but you could say Jackson has expressed the sentiments of the majority in town, if there were a town, which there isn’t.

Actually, what folks seem to want most in Dewatto is plenty of nothing, and that’s just what they’ve got. No crowds, no noise, no pollution. No store, no post office, no electricity except the generator kind. And no phones.

Most of the people who stumble across this swatch of Washington wilderness are either lost or about to be. They wander around for a while, tumble into ditches with surprisingly regularity and bang on the modest doors of the several dozen residents in search of a phone.

Of course, they’ve never found one. And even after Inland Telephone Co. of Roslyn finishes laying the cable - which could be next month or next year, depending on who you talk to - a phone could still be a pretty scarce commodity.

For the last 18 years at Yamaha Park mobile home court, Lester and Chris Phalen have done just fine without one, thank you very much.

″We got away from phones when we left Bremerton,″ said Phalen, a retiree. ″We had a business there, and phones were a pain in the neck.″

He thinks maybe they’ll install a pay phone outside. They can direct wayward travelers there, and they won’t get stuck with the bill, which could be considerable. Any place anybody would want to call is bound to be long distance from here.

″I guess we’ll probably have to keep change,″ he said. But at least they won’t have to keep driving the 13 miles to Tehuyeh, which has phones and is one of the places Dewatto residents drop off lost people so they can call for help.

Phalen’s friend, Don Huson, a life-long Tehuyeh resident, owns a Christmas tree farm. Every December, tree rustlers steal his pines, as many as 100 at a time, and he allows as how a phone might be useful for summoning the sheriff.

He and Phalen agree, however, that while the phone would be faster than the radio they use now, the law wouldn’t necessarily arrive any sooner. It generally takes the sheriff three days, which is to be expected because the officers hardly ever know where they’re going.

″We sit out there with the trees, night after night. We catch a lot of them (the thieves). But you can’t get a sheriff out here to arrest them,″ Huson said. ″With a phone, at least you could bend their ear.″

As he talks, Doug Weiss and his crew are laying phone cable further down the road. Weiss, whose father owns Inland, expects the job to be complete in a month, provided the weather isn’t too bad, which it always is this time of year.

″Some want phones, and some don’t,″ he said. ″Some thought there’d never be phone service out here.″

Some still don’t. Jackson’s son-in-law, A.J. Foote, who was born and raised in Southern California but doesn’t like crowds, said the first notice they got said phone service would begin in three months, and that was 11 months ago. The last notice said the fall of 1986.

So they’re not holding their breath. But when it’s available, they’ll pay the initial $300 construction fee and $20-a-month charge to get service, because he and his wife need it for work, and what if the kids got sick?

He’d better prepare for a few neighborly visits, Phalen predicted.

″Quite a few people aren’t going to get phones,″ he said. ″They’ll just use somebody else’s.″

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