It used to be you had to dial “1 plus” before calling Olathe or Kansas City from Southwest Johnson County. And then you were charged per minute for the duration of the call.
The “1 plus” set up an invisible barrier, and 25 years ago you could look at a county map and see where residential growth stopped at the “1 plus” calling line, which followed the boundaries established between phone companies – at that time AT & T, Southwestern Bell and Sprint/United/Contel.
Cross the invisible boundary between companies, and you were charged toll per minute.
But cooperation and persistence changed that.
The way it was done back then, the community, and surrounding communities, pulled together to force the issue by testifying before the Kansas Corporation Commission to eliminate “1 plus.” It took years, and a lot of cooperation of those in leadership positions. As the local newspaper, The Gardner News was very involved, writing editorials and articles, assisting with organizing meetings between communities, chambers, telephone company, commission members and residents.
Gardner and Edgerton were told it couldn’t be done. They were told “1 plus” couldn’t be eliminated, but in the end, community cooperation won, and metro calling was born.
At first it was expensive – about $25 per month – but that was much cheaper than the toll, 800 numbers or collect calls.
And it worked. With the “1 plus” barrier erased, the area has seen growth. Metro calling still exists, but it is bundled with other services. Newer residents probably don’t even realize it is there.
In the 25 years since metro wide calling came to the communities of Gardner, Edgerton, Spring Hill and DeSoto, rotary phones and pay phones have been nearly replaced with cell phones and electronic communication.
Landlines are going the way of crank and rotary phones.
But one thing that remains – community and cooperation can trump any barrier.