It all began in the early 1900s when residents shared one telephone — usually located at the lumberyard or drug store — with everyone else in town. Bare iron wires carried those first conversations. Static and interference were unbearable and linemen often traveled by horseback to fix service problems.
A young man named Allen Top was looking for summer work, and thus began his 47-year career as a technician with the phone company.
At that time the Hills Telephone Company was owned by Sid Hammer, and employees were Don Boysen, manager, Paul Boysen, and office receptionist Edith (Boysen) Briggs. The telephone office was a small blue house on 3rd Street. In the 1970s the office moved to the building now occupied by Valocity Studios.
When Sid Hammer was killed while digging east of Hills, his wife, Gleva, became the owner. She later wed Dale Jacobson, who was working at the Steen Exchange. They owned the company and then sold it in the 1980s to Sioux Valley Telephone Company. In 1994 the corporation was sold to Split Rock Telephone Co. and seven years later to Alliance Communications.
The technology Top has seen through the years has been tremendous. When he started in 1967, there was a total of eight party lines. The only private line was the Steen Exchange, which was the second private line in the entire United States and was installed in 1964. The last exchange to receive private lines was in 1977. Of course, Internet was not even a word in the English vocabulary then. Internet drives all the technology we have today. People need to be in touch every hour of every day.
The main office of Alliance Communications is in Garretson, S.D. When Top started in 1967, there were four employees and now in 2014 there are about 14. The equipment in the telephone company when he started could have filled a two-stall garage. At the present time the mini equipment perhaps is the size of two refrigerators.
His favorite part of being a technician was digging out in the remote areas like Carthage, S.D. “I could live out there. I just loved it,” he said.
Top has also played an important role in the community of Hills. He served as a fireman for 32 years, 17 years as fire chief. He also served on the Hills Community Club as president, and on the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. At the present time he serves on the board of directors of the Tuff Memorial Home.