By Sue Rodman
I love surprises. Especially when I travel. Finding that hidden gem, tucked away off the beaten path, you feel like an explorer making a new discovery. Finding the Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Ga. was like striking gold.
I’d heard about the Rural Telephone Museum before and it always intrigued me, but never enough to make the drive to southwest Georgia just to see old telephones. However, when an opportunity came to take a ride on the SAM Shortline railroad, a stop in Leslie at the Rural Telephone Museum was what sealed the deal. If you aren’t riding the SAM Shortline, the museum is just 17 miles from Exit 101 on I-75. It’s worth the slight detour.
We exited the train onto a deserted Main Street. If we’d been out west, I would not have been surprised to see tumbleweed blowing. The town consisted of about seven or eight buildings and a model airplane that kids can sit in to take a picture. I’m not sure what the plane has to do with Leslie, but the randomness is part of the charm and that theme continues through the museum as well.
Admission to the museum is normally $8, but if you’re riding the SAM Shortline, it’s a discounted price of $3. Museum employees stand outside the door to collect your cash as you walk in. There are no credit card machines. If you aren’t coming on the train, make sure to call first. I’ve heard hours can be somewhat ‘flexible’.
The Rural Telephone Museum is the biggest attraction in Leslie, and in fact, the building that houses the museum is probably bigger than the town itself. As you’d expect there are lots of antique telephones dating back as far as Alexander Graham Bell’s first model. There are also huge switchboards, telephone lines and lineman tools. There is also a nautical room and an Indian display. Remember that randomness I was talking about?
The museum is the private collection of Tommy Smith, who owns the Citizen’s Telephone Company which services the area. If you look closely, you’ll see Tommy has a lot more items not even on display yet. The American Pickers from the History Channel would go nuts sifting through the boxes beyond the displays.
This entire museum made me smile. It’s a wonderful history lesson, and an amazing gift to the community from one of it’s residents. The randomness, from the displays to the hours is part of what makes this museum so much fun and well worth the detour. I understand they’re making some changes to upgrade the museum, which is great, but I hope they don’t do too much. That quirkiness adds to the fun in my opinion.
What: Rural Telephone Museum
Where: 135 N Bailey Ave, Leslie, GA 31764 | (229) 874-4786
When: Call to confirm hours of operation
Cost: $8 per person, $3 if you are on the SAM Shortline train