Before Cottage Grove had the internet, it had Kitty Slack.
From her counter at Cottage Grove Answering Service on Adams Avenue, Slack did much more than answer the phone.
“You could call Kitty and say, ‘I need some gravel spread,’ and she would get you in touch with the right person.”
Steve Nisewander outsourced his answering service for two of his businesses to Slack for over 20 years — along with 78 other local businesses who relied on her to answer their phones in a fashion more familiar to movie-going audiences than modern day cell phone users.
“She had the old fashion punch board and she’d be able to be on the phone with, say ... a doctor’s office ... and someone else would call and she could go to them and be able to return to the first call and keep it all straight. It was amazing,” said Gail Hoelzle, a local Main Street business owner who utilized Slack’s services and retained her friendship.
Once, when Hoelzle’s daughter was traveling and they hadn’t heard from her, Slack was able to tell them why.
“I called her and said, 'yeah, United has some delays' and I have no idea how but she just knew,” she said.
Slack, knew everything.
If sirens were ringing through the streets, residents called Slack to find out why; always receiving a traffic report of a local accident or a detour in case of a house fire in the process.
When calls came in for local physicians’ offices, Slack knew the patients and had a word of comfort or encouragement. When the historic barn at the Old Mill Farm Store burned down, taking the business’ phone line with it, Slack arranged for supplier’s phone calls to be routed through her switchboard.
“Without the actions of Kitty Slack, that would have been it for the longest continuously operating business in Lane County (since 1853),” said local resident, Dana Merryday who has helped organize an effort to help Slack who closed the doors to her answering service in 2014 after another stroke affected
According to Merryday, Slack’s health concerns have rallied the local group to provide herwith a financial buoy.
“Her fierce spirit and sense of independence recoils at asking for help, but a number of concerned friends have, sort of behind her back, organized an effort to give back to someone who selflessly has given to her community for so long,” he wrote in an email.
Contributions for Kitty Slack can be made at the Bookmine on Main Street or by calling 541-942-7414.