John’s father, Morlan H. Bishop, purchased Lakedale when John was just a year old. Morlan thought running a business in a small town would be a good life for his new son. As a young man in college John said he wanted to live in on a lake a house with a fireplace and a collie. It all came together for John after college and his two years of service in the army. When he returned home from Vietnam to run Lakedale, he and Jill moved into their home on Pleasant Lake in Annandale (pop. 1234) with their collie dog, Duffie.




In 1945 Morlan H. Bishop and Robert Heeter purchased the Annandale Telephone Exchange. It had been formed in 1901 by a group of businessmen including Llewellyn Williams. By 1913 Harry Kurz was the majority stockholder. In 1921 when John Kiehn and his father bought the company, the new manager was John’s brother, Bill. He was in charge until 1945 when the Kiehn family sold to Bishop and Heeter.


The Maple Lake Phone Company was purchased by Bishop and Heeter from Frank Elsenpeter in 1946. Frank Enghauser had purchased the company from a group of businessmen in 1909, and Frank’s widow, Josephine Enghauser, sold it to Elsenpeter around 1918.


On January 25, 1946 Lakedale Telephone Company was incorporated.




With the purchase of the Maple Lake and Annandale telephone exchanges, part of the names of each of the communities was combined, “Lake+ “dale,” forming “Lakedale.” Morlan thought running a telephone company in a small town would be a good life, which was, of course, what John ending up doing, but it wasn’t forced upon him. In John’s early college years he thought he might become a doctor, but one cell biology class convinced him otherwise. When John was a senior in college Morlan had an opportunity to sell the company for a good price, so John had to decide if he wanted to move to Annandale and run Lakedale. After fulfilling his ROTC army obligation, including a year in Vietnam, he did just that.




Morlan hired Bill Saltmarsh to manage the newly formed Lakedale. Bill wore a plaid shirt, granted favors to friends, was well liked in the community, and his colorful southern wife, Thelma, ran the office with an iron hand. Bill was known in the community as the owner of the company.


It was early in the Saltmarsh years that Lakedale went from the two original exchanges, Annandale and Maple Lake, to seven: Annandale, Maple Lake, Hanover, Hamel, Waverly, Montrose, and Rockford. In 1956 Robert Heeter died and Morlan purchased his shares from his widow, Agnes, becoming full owner of Lakedale. 


THE MORROW YEARS  (1968-1996)


After 22 years as manager, Bill retired and Bud Morrow came on as manager in 1968. He had been an instructor at the technical college in Jackson, Minnesota. There was an overlap of about a year when Thelma was still in the office after Bill retired, and it was a tumultuous period with both vying for control. Morlan died in August of 1968, so John’s mother, Alice, was the reluctant referee between them.


Bud changed the way Lakedale was run from Bill’s folksy approach to a more professional one. Whereas Morlan and Bill had mostly band-aided the infrastructure together, spending as little as possible to keep it running, Bud brought it into the modern age. In 1970 most residential customers still had party lines, and John and Jill’s rented home on Clearwater Lake was one of them. On one memorable occasion Jill had to break in to the party line for an emergency: their collie, Duffie, had a fish-hook in her ear.


John returned to Lakedale in 1970 after his army years and ran the company with Bud until Bud’s retirement in 1996. During those years Bud’s title was General Manager and John’s was Commercial Manager.  John wrote all the checks. 


John was only 24 when he came to Lakedale full time, and at that time he wasn’t the owner, his mother was. An early event in John’s career at Lakedale was trading the Rockford, Hamel and Hanover exchanges for Paynesville in 1970, John’s first year there. At one of the meetings with Northwestern Bell executives to discuss the exchange, John was doing his best to maintain a dignified demeanor at this high level meeting when Alice whispered to him, “John, don’t bite your fingernails.”


After the beginning of deregulation of the telephone industry in 1986, Lakedale branched out in many directions: Cable TV, SHAL (cable infrastructure), CS&L, and others. On New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, John announced, “We are now a deregulated industry.” He knew how significant it was. 


During the Morrow years Bud was active in telephony at the state level and John was active in Annandale: Annandale City Council (1977-1980), Methodist Church Treasurer, and Lions Club. In 1983 the Lakedale business office moved from Maple Ave in downtown Annandale a much larger building on Hwy 55 with subsequent additions in 1990 and 1993.




Following a 4 year overlap of managers, in 1996 Gene South took over as General Manager. John’s relationship with Bud was not always smooth, and John and Gene ran the company together in a more agreeable atmosphere. They shared Sandy Miller as Administrative Assistant, a valued employee.  


Gene brought Lakedale into prominence and respect in the industry, building on Bud’s work. He was very active at the state level in the MTA (Minnesota Telephone Association) and influential in forming state regulatory policy in his position on the Legislative and Regulatory Committee. The pinnacle of his career was his year as President of USTA (United States Telephone Assn) where his presence at the national level was very beneficial to Lakedale.




Owning an independent telephone company in a small town granted a wonderful lifestyle in a great community to the Bishop family for over 40 years. John has pride in having spent his career serving his customers well and providing jobs for so many families, but it was very hard to sell the business that had been in the family for 62 years. Lakedale sold to Iowa Telecommunications in 2008, it then sold again to Windstream in 2010. The new owners didn’t provide the service that Lakedale had all those years, so a bit of consolation was the hindsight appreciation of Lakedale in the community. Good to hear, but sad too. John and other family members heard often: “Can’t you just buy it back?”


After John sold the company and retired in 2008 he set up a personal office at 125 Oak Ave in Annandale soon after, just down the street from the location of the original telephone office a century earlier. There he enjoyed investing in lakeshore property and the relaxed pace of his retirement.