Wikstrom Telephone Company, Inc. is no doubt the business in the Karlstad Community with one of the longest histories and which employs the largest number of people.
The North Star News consulted Leslie Wikstrom, vice president of the company, and his son Brian Wikstrom, also an employee of the company, for information about this business, which provides Internet and telephone service to a large area of Northwestern Minnesota.
Along with their own comments, Leslie and Brian provided a written history of the company, which Curt Wikstrom, president of the company, had once compiled. What follows is a condensation of a vast amount of information.
The history of the company goes back to Lewis Hahn, father of Dolores Wikstrom. Hahn, who moved to Strandquist in 1916, became a member of the Northwestern Minnesota Telephone Company and helped maintain lines and phones for them.
Dolores Wikstrom and her husband, George, purchased the Northwestern Minnesota Telephone Company in 1946, renaming it the Wikstrom Telephone Company when they took possession on January 1, 1947. In March of 1955, they incorporated under the Minnesota law and became Wikstrom Telephone Company, Inc.
The business was housed over the years in a couple of the homes of George and Dolores Wikstrom (including one house where the office was situated on the porch). They built their first new office on Main Street in 1960. (This building now houses the Karlstad Dental Clinic). The Turnwall Chevrolet building (now Hardware Hank) became their plant office and warehouse. They erected their current building at 212 Main Street South in 1972.
The company continued to make improvements and acquire exchanges over the years. Leslie noted major changes and improvements have included the progression from crank, to battery, to dial, to push button phones and the installation of Internet services.
They began to install fiber optic cable in the area in 1988 in order to offer Internet service. They’ve even provided an area as remote as the Northwest Angle with Internet services.
According to Curt Wikstrom’s history, “In 1991, we provided the Northwest Angle with ‘hard line’ service and 2 years later, digital service. In order for us to provide the same high-tech connections at the Angle, in 1999 we connected four of the Angle Islands by laying underwater (11 miles) and underground (20 miles) of cable. We now have connected one of America’s remotest places to today’s high tech society.”
“They have as good an Internet service at the Northwest Angle as they do in Minneapolis,” commented Leslie.
Brian Wikstrom, who says he wears many hats at the business, said the company now provides telephone service from Donaldson to Baudette and from Viking, Holt, Thief River Falls, & Warren to the Canadian border.
See the full article in the March 19 edition of the North Star News.