Tech’s 20+ Year Career Started With a Bit of Luck
June 18, 2021
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June 18, 2021
“Been a couple of days, hasn’t it?” chuckles Jerald Morgan as he considers the near quarter-of-a-century that he’s been an SKT employee. A Service Technician, Jerald began his career with SKT in 1997 – about three years after graduating from high school. Before that, he’d followed his sister to Emporia where he worked at IBP (Iowa Beef Packers, Inc.) for four or five months – enough time to realize “this wasn’t for me,” after waking up with numb hands from working the line. He returned to his hometown of Howard, Kan., working house construction for a couple of years. Unfortunately (for the guy who fell off a pole and broke his arm), but providentially (for Jerald), he was offered a job with Douglas Cable Communications based in Topeka, Kan., which had recently purchased the smaller cable TV company serving Howard and Moline, Kan. Jerald says, “They needed somebody, and I’ve been in that deal ever since.” Before long, he was the lead tech for Galaxy Cablevision, which had purchased Douglas Cable, and Jerald was traveling and working all over the eastern third of the state. When SKT was considering buying Galaxy, sure enough, Jerald was recruited. His reply to SKT? “I’d like to, because I’m tired of driving all over the country,” so when SKT took over in 1997, purchasing the cable systems all around Howard where he used to work, Jerald was more than happy to go to work for SKT.
For his first four or five years with SKT, Jerald worked to rebuild and improve the cable system, adding fiber in Burden and setting up a new head-end (master facility for receiving television signals for processing and distribution) thereby taking the small towns from 10 TV channels to 20. Next, he “learned phone,” attending telephone/communications school at Texas A & M for three different one-week courses on basic telephone, wiring houses, etc., and then cable splicing.
Internet came around later. Jerald recalls the early days, “When I was working for Galaxy Cablevision, the guy in the office got an email and I was like … ‘what is email?’” he laughs, “Their office was up there in Topeka, so the bigger city had it.” Jerald explains, “When I started working with the telephone, we were doing a lot of second lines to houses because they had dial-up internet – so you could be on the phone and not mess up with your internet on, you know? DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) came along two or three years later, so for quite a few years we got into the cable modems (digital translators that allow use of landline phone while connected to the internet) and got that activated – rebuilt everything again so we could make that work. So, yeah, I have actually seen a lot of changes. We went from the head-ends we used to have, down to one, and of course, now none.” From the beginning, and throughout all those changes in the telecommunications industry, Jerald has done quite a bit of continuing education for his job. He has three Master NCTI (National Cable Television Institute) Certifications – Master Technician, Master Technician – Customer Premises, and Master Technician – HFC (Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial) Networks.
Jerald’s roots run deep into the area. He was born in Eureka, Kan. “That was the closest hospital, I guess,” he chuckles. Both his mother and father grew up on farms around Howard. His grandmother, who lived to be 102, told Jerald that she was carried by her mother who walked behind a wagon all the way from Kentucky, with the family settling north of Howard. He’s the youngest of four children. One of his sisters passed away last year, leaving him just one remaining sibling. Years ago, before Jerald was born, his family (father, mother, sister, brother, and a friend) were involved in a tragic car accident on a country road, coming home from a baseball game. His brother did not survive, and only Jerald’s father escaped without serious injuries. “My brother was like two years old. I’ve only seen a few pictures of him – they didn’t have a lot of pictures,” Jerald says, adding, “They (his parents) probably wouldn’t even have had me, you know, and then a lot of years later they had another girl and then they said I ‘was the mistake’ four years later – just popped up …!”
Growing up, Jerald lived with his family at the edge of Howard in a house that had a creek “out the back door.” Jerald has fond memories of exploring in the creek and pasture, fishing, etc. He chuckles, “None of the kids would get to come home and play with me because we’d go to the creek or to the pond and we’d get them muddy and then they’d get in trouble.” When he is was in high school, the family moved three blocks closer into the heart of town. They no longer had a creek out the back door, but Jerald was “branching out a little more,” because he had a vehicle and he could drive.
Jerald graduated from West Elk High School. This is also where he met his future wife, Barbi, who, with her sister, had moved back to Howard from Fredonia to live with their grandparents – placing her just a few blocks away. Jerald and Barbi are grandparents of two now – Owen and Rylee, the children of their son, Dylan and his wife who live in Moline, which is about “eight miles down the highway.” Their oldest child, a daughter named Jill, got married last year and she and her husband live in Wichita. Barbi works at Batson’s Drug Store in Howard as a pharmacy tech – just two blocks away from their home.
Jerald’s hobbies and passions include fishing, hunting, shooting, and woodworking. He also serves as the Assistant Chief of the Howard Fire Department. He’s got all the seasons covered: In the spring, summer, and fall he participates on teams and in leagues, shooting sporting clays at Flint Oak, a hunting resort south of Fall River. Although his team has received second place a couple of times, Jerald admits it’s more about the fun than just the winning. He’s been doing that for 10 or 12 years now, and Barbi has also gotten into it, shooting on a team, as well. In the winter, he enjoys bird and deer hunting, then fishing in the spring and summer. Jerald adds, “I used to cut and sell lot of wood but I’m getting to where I don’t do that as much … it’s getting harder to do anymore, you know. It used to pay for my bad habits … hunting trips, stuff like that,” he laughs.
When asked to share any funny stories that have happened on the job over the years, Jerald (who has a rare sense of humor) chuckles and says, “Yeah, I don’t know if they ought to be put in the newsletter … there’s a lot of crazy stuff that has happened here and there.” Then he does give an example, “Like, you say, ‘get all bent down on your hands and knees and open a box up and there’d be a snake in there.’ I don’t like snakes. Luckily that doesn’t happen very often.” He continues, “The weirdest thing, I might have to say, is one time I was trying to heat-shrink a cable with a torch and the whole ground lit up on fire – there was a gas leak about 12-15 feet away. The ground was really, really dry in the summertime and it was all cracked and that gas had settled down in the ground in those cracks. I was down in the hole with fire all around me! We hit it with fire extinguishers. We got it out and there was one little piece of grass settin’ there smoldering and all of a sudden, it caught fire again and the whole ground goes, ‘Whoof!’ and was back on fire again. It scared me. I can remember for the longest time I didn’t want to heat-shrink anything with a torch! It felt like the Road Runner and the Wile E. Coyote deal – I just sat there stunned and I couldn’t move.”
His favorite thing about working at SKT is seeing and talking to the customers, he says. He also enjoys working on “troubles,” when an issue arises with the network or for a customer. “You never know what you’re going to find or how you’re going to fix it. They’re more challenging than like an install – where you’ve got to get a wire from here to there … and the construction part of it is what I like … the actual splicing and building to the cable plant; the aerial work. I kind of enjoy doing all that.”
This December, Jerald will have been building, splicing, installing, troubleshooting, repairing, and taking good care of equipment, systems and, most importantly, SKT customers for 24 years. And he’s been doing it all this time with a good-natured sense of humor and a calm, can-do attitude.