The Cottage Grove Answering Service on Adams is where Kitty Slack could be found. PHOTO PROVIDED
Progress is not all it is cracked up to be, and although change is inevitable it doesn’t always leave a good taste in your mouth. I often think that as I pass by the little ”Cottage Grove Answering Service” building on Adams. Just a few years ago this was the nexus of the Grove, with an array of interesting plants in tubs, pots that spilled onto the sidewalk and a couple of cats that prowled about looking for pets from passers-by.
Inside, like a spider in the center of its web, Kitty Slack would be found handling any number of transactions: taking payments for utility bills, accepting a Fedex shipment, answering a call via her old fashioned switchboard or just having a word with one of the many people in town who knew and loved her. She was not only a multi-tasker par excellence, she was also the info source for all that was happening in town.
”She was the internet of town before it was invented,” said Chris Holloman, a longtime friend. Not only did she serve as the 24-seven answering service for all of the physicians, veterinarians, tow company and the like, she also monitored the emergency bans. She was who you could call to find out what was going on or to find a plumber to fix an emergency leak.
While she could be intimidating at first, once she got to know you, Ms. Slack was fiercely protective of anyone she had under her wing. Jennifer Holloman fondly remembers taking her granddaughters along to pay bills, and how much they loved ”Miss Kitty.” She would sometimes slip them a quarter so they could buy a piece of candy from her machine, which made up part of the variety of pictures, knick knacks, items for sale and such that surrounded you as you stepped inside.
Kitty not only knew everything that was going on, she was also the one who stepped up to the plate to get things going – rendering aid to those in need. When the Old Mill Farm Store lost their historic barn to fire in 2007, it was almost the death knell of that long running institution. The owners Debbie and Chuck, beyond having their whole world instantly turned to ashes, recounted how their telephone line had melted in the intense blaze. Without the actions of Kitty Slack, that would have been it for the longest continuously operating business in Lane County (since 1853). She arranged that all the phone calls from suppliers and customers for the Old Mill route through her switchboard, and unbeknownst to the owners she also organized food and donations to help them through the rough spots, which got the business back on their feet.
Health concerns, probably brought on by her tireless giving to others and keeping the phone lines answered without a break, caused Miss Kitty to have to retire. Now things are not going so well for her. 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. You can add to that movement and make a donation as well. Contributions can be made at The Bookmine on Main Street, Cottage Grove, 541-942-7414. Please help someone who has knit the Grove together for so long. Thank you!