A first-time visitor to the home of George Mertens will leave knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the 90-year-old has a keen interest in telephones.

A first-time visitor to the home of George Mertens will leave knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the 90-year-old has a keen interest in telephones.
Mertens has approximately 20 telephones in his garage and nearly 100 telephones in his house. Most of the telephones are kept in a case, while the rest are mounted on walls and in various rooms throughout the house.
His collection includes crank phones, a pay phone, dozens of rotary phones, touch tone phones, wall phones and a variety of other telephones. While some are from the modern era, other telephones in his collection date back to before 1940.
Mertens noted the model 302 telephone was manufactured in five different colors. He has each color in his collection.
“That is a rare phone,” said Mertens.
The model 302 telephones has red thermoplastic material running through it. The phones were made prior to the 1940s.
“When I came to Arkadelphia in 1961 we were still putting in those 302s,” said Mertens, who added that the 302s were made of metal and were black prior to World War II.
Mertens noted another telephone in his collection that was normally used by individuals at railroad stations.
“This was actually the starting of hands free because as the guy was sitting, he could pull it out, he had a headset and he could use it hands free,” Mertens explained.
In addition, Mertens has several design line telephones in his collection. These telephones were manufactured in the 1970s.
Even though every telephone in his collection will work, Mertens said he cannot make calls on his rotary phones because he no longer has rotary service.
Mertens worked for Southwestern Bell before going to work for AT&T. After his retirement, Mertens started his own business of installing telephone systems locally. He sold his business to Don Guthrie, who eventually sold ownership to Lamco Communications.
Mertens lived in McGhee prior to coming to Arkadelphia. He never thought he would see the day when nearly everything could be done on a cell phone.
“Back in the 1970s we had radio telephones. I went to school to learn how to install them. I had to have a second-class radio license to work them. The deal fell through with them and we didn’t get them in Arkadelphia,” said Mertens said.
According to Mertens, he started buying telephones on Ebay. He would fix the phones and add them to his display.
Mertens said the value of the phone is determined by its condition.
“An old phone is just like an old coin. If it is in good condition its worth something. Just because it is old doesn’t mean anything if it is not in good condition,” Mertens said.
Mertens was marries to the late Sue Mertens. She also worked for the phone company as a service representative. He is the father of one son and one daughter.
In addition to collecting and working on telephones, Mertens also has an interest in making muscadine jelly. A batch of his jelly won first place at the Clark County Fair.