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Dr. Ralph R. Chase West Texas Collection

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Struggle To Keep Up, 1950-1970

E.H. Danner - From Lineman to President

E.H. Danner E.H. Danner was born in 1903. He started working for the Illinois Telephone Company in Jacksonville in 1928. The man that gave Danner the job told him he would have to start at the bottom. That is just what Danner did. His first job was digging holes and it paid $85.00 per month. During his career, he worked as a ground man, lineman and switchboard man among other positions. Danner became president of the General Telephone Company of the Southwest in 1957. During his forty years, he saw many changes, the most significant being the dial telephone replacing the switchboard. Telephones became a necessity that everyone had in their home.

Housing Boom Equals Phone Shortage

Ruth Shipley, chief operator in Garland, TX, examines one of the wooden phone booths in her area. The 1950s experienced a housing boom that telephone service couldn’t keep up with. Builders and speculators usually forgot to check the availability of telephone. This was a problem for new homebuyers and the telephone company. Americans moving anywhere in this country expected telephone service to be there, waiting and ready, never understanding the preparations required to establish service. In some new residential areas, neighbors had to share a pay phone until they received a telephone in their home.

Dial Telephones: Goodbye Hello Girl

Switchboard Operators Booklets with instructions for using the new dial instruments were sent to telephone customers. One instruction was: Listen for the Dial Tone. The dial tone is a steady humming sound. It lets you know the dial equipment is ready to handle your call. Always wait until you hear the dial tone before you dial.

Not everyone immediately understood how the dial system worked. A customer in Texas called to report that he got wrong numbers every time he dialed anyone. The repairman checked and found no problems with the phone, so he asked the customer to dial someone. The customer decided to dial his neighbor Mr. Jones. The repairman watched as the customer dialed J-O-N-E-S and of course got the wrong number.

The change from operator-assisted calls to dial service was an emotional task for some. Some operators cried and others were excited. Everyone felt that it was a passing of an era.

Tips for dialing local calls:

  • Be sure you know the correct number.
  • Lift the receiver and wait for dial tone (steady humming) before dialing.
  • Dial each letter and each number carefully; being sure that you let the dial spin back freely.
  • If the line is not busy, you will hear a “burring” or ringing sound at intervals. It is considered a courtesy, to allow a telephone to ring at least ten times (which equals approximately one minute) before assuming the person is not at home. This ringing will continue until you hang up your receiver or until called party answers.
  • If the number you are calling is busy, you will hear a “buzz, buzz, buzz” which is known as a busy signal. The signal indicates that the line you are calling is in use and you should hang up and call again later.

In 1957 Sherman became the first independent telephone exchange in the state of Texas to provide subscribers with the capability to dial their own station-to-station long distance calls - this new era brought a new phrase - area code.

1960 marked the beginning of the All Number Calling system which used seven-digit telephone numbers rather than traditional letter prefixes and number.

In 1968 the three-digit 911 number was reserved for emergency reporting throughout the US.

The first undersea telephone cable was laid on the bottom of the North Atlantic in 1955. This cable provided better telephone service between Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. 

Phones of the Period

Dialing Pencils Yellow pencils (mid-1950s to mid-1960s)

These pencils with wooden knobs in place of erasers were given to the General Telephone customers by its business offices. The wooden knob could be used to dial numbers on a rotary dial telephone but the user was reminded to use the writing end to make a note of telephone numbers.

Automatic Electric Desk-Type Telephone Automatic Electric Desk-Type Telephone (1959 and later)

Automatic Electric Desk-Type Touch Call Telephone Automatic Electric Desk-Type Touch Call Telephone (1968 and later)

Automatic Electric Type 880 Speakerphone Automatic Electric Type 880 Speakerphone (1968 and later).

This phone was used for hands-free communications.

Automatic Electric Desk-Type Styleline Dial Telephone Automatic Electric Desk-Type Styleline Dial Telephone (1969 and later)

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