TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Early 'True' National Direct Long Distance Dialing?

Early 'True' National Direct Long Distance Dialing?
9 May 2005 08:00:52 -0700

Everyone knows that Englewood NJ was the site of the first subscriber
based Direct Distance Dialing, where the phone user could dial
directly himself long distance calls to other parts of the country.
This was in the early 1950s.

However, a review of the booklet given to Englewood subscribers shows
that only a few major cities were dialable. While a considerable
amount of population was reachable, a considerable amount of the
country's physical area was not directly diable and an operator was
still required.

I was wondering how long it took for most of the country (ie all
cities and most suburban areas) to be able to _receive_ directly
dialed calls from subscribers. That is, how long did it take for
Englewood to be able to dial more places?

Also, I was wondering how long it took for other towns to get DDD?
Was in phased in immediately after Englewood on a continuous basis, or
did they wait a while and see how Englewood worked out before
proceeding further?

My guess is that it took until at least 1960 for all of this to
happen. A great many small towns did not have full 7 digit phone
numbers. These had to be assigned to every town, and more
significantly, the intermediate switchgear set up to 'know' all the
new addresses. (For many years, small towns could continue dialing 5
digits for local calls and needed only 7 digits for long distance).

Also, there were considerable manual exchanges that had to be cut over
to dial, and differing dialing patterns of independent and co-op phone

Anyone familiar with the expansion of DDD in the 1950s?

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Well yeah, I remember a few cuts to
dial from manual service, and the pattern in how it was done was sort
of erratic, IMO. It was always on a Saturday at 2:00 AM as I recall
in each community but getting the Rate/Route tables updated sometimes
got done whenever. Often times also, the operators would call Rate/
Route for instructions and get told something like it was areacode
plus (fixed three digit exchange) plus 4-D. And you, the user could in
fact dial it in that way and get through, mostly, usually, but
sometimes not. Some places that were in GTE territory had tie-lines
to a large Bell city, such as (comes to mind) Lafayette, Indiana and
Fort Wayne, Indiana. Both towns were 7-D at that point, and the
former was right in the center of the 317 area, but Rate/Route would
say 'it is NOT area 317, it is 'Lafayette, Indiana'. A lot of the
smaller towns were in fact dialable _within their own towns_ but with
some dialing pattern which would not work from anywhere else. So to
call to Lafayette from Chicago, you had to ask your operator for
'long distance' and when she answered then ask for Lafayette (number).
Even though it was seven digits; then she would 'ring-down' to
Lafayette and repeat the requested number when the distant operator
answered. I remember going to Lafayette to see a friend of mine once
and while there I asked if I could call back to Chicago. He said it
was okay, 'but you have to dial the operator to reach it'. I did, and
when the operator answered I asked for 'Chicago, areacode 312' and
the operator cut me off at that point saying "I do not know anything
about it being 312, that's not how we do it." She did the same
ring-down routine, but this time at least it kept on ringing forever;
just like trying to call a middle east country in those days; the
operator only answered when she got ready, etc. In my case it rang,
and rang, and rang and rang ... finally the Lafayette operator pulled
the plug and said to me "I am sorry sir, Chicago is not answering
right now; please try later" (??!!!?)

Locally in Chicago, even though every exchange in town was dialable,
to call Northern Indiana (Whiting, East Chicago, Hammond area were
still manual) we had to dial 511 (from Chicago exchanges) to reach the
Hammond operators, 711 to reach the East Chicago, Indiana operators,
and 911 to get the Whiting operator. To reach my grandfather in his
office at the Standard Oil Refinery in Whiting, I had to dial 911
and wait (there was no audible ringing signal in my ear) while the
line 'clicked' a couple times then the old biddy operator would
scream at me 'Whiting!' and one could at that point either ask for
the 'official' number which as '2111' or more commonly just ask for
'Whiting Refinery' or 'Refinery'; the operator knew what was wanted
and made the connection.

My grandfather had two phones on his desk; one was the PBX phone
on the refinery switchboard, the other was a 'direct outside line'
but it was a Chicago 312 number, a 'foreign exchange' tie-line thing.
I think actually he had a six-button, five-line phone, one button of
which was his private line with the Chicago number on it, and one or
two of the buttons were extensions from the refinery PBX. On the
PBX, dialing '8' got you a Chicago dial tone, dialing '7' got you a
dialtone from the 'StanoTel' network, but when you dialed '9' you
had to just sit there and wait until the old biddy came on and screamed
'Whiting!' at you then tell her what you wanted. And of course '0'
got the refinery operator.

I was at his house overnight when Whiting was cut to dial, and I
wanted to test it out for sure. The telephone man had already put
dials on all the phones with a note saying 'dial not operational
until (some date) at 2:00 AM.' So, about 1:58 AM I lifted the
receiver, told the lady to give me '1234' which was the number for
the local movie house recorded message of coming attractions. I
tried it again at 2:00 AM exactly and got no answer at all. At 2:01
I lifted the receiver again, got dial tone, and dialed 659-1234 and
got the movie house hotline again directly. Just to satisfy my
curiosity more, then I dialed 659-2111, it rang a couple of times and
a lady answered saying 'Standard Oil Refinery'. So I knew it was
going to work as they claimed. Hammond had 'gone dial' about a year
before Whiting and although in Hammond, once it was dial, you still
had to dial 911 and have the biddy answer you; Whiting was able to
call Hammond numbers direct. When you told her the Hammond number
that you wanted, you would then hear a very fast beep, beep, beep,
boop sound and the number you wanted would start ringing. Same thing
in Chicago, but a few years earlier; I had some friends who could
dial me direct, but I had to use the operator to call them; that
was about 1950 or so, where Hammond/Whiting was about 1956/1960.

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