TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: More on San Francisco and Oakland Numbering

Re: More on San Francisco and Oakland Numbering
24 Oct 2005 13:29:03 -0700

Mark Roberts wrote:

> Thanks to the clipping files at the History Room of the Oakland Public
> Library, I have been able to pin down the date that San Francisco and
> Oakland went fully to 2L-5N numbers: August 10, 1947, a Sunday, at 12
> midnight.

> The Tribune referred to it on Saturday, which would have been August
> 9, of course, but it also is clear from the context that the
> switchover activities began on Saturday night. Either the Tribune's
> style considered the day to begin at 12.01 am, or there was some
> confusion when the story was edited.

It's nice they kept that clipping on file. I tried to find a clipping
describing the 1962 cutover of a manual exchange to dial but the local
library didn't have anything on it. While the New York Times and some
periodicals are indexed, local newspaper microfilm is not. If you
don't know a particular date of an event, searching for it through
microfilm is extremely tedious.

It's not surprising the newspaper made mistakes in reporting the
specific technical details. The reporter has to jot down notes really
fast and often are inaccurate, esp on those minor details.

I did find a newspaper for the day before the Philadelphia 2L-5N
cutover and the article was much simpler, as was the follow up.
Perhaps it was more described on earlier days.

> In other words, there was, for a time, 2L-5N-1L dialing to some
> exchanges!

I always wondered if that existed. When did party line letters go
away and replaced by individual dialable numbers? On SxS there was a
coding schema where one digit differed for each party, all others the

One thing that varied tremendously from place to place is dialing the
other party on a party line. Sometimes you dialed a special code.
Sometimes you dialed the number or part of your number. Sometimes you
asked the operator to do it. You then hung up, let the phone ring, and
lifted it when it stopped, or lifted it to stop ringing if no answer.

> Dialing instructions in the 1949 and 1951 directories indicated that
> cross-bay calling, e.g. Oakland to San Francisco, could be dialed only
> from "dial individual line business telephones" (except coin
> telephones).

I never heard of separate dialing instructions for business vs.
residence customers of the same exchange. Did that exist elsewhere?
Did they fell business customers would dial more carefully or be able
to pay toll charges?

> It has more than 333,000 unfilled telephone orders, also a second
> place record.

Bad problem throughout the U.S., took years to clean up. Many people
who get service were stuck with party lines, partly as a result of
inadequate CO capacity, not just local loop capacity. I wonder if
they were afraid of slow dial tone during busy periods and the use of
party lines was a way of rationing out service capacity. I wonder if
in those years they added new manual exchanges as a temporary fix
since cord switchboards were a lot cheaper and faster to install than
dial machines.

The famous Levittown communities had to make do with temporary corner
pay phones for a while.

> last conversion in the Bay Area, in Crockett on November 11, 1969.

1969 is pretty late for a dial conversion in a Metro area. Would
anyone know why that area took so long to convert? Was it a distant
rural area? The last Bell System conversion was Santa Catalina
Island, but that is a special situation, being difficult to ship.

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