One Ringy-Dingy

Your Postcard from

Just for fun, put down your cell phone and recall when phone numbers were dialed in a circle. Do you remember when your friends’ numbers were identified with exchange names such as…
LOmbard, MArket, JUniper, EXbrook, PRospect and SKyline?

San Francisco has had a long relationship with telephones. On January 25, 1915, Thomas Augustus Watson was at 333 Grant Avenue in The City to receive the first transcontinental telephone call, placed by Alexander Graham Bell, from the Telephone Building in New York City. President Woodrow Wilson and the mayors of both cities were also on the call. And in 1925, the PacBell Building at 140 New Montgomery Street was opened. The 26-floor building was The City’s first significant skyscraper, and remained the tallest building until the Russ Building matched its height in 1927.

In the 1960s, AT&T introduced area codes to replace the telephone exchange names. And in San Francisco in 1962, the “Anti-Digit Dialing League” was born. According to a Time magazine story, an outspoken member of the new organization was San Francisco State College Professor S.I. Hayakawa. He was quoted as saying, “These people are systematically trying to destroy the use of memory. They tell you to ‘write it down,’ not memorize it. Try writing a telephone number down in a dark booth while groping for a pencil, searching in an obsolete phone book and gasping for breath.”

Singer and songwriter Allan Sherman wrote a protest song in honor of the controversial area code issue:

If you want to know more about telephone history, talk with Wayne Merit, Curator of the The JKL Museum. Wayne says, “It is all about preserving telephone history.  And we have fun doing it.”

Best wishes,