17 gmhToday Nov Dec 2017 gmhToday 11 2017 - Page 92

Gilroy gets a Telephone Company, 1891 Written By Elizabeth Barratt W hen Gilroy’s first telephone service was installed in 1891, customers could only make calls during daylight hours. The office employed two female operators. After an entire workday spent connecting calls at the switchboard, the ladies had to go home, and the office was closed until the next day. Telephone service in Gilroy had begun when the Sunset Telephone Company of San Francisco added a line south from San Jose. To promote the new subscription service, salesmen arrived in town, knocking on doors, and signing up subscribers who paid a pro-rated fee based on an estimated two years’ usage. The Gilroy City Council granted a franchise to the company and service started with 125 customers. The new directory listed each subscriber’s name, followed by either the word, “Main,” meaning inside city limits, or “Farmers,” for the rural subscribers, who not only paid less, but received less for the service as well. In 1903 when the Gilroy Advocate got its own phone connection, the editor announced the event in the news- paper, promising speedier service, since subscribers could now reach the office by calling Main 181. A solitary long-distance fee local number was published in 1907 in the Gilroy directory. It linked the town to Henry Miller’s Bloomfield Ranch. Hilby’s Drug Store on Monterey Street provided space for the first telephone exchange in town. The office was 92 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN later moved to the rear of a book store belonging to Jules Schemel, but before long, added equipment and growth of services moved the operation upstairs. In 1904, tall telephone poles were installed in town and on the out- skirts. By then, a single line connected the town with Mt. Madonna, Henry Miller’s summer home. In 1911, a decade after telephone service was installed in Gilroy, twelve local citizens pooled their funds and purchased the service from the Sunset Telephone Company. Renamed the Gilroy Telephone Company, the new entity boasted a Board of Directors, officers and shareholders. With growth in subscribers calling for larger equipment, by 1915 the phone company hired local contractor William Radtke to construct a new telephone building at 7525 Monterey Street. Growth increased over the next several decades, with the private company adding modern equipment designed to keep up with increased usage. By 1941 plans called for dial telephones to replace the operator-assisted calls and party lines that were shared with one or more neighbors. These had to be put on hold at the start of World War II. The holding pattern continued until 1955, when the business outgrew the Monterey Street building and once again the company constructed a n Wrff6R&VBFP6&W"BsSsVvV&W''7G&VWBFR7G'V7GW&RG6Vb7F7FG26FVB7&72g&FRv&7Bff6RGW&pFRS2FRv&FVWR6VVB6dT$U"DT4T$U"#pvևFF6