gmhTODAY 17 gmhToday Nov Dec 2017 - Page 93

In 1966, the Board of Directors of the Gilroy Telephone Company marked the end of an era as they pose in front of the company office on Eigleberry Street. It was the final meeting of the private company which was sold in 1967 to the Golden State Telephone Company. The Gilroy Telephone Company had been in existence since 1891. Left to right: Charles Schemel, Don Malinoff, Sig Sanchez, Don Strahl, Dr. Elmer Chesbro, and Art Bannister. full-time operators. With an investment of two and a half million dollars, the company served 4,300 customers. At the time, the company’s Board of Directors included Cecil Carlyle, Arthur Chesbro, Sig Sanchez, Dr. Elmer Chesbro, John B. Scherrer, Elmer Weymouth, Charles Schemel and Mabel Schemel, both relatives of Jules Schemel, one of the early phone company organizers. For many years, Donald Strahl served as company manager. Plans finally materialized to switch to dial telephone service. For the better part of a year, customers were encouraged to turn in their old phones and receive the new dial-operated models. Each household got a new number, with the local prefix Vinewood. There would be no more operator-assisted calls and no more party lines. At midnight on July 2, 1955, the old switchboard on Monterey Street was shut down and calls transferred to the new switch room at the Eigleberry Street facility. Dial service officially began. By 1957, after two years of speedier, more economical dial service, the new operation proved so successful that the company reduced telephone rates for its customers. Gilroy enjoyed a quiet moment of national recognition in the modern direct dial telephone system on August 19, 1956 when the first long distance telephone call west of the Mississippi was direct-dialed from Gilroy. The feat was enabled by an investment of $53,000 in complex electrical switching and recording gear known as automatic toll GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN ticketing equipment. The direct dial service brought Gilroy to the front of the era’s modern communication services. By the 1960s, the employee count increased to 28 full and part-time operators who worked in shifts around the clock. The private company’s service by then had expanded to encompass San Martin in the north, stretching south to the San Benito County line, extending over to Bell’s Station in the east and to the Mt. Madonna area in the west. Until that time, outlying rural telephone service had been covered by small independent farm lines serving San Ysidro, Rucker, and Redwood Retreat, where residents shared a total of eight party lines. By 1965, the telephone company was able to guarantee uninterrupted service in the event of an electrical power fail- ure via a diesel generator operation. Mobile car telephones were just coming on the market, with local service from a base station on Cañada Road. Progress increased when the first electronic IBM business machines were installed. A taping system that recorded the time and number of each call enabled accurate billing, processed by the Continental Telephone Company regional office in Bakersfield. An era came to a close in 1967, seventy-six years after a group of 125 Gilroy subscribers first signed up for day- time telephone service. The profitable and reliable Gilroy Telephone Company sold to the Golden State Telephone Company, thus concluding a proud and thriving period of local ownership. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 93