Let’s talk about Clovis: history of the Clovis telephone service


In front: Lilly Gray, Frances Busick, Emi Whittaker, Betty Foster. Standing: Lutie Moore. (Clovis Museum)

Alexander Graham Bell obtained the first telephone patent in 1876. There were over 3 million telephones in the United States by 1904.

We extract information from “Those Were the Days” by CUSD in 1976, an undated article published by The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company faxed in 1996 by Fresno External Affairs and an article written by Dr Wilbur Beasley.

Robert EL Good (first Clovis merchant) established his store on the southwest corner of Fourth & Fulton (now Clovis Ave) in 1895. A telephone system was installed in his store in 1900 (?). Nora DeGraw, Bessie’s sister, was her accountant and she used the telephone jacks on the wall. The line ran from Clovis to Fresno.

An additional telephone line was also installed at Good’s to serve a stage line operated by Mr. Swartz. This line connected its stations at Academy, Letcher and Copper King Mine in Fresno.

Edward Webster built his two-story Webster Building (northeast corner of 5th and Pollasky) in 1904. He opened a pharmacy there and also established our first telephone office which remained there for about six years. .

Billy Atwood purchased the Webster Pharmacy and moved the contents (including telephone service) to the lower level of the two-story Harwell House built in 1902 at 423 Pollasky. Later, the Emil Prudek hairdressing salon moved there. A hairdressing salon continues there today.

Steve Titcomb (former Santa Fe RR employee and partially blind) became our first full-time telephone agent. His wife started running the Atwood Pharmacy. Titcomb was the telephone engineer where he established rural lines and was credited as the true father of our telephone system.

Bessie DeGraw Frazee Beasley was born in Lincoln Nebraska, in 1880. She married Steve Frazee, a pioneer in copper mining, who was killed in a mining accident before the birth in 1909 of their daughter Frieda. Bessie became a telephone operator for Mr. Titcomb for $ 4.00 per week in 1910. Bessie recalled that there were 36 telephones in Clovis at that time.

She and Titcomb took turns at the switchboard from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Titcomb’s five-year-old daughter was a skilled assistant when needed. She was renowned for her precision.

In 1912, the agency moved its standard to a position in a building behind Max’s Smoke Shop (location undocumented). Bessie became the manager and was assisted by two daughters and a night operator, Mr. Search.

Mr. Ghilotti built a duplex apartment building in 1922 near the southwest corner of Pollasky and 6th Street; now Bullard Ave. Clovis City Hall was on one side and Pacific Telephone Company on the other side.

The telephone office will remain there until the dial telephone system is installed in Clovis on August 13, 1953. The workforce at that time was four operators in service (12 operators in total) who made an average of 8,000 daily calls. .

The new Cypress 9 prefix was released around this time. The 1953 building remains at the northwest corner of Shaw and Pollasky.

In 1918 Bessie married pioneer car dealer Claude Beasley. Both were active / involved citizens of Clovis. Bessie retired as director in 1948.

Her son, Dr Wilbur Beasley, remembers: “She had gone from the old days of magneto-powered switchboards to switchboards. Literally thousands of calls were handled with a “Number, please … Another miracle happened in which operators had to listen to know when to say,” Are you done? And no scandal has ever arisen from their care. Professionals at heart, the secrets have been kept in the grave.

Ms. Lutie Moore would become manager when Beasley retired. She started as an operator at the age of 17 in 1916 and stayed until her marriage in 1920. She would return to work during the holidays. In 1925, she returned full time and completed 33 years of service.

Many of us remember the days when neighbors and friends didn’t have phones and phones were shared. Frustrating party lines in some areas would test Job’s patience. The operators left their posts to deliver an urgent message. The operators knew the location of our doctors and responded quickly in the event of an emergency.

Harry Balfe (New York millionaire who built the famous Clovis Balfe ranch in 1919) entrusted his number to Bessie and her daughters to monitor his calls. He would send his driver to deliver a box of candy to show his appreciation.

Bessie and Lutie (together) have provided 71 years of public telephone service to Clovis.

They and their staff have given us a rich heritage.


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