The first Corpus Christi telephone lines were established in 1890

Corpus Christi got its first telephone exchange in 1890, at the same time it got its first electric light poles. The Corpus Christi Electric Light Co., owned by Dr. AG Heaney, TP Rivera and John Stayton, also operated the telephone exchange.

AG Heaney received the first telephone in town, selecting 1 as the telephone number.

The following year, the Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph Co. purchased the telephone company, which was located in the two-story Headen Building at the corner of Chaparral and Schatzel streets (Dokyo Dauntaun now occupies the place).

AG Heaney retained this telephone number until 1938, when Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. employees replaced the old manual system with the rotary dial telephone system, which required a minimum of four digits in a telephone number.

As the company prepared for the switch of the 1938 numbering system, Dr. H.G. Heaney, son of A.G. Heaney, recalled the start of the telephone company when he was about 12 years old.

After:#TBT: Corpus Christi got its first TV channel in 1954

“If I remember…my mom called me and said my dad wanted to talk to me. I thought she was joking because I knew my dad was in the office. However, she insisted and led me to a strange-looking box hanging on the wall,” H.G. Heaney told the Caller-Times in 1938.

“Imagine my surprise when I heard my father’s voice on the phone.”

And speaking of telephone exchanges, were you a YOUlip, ANDterminal or ULyes ? Check an old city directory or phone book and you saw the phone numbers start with two letters and then display numbers. Need to call Sears on Leopard Street? Simply dial TU 4-2892.

The Tulip (88) exchange was created in 1938 but only needed to be used around 1954 when Terminal (83) and Ulysse (85) were created. They were followed by Webster (93) in 1959, and Windsor (94) and Wyman (99) in 1964. Exchange names began to be phased out around 1967.

Johanna Weidenmueller, later Johanna Luther, was among the first telephone operators when the business started in 1890. In a 1938 interview, the reporter asked if the “telephone girls” knew all the local gossip while operating the three-section standard.

“Nope!” Weidenmueller exclaimed. “We were pretty good at NOT listening to conversations. Not that there was less gossip in those days.

She only lasted a few months at standard before being asked for a higher position. Bureau chief John Musset left for another job, and with no replacement training, someone suggested Weidenmueller replace him. Some of her friends expressed horror at taking on “man’s work”, but she got to work easily and managed the three operators (two for days, one for nights) and all linemen, as well as hiring and billing.

After:#TBT: Corpus Christi’s first local radio station went on the air in 1929

The Western Union telegraph office also operated from the same building, with Max Luther in charge of the telegraph office. Soon sparks flew between the two managers and the couple married in 1892, and Mrs. Luther left the telephone company the following year.

As for the telephone company, the office moved to Lawrence Street at Lower Broadway in 1911 and to 406 N. Carancahua St. in 1938.

Allison Ehrlich writes about things to do in South Texas and has a weekly Thursday column on local history.

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