Over the course of 1907, the future arrived Santa Rosa. The 20th century came late, and not because of the big 1906 earthquake; that disaster actually thwarted meaningful progress and entrenched the town in its 19th Century ways, as hashed over in an earlier essay. But finally by 1907, ownership of an automobile was no longer such a novelty that the newspapers always reported the purchase; electrical service was reliable (well, reliable-ish); and most of all, private telephones became ubiquitous appliances.
Just a couple of years earlier, there was an average of about one phone for every ten residents, and lines were shared with several other homes. Now in 1907, even two-party lines were to be rare because more telephone numbers were available (three digits, now!) and prices were reduced – although still expensive by today’s standard. Then residential phone service was $1.75/month, the equivalent to about $41.00, adjusted for modern inflation.
But for some, telephones created an early wave of “future shock” – anxiety over rapid and widespread introduction of a new technology – which in this case, was being unsure that you knew how to use a telephone “correctly.” Some even had trouble communicating with the local “number, please” operators who did the actual technical work of making the connection, as joked about in a 1906 humor item. The two instructional items below (reprinted uncredited from elsewhere) provide a list of rules for having a proper telephone conversation and discusses the etiquette of ending a call, while bemoaning that “the undignified ‘Hello’ seems to have come to stay.”
MANY PHONES IN USE
There are 870 telephones in use in the City of Roses at present. This number almost approximates the number of phones that were in use here before the April disaster last year, and in the near future it is expected the former record will be exceeded. There is a constant increase in the number of subscribers…– Santa Rosa Republican, March 15, 1907
TELEPHONES ARE ADDED
Two-Number Phone Contracted On Main Line
Manager H. S. Johnson of the local telephone office stated Wednesday afternoon that there are a great many contracts being made these days by patrons of the company for the change from party lines to main lines. The work of the changing to the mainline system has progressed so rapidly that already all of the two figure lines have been contracted for and they are now making contracts for the three figure phones. The recent reduction in telephone rates has had a good effect upon this part of the business, and soon they are to issue a new directory giving the changes…
After the canvass for the main line business has been concluded, the representative will be put to work on the party line business and it is expected that there will be a great many people who will desire to change lines carrying fewer number of phones, and this will tend to greatly improve the phone service of the city.– Santa Rosa Republican, July 25, 1907
SOME CHANGES IN THE PHONE SYSTEM
Two Party Lines Are to Be Adopted–New Directory to Be Issued Very Soon
County Manager H. S. Johnson of the Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph Co., is now engaged in getting the Santa Rosa business into shape for the new directory soon to be issued which will contain the names of subscribers and their street numbers as well. The work is quite extensive and means a lot of labor but will prove of great benefit and convenience to the patrons of the company when once completed.
Preparatory to doing anything in the matter, it has been decided that all four party lines shall be raised to two party lines, so as to do away with the ringing of the bell unless the subscriber is wanted. It will also lessen the complaint of “line busy.” The Company has recently granted a reduction in independent and two party lines, both business and residences.
This latter move has proved extremely popular with patrons, although it has meant quite a heavy loss in revenue for the time being to the Company. Later the loss will probably be made up in the increased number of such ‘phones used. Prior to the fire the price for individual business lies were $3 and now they have been reduced to $2 per month. The two party lines in use prior to the fire were $3 for business houses. Now they are $2.50. For residences they were $2.50 and now they are $1.75 per month. Another concession has been made to the patron of the Company, as a desk ‘phone is now placed, if more convenient, without extra charge. Previously there was a charge of $1.50 per month for a desk ‘phone in addition to the regular rental for the class of ‘phone used.
A number of canvassers are now at work seeking a renewal of the contracts under the reduced charges and are meeting with ready acquiescence all along the line as soon as the plan is fully understood. The work of making the changes in the system is already under way and as fast as possible all lines will be worked over into the single and two party system. There will be no more four or ten party lines accepted.
A temporary ‘phone directory is being prepared to meet the demands made necessary by the change from the four to two party lines, but as soon as the system is arranged a complete new directory with the street numbers will be issued by the Company in Santa Rosa. It is expected that the work will be completed by the first of the year.– Press Democrat, November 8, 1907
YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO TELEPHONE
One of the assets of the man who does business today is his telephone voice, provided he knows how to make a good impression when he talks over the wire. All sorts of affairs are now conducted by telephone, but the importance of telephoning in the proper way is often overlooked by business men who would on no consideration permit a poorly typewritten letter to leave their offices. Take the trouble to fix firmly in your mind half a dozen simple rules, put them in practice and see if your telephoning conversations are not made of increased value in your business. Here are the rules:
1. When you are talking by telephone to a person in your own town, speak in an ordinary tone of voice. Do not whisper into the transmitter, but, on the other hand, don not shout at the instrument as if you had a grudge against the telephone system and everybody who uses the telephone.
2. When you are using a long distance line elevate your voice and speak a little louder than you would speak to a man in the room with you. This does not mean however, that you should try to make noises as loud and discordant as those produced by the calliope in the circus parade.
3. Besides speaking distinctly avoid talking too fast. There are orators who reel off words at the rate of 300 a minute, and still make themselves understood, but they couldn’t do it by telephone.
4. When you telephone devote yourself to telephoning. When you write a letter you do not at the same time look out of the window to see who is going by on the other side of the street. If you turn your back on the telephone and send your words flying hither and yon all over the room and into the great world outside, It is not fair to blame the apparatus and the man at the other end of the line if he does not hear distinctly all that you say.
5. Remembering rule 4, speak directly at the transmitter. Don’t get so near it that you seem to be trying to crawl into it. Neither should you keep it at arm’s length. It won’t hurt you. Sit or stand so that your lips re about an inch from the transmitter and your words will go flying on their own journey without trouble.
6. If you are using a desk telephone don’t hold it upside down or at all sorts of odd angles. The desk telephone was made to do its work while standing on its own base or held in a perpendicular position. You should not expect a thermometer to be accurate if you hung it wrong side up. Why not use the telephone as it was intended to be used?
Moral: Should you think at first that it really does not make much difference how you do your telephoning remember than an average of 16,940,000 telephone conversations pass daily over the lines of the Bell system and that three million people in the United States are subscribers to the service. That in itself shows how great [a] part of the telephone plays in the daily life of the American people. Personal appearance counts in the business world. It is important to make a good appearance when you meet a man face to face. It is equally important to make a good impression by telephone.– Santa Rosa Republican, May 7, 1907
The Undignified “Hello” Seems to Have Come to Stay.
“How do you ever stop a conversation with a girl over the telephone?” asked a worried oung man the other day. “Grace X. called me up last evening to tell me that she had heard frome somebody I was interested in, and then we talked along in a desultory way, while I was wondering how I was ever going to get into my dress suit and call for Ethel in time for the opera, and Ethel dotes on the overture. I didn’t think it was my place to say ‘goodby,’ and Grace evidently had nothing pressing on hand and felt sociable, and there I was. At last she seemed to reflect that I might have something to do besides gossip with her and she rang off, but I was fifteen minutes late at Ethel’s. The matter was not made better with her when I explained that I had been detained by Grace at the telephone.”
It is the place of the young lady to stop the conversation. The younger should always wait for the elder of two men or two women to end it.
And beware how you call the name of your unseen friend until you are sure. The other day a young man responded to a ring and, after a moment’s talk, exclaimed, “How good in you, Emma, to call me up!” Coldly came the rejoinder, “This is not Emma; it is Gertrude.” Strained relations marked the rest of the interview.
The undignified “Hello” seems to have come to stay. Nothing better has been proposed in place of it, but when we can substitute “Good morning” or “Good evening” let us do so.– Santa Rosa Republican, June 3, 1907