Here is the huge switchboard rushed here from Antioch, Ill., over the weekend. It has been pushed into position at the north end of the General Telephone Company building. A wall at the far end, which separated a conference room from this area, was ripped out to make room for the board.
Party Lines For Residences But Private For Doctors, Businesses
Restoration of telephone service in the form of four-party lines and private lines for doctors, businesses, and PBX boards in industries and other busnesses was promised her Monday within two weeks.
Arrival late Sunday Night of a 3,500-line, 28-operator switchboard from Illinois Bell in Antioch, Ill., to go with a 1,200-line board rushed here by Michigan Bell, and an 800-line unused board from Wakarusa, Ind., will make the service possible, W.P. Rigdon, Richmond manager for the fire-wracked General Telephone of Indiana, said Monday.
All restored services will be manual. Lifting of a receiver will being the voice of an operator.
About 13,000 customers, involving more than 20,000 phones, will be given manual service.
Some 3,000 customers with about 6,000 phones, now served out of substations, and who have at least restricted service even after last Thursday's fire, will be able to make connection with other phones in the city.
Will Be Two SystemsIn effect, there will be two systems. One will be a manual operation involving numbers which formerly started with 962, 966 and 969. These numbers will be changed to 5 and 6 digit numbers. New directories are in the process of being published.
The second system, which will remain automatic, will involve those phones in the substation areas. Their numbers will continue to start with 935, 973, or 957 and will be unchanged.
A person in the manual system will get an operator by simply lifting a receiver. A person in the substation area will have to dial zero to get an operator. But the two systems will be interlinked.
It is hoped to have the restoration of service, on the basis outlined, by no later than the weekend of Feb. 20-22.
How long it will be before the automatic system, as Richmond has known it for the past half century, is restored remains to be seen, but Rigdon said that it will not take a year, as some has said, or feared.
"Just how many months I can't say," he added.
Meanwhile, service was being restored to more critical users.
Substation patrons still have contact with each other and with an operator.
Those in the completely knocked out areas still have nothing.
But the Civil Defense radio center remains in operation at City Hall and Citizens Band operators are still standing by and delivering messages.
This problem has cropped up.
Too many messages minor in nature, or involving tasks which can be handled by persons themselves, are being pushed off onto the radio hookup, which Mayor Edward L. Cordell said should be stopped "because there just aren't enough people to go around to become ordinary messenger boys."
Service is still being set up at additional stations over the city, formerly pay stations. There are more than 200 of them and eventually all will be in the manual service.
At present about 75 have been so equipped. Each has had a large sign with "Emergency Telephone" in red letters. New signs will say "Working Telephone." The phones can be operated without charge unless a long distance call is involved.
Main Street Space UsedThe telephone company also is moving its long distance calling center, which up to now has been maintained in the lobby of its building at 31 North Ninth St., to a vacant room at 712 Main St., on the North side of the street, arranged through the help of Ken Grover, local realtors president. It will be called the Main Street Telephone Center.
That will alleviate the situation at the main office. The new center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When it is in complete operation, the telephone office will restrict its hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Rigdon said the firm is working around the clock to get "the most service the fastest."
He said that when the manual service goes into operation, it will be necessary for the public to remember that calls should be no longer nor more frequent than necessary because of the added number of party lines which will be in effect.
Rigdon said that the cause of the fire still remains unknown. No other damage figure has been given other than it will be in excess of $1 million.
The switching room, where the crippling blaze broke out last week, has been sealed off temporarily. There is sufficient space in the building to care for the equipment needed to put the manual operation in effect.
Rigdon said the 10-ton switchboard from Illinois arrived here "in good shape" and trunk line cables are being strung to it.
Glen Lauher, traffic engineer for General Telephone Company, knows more about the new 3,500-line switchboard than most people here. He was an employee for Illinois Bell and was assigned to the job of removing the board from service in Antioch, Ill., in 1961.
He said Sunday night he never expected to see that equipment again. Now he will be helping to wire it into the local setup.
Charles Yount, president of the Richmond Common Council, and Mayor Edward Cordell Monday called on councilmen to lend a hand with the Citizen Band Radio and Amateur Operations this week during the telephone emergency.
The councilmen are asked to meet in the mayor's office at 7 p.m. Monday night to work out a schedule of hours.
The Monday night meeting will be a briefing on duties, hours of work and how the Citizens Band and Amateur Radio operators are handling emergency calls.
In a message distributed Monday morning Yount said:
"Many of our volunteer workers have been extended to the limit of their physical capacity and some must return to work for economic reasons. I am asking each of you to help during the telephone emergency.
"We need to have a representative of the city work at headquarters in the City Building from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to help coordinate activities."
Mayor Cordell said members of the council had volunteered earlier to help out in any way they could be of assistance but up to the present time the have not had to be called upon. However, since many of the volunteers who have been working will not be available now, we need their assistance.
Transcribed by James E. Bellaire
Copyright 1965 Palladium-Item