The first time I got to share some of my images with the Fort Collins community was in 2007 when Barbara Fleming and I did a series of articles for the Fort Collins Now newspaper, which is no longer in business. The November 24, 2007 article was on the Fort Collins Telephone Exchange. I was surprised at how early telephone service came to Fort Collins. Here is the image we used, a real photo postcard that was postmarked January 2, 1911. It is followed by Barbara’s article.
“A telephone in the home, trumpeted the 1920s newspaper advertisement, was ‘better than a revolver’ should an intruder break in. The caller had but to pick up the phone, respond to the question, ‘Number please?’ and ask for the police, whereupon the operator made a connection and the police were on their way.
“In the beginning, though, this was not possible. When telephone service came to Fort Collins in 1880, one phone was installed, in a drugstore. In 1887 city hall was connected to the water works so that more water pressure could be requested in case of fire. Then a few more connections were made, between City Drug and owner Frank Stover’s home, between the county clerk’s office and the [A. W.] Scott residence and between the railroad depot and the Tedmon Hotel. Mr. Stover, however, could not call Mr. Scott.
“Gradually, despite scoffers who dubbed the telephone a silly toy or an unnecessary luxury, the device caught on. In the 1890s, you could actually talk to someone in a nearby town – even in Denver – though that could take up to four hours. Installers could be seen riding around town, bicycles laden with telephone equipment. In 1902, a telephone exchange on College Avenue made it possible for Mr. Stover to talk to Mr. Scott at last (if he so desired). Most phones were business lines, with numbers like Red 35 and Black 315.
“Operators like those seen here were the heart of the telephone system. During the blizzard of 1913, when the whole state was shut down for several days, they made their way to the exchange by horse and buggy, heroically staying on the job for three days.
“Switchboard operators worked in the phone exchange until 1975, when dial phones made their jobs obsolete – nearly a century after the first phone came to town.”
Sometimes real photo postcards come with interesting messages on the reverse side that give us a glimpse into what it was like to live in Fort Collins in earlier times. Here’s the note that was on the reverse side of this postcard, mailed to Mrs. Perry Shafer in Pleasanton, Kansas.
Postmarked January 2, 1911
“I will write for Cora as they are all shut up. Jess has got the small pox, her aunt [is] a bit sick, but I or Jim or Walter can’t go home. Bill is up and around but is [doing] very poorly. I will keep you posted if they get any worse.
“Yours R. E. Stone”
Sunday I’ll post a photograph of the start of the July 4, 1911 motorcycle race. I think you’ll enjoy it.