DOWNEY – According to most records furnished by residents of the time, Downey got her first telephone around 1884. A second phone came in 1886.
The first toll phone was installed in William Steel’s merchandise store on Crawford Street about 1884. It was quite a task for Mr. Steel, the agent, to have all the messages delivered to homes or places of business, and the telephone was later moved to the livery stable of E.U. Skidmore.
Bicycles were principally used for delivering the messages.
In 1886, Porter Buchanan, who was a foreman for the Sunset Company, made the installation in the livery stable and by the early 1890’s William Morrow bought the livery stable and became the next agent.
Mention in the Sunset director of 1897, a toll phone was shown as being placed in a jewelry store on Crawford Street -- the business was owned by Mrs. Ed. F. Scribner.
In 1894, the independent Construction Company, under the direction of P.T. Spencer of Los Angeles, started the construction of a telephone system in Downey. By the spring of the next year, the exchange was opened and turned over to the Downey Home Telephone and Telegraph Company. Later it was incorporated on April 17, 1905.
The original installation was a two position Kellogg Magnito switchboard and later a three position was installed. The office was located on the second story of the Jennison and Strine Building. First operators were Miss Mamie Lyons and Miss Sophia Dunlap.
Fast forward to April 26, 1956 -- Downey has over 75,000 telephones on their exchange. Bob O’Leary, president of the Chamber of Commerce, placed the first telephone call in Downey that could direct distance dial out of the immediate area. We had come a long way.
If you want to learn more, come visit the Downey Historical Society.