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As It Was: Klamath Falls Gets First Automated Dial Telephones

Pacific Telephone and Telegraph announced plans to build a large new telephone office building in Klamath Falls in 1930, but the company delayed construction for a decade as the Great Depression dragged on.
In 1939, phone customers learned they would not only receive new dial telephones, but also get new four-digit phone numbers. 

The switch to dial phones, served by automated equipment at the telephone office, forced many switchboard operators out of a job, although a handful were needed to serve rural party-line customers with manual-crank phones.  Anyone calling from within the city to a rural number would dial zero and ask the operator for connection to the rural line.  Some operators continued making long-distance connections.

Klamath Falls, for more than 25 years Oregon’s leading boom town in the early 1900s, was proud to have the fourth-largest local telephone system in the state in 1940.  Only Portland, Eugene and Salem had larger systems.  Klamath Falls had excellent connections to the rest of the nation, as the West Coast’s main long-distance line ran through town.

Microwave towers arrived in 1958, followed by fiber optic lines in 1995.

Sources: "Telephone Office Reveals $500,000 Building Project." Klamath News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 15 Feb. 1939, p. 1; "Dial ’phones coming." Klamath News, Klamath Falls, Ore., 10 March 1940, p. 12; "Klamath Falls to ‘Go Dial’ Saturday At Midnight." Klamath News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 1 June 1940, p. 10; "KF-Medford Radio Link Opened By Phone Company." Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 4 Aug. 1958, p. 7.

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.