History of Oregon Telephone Corporation
Oregon Telephone Corporation was originally known as the Dayville Canyon Telephone Co., which was organized by a group of ranchers in the Mt. Vernon area on April 17, 1914. Articles of Incorporation were signed in time to be sent off by freight wagon to the state capitol in Salem that same day.
The first stockholders meeting was held on May 23, 1914, with 15 of the original 25 shareholders present. Share value was $100 each. The first Directors meeting was held on June 11 of the same year naming J.C. Moore as President, and L.A. Porter, Vice President. Sid Green was elected Secretary and W.O. Cummings, Treasurer.
While the Company did hire workmen, when the treasury allowed such a luxury, poles were set and grounded lines strung by anyone with a free day to lend a hand.
On May 1, 1937, Robert W. Damon was appointed Manager and Helen Damon was elected Secretary and operator. While no salary was mentioned for Helen, Robert's salary was set at $.40 per hour and $.05 cents per mile for his pickup, the whole not to exceed $60.00 in any one month. This stipulation was somewhat moot however, as many customers paid their bills in the form of a butchered beef or pig, sack of potatoes or carrots, whatever could be bartered.
At the time Robert Damon became Manager, telephone service consisted of 35 magneto stations on five lines in the Mt. Vernon area. One of these lines was the long distance connection to the South Fork Telephone Co. at the community of Dayville, which included local service to the customers between the two towns. Another of the lines connected Mt. Vernon to Pacific Telephone Co's office which was located in Canyon City. This circuit also provided local service to the customers between these two towns. Long distance rates were $.25 to call Dayville and $.10 to call Canyon City/John Day. If a call was switched between two local circuits by the operator, the customer was charged $.05.
In 1940, Robert and Helen Damon acquired controlling interest in the stock of the South Fork Telephone Co at Dayville and the Company began operation of that exchange.
The Company faced a big challenge when electricity came to the Mt. Vernon area in 1952 and the grounded lines had to be replaced with metallic circuits. Again, with what money the treasury could provide and help from local residents, the crisis was averted.
The first dial service in the area was provided in the Dayville Exchange with the installation of a Kellogg Relaymatic Switchboard in 1950. Cable consisted of army field wire in "ring runs" that allowed the unheard of luxury of five party service within the town, 10 party in the rural area. These "cables" were later placed in all of the exchanges.
In June 1950, James Damon went to work for the Company and was elected President/General Manager on March 22, 1952.
On June 10, 1953, Dayville Canyon Telephone Co. purchased the Bradford Telephone Lines at Prairie City from Lester and Beaulah Bradford. Most of this system was served by "grounded" circuits. However, the biggest problem was that most of these lines consisted of the top wire on the fence. This worked surprisingly well given the fact that service was interrupted any time a local rancher had to open a gate. Most ranchers were aware of the telephone line and wrapped the wire together again very quickly, so the outage was generally quite temporary. Service was greatly improved when long 2x4's were nailed to each gate post and the wire placed over the gate.
In 1955, with some local circuits approaching 25 customers per line, an REA Loan provided funds to rebuild the systems in Dayville, Mt. Vernon and Prairie City, build a headquarters in Mt. Vernon, and install North Electric CX 100 switchboards in each of the three towns, replacing the magneto systems.
In 1953, consideration was given to changing the Company name. Since Pacific Telephone Co. had moved their office from Canyon City to John Day, and the Company now provided service in Prairie City, the name, Dayville Canyon Telephone, no longer was representative of the area the Company served. As a result, on November 30, Oregon Telephone Corporation became the corporate name.
In 1956, the Company placed dial service in the community of Bates which, at that time, had only two "toll stations" connected to the long distance circuit of Pacific Telephone Co. between John Day and Baker. Those that still work for the Company today think it worth noting that this system was placed in service during the winter of 1955-56, the coldest winter Eastern Oregon has experienced in many years. During the installation of station drops and connections, temperatures plunged to 52 below 0, taking a rather disastrous toll on men, equipment and tools. With 3 1/2 feet of snow on the ground and, to avoid the coldest part of the day, the system in Bates was cut into service at noon on January 12, 1956, while the temperature stood at a mere 32 degrees below 0.
On January 5, 1962, Oregon Telephone Corporation purchased the Juniper Telephone Co. from Paul and Claire Engle. This added the Hereford/Unity Exchange to serve the communities of Bridgeport, Hereford and Unity in Baker County.
During 1974, a new business office and switching center was constructed at Mt. Vernon. New switching equipment was placed in service October 4, 1974 offering Direct Dialing to all Oregon Telephone Exchanges. Six years later, in 1981, this same office was converted to a digital switch which included replacing the existing equipment at Dayville with a remote switch from the Mt. Vernon host.
In 1982, the Company placed 52 miles of buried cable, at a cost of slightly over $345,000 from the Hereford/Unity office into the Ironside area of Malheur County to serve 45 ranches that had never experienced telephone service.
In 2005 Oregon Telephone Corporation began deploying fiber to the home.
Oregon Telephone is constantly moving to update cable and provide the newest in telephony to our customers. Fiber optic cable is replacing much of our copper wire and Mt. Vernon will be one of the first communities in Oregon to rely on fiber optics alone. Unity is next on the list of communities to be receiving the updated fiber optic cable. Fiber optic cable brings improved line clarity, its more reliable and opens doors for many new services.
The Company offers custom calling features, High-Speed and Dial-up Internet service, voice mail and paging service with transmitters on Mt. Vernon Peak and Dixie Mountain. We also began offering Wildblue Satellite Internet service in 2006, which enables us to provide high-speed internet to even the most remote customers. No matter where you live, we now have a high-speed solution for you.