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W.H. Bonney founded the first Redland area telephone company in the early 1900s. He put in a single line system and called it The Home Telephone Company. Mr. Bonney went about his new venture in a very business-like manner. He had cards printed for his customers, which listed some rather interesting rules. He specifically stated no gentleman would use foul language over his telephones. It was an accepted fact that no lady would do such a thing. It is interesting to note that some of Mr. Bonney’s heirs are still active members of the cooperative.
The cooperative spirit is born
In 1906, the Home Telephone Company became Clear Creek Mutual Telephone Company. The stock that had been issued for the Home Telephone Company was transferred to the new company and additional stock was offered for sale. Old company records show $800 changed hands, and the cooperative was created.
The Redland telephone line ended at Green Point (where Redland Road used to intersect 82nd Avenue). It was a rather involved process to call an Oregon City number from the Redland area in those days. First, you called a number at Green Point where an operator would take down the Oregon City number and the message you wanted delivered. Then the operator would walk across the Abernethy Bridge to an Oregon City phone and complete the call for you. No calls were allowed by this method except in the case of an emergency. Later on the company paid a $20 fee for a hookup on the Park Place line, which gave Redland a direct connection to Oregon City.
Service was often a cooperative effort
In those days, the cooperative’s manager was responsible for maintenance of the system, and he had his share of problems. The lines were built along roads with a great deal of timber along the right-of-way. Limbs from the old growth timber were always breaking lines and cross arms. Wind would blow trees across phone lines and the roads. Snow or freezing rain would build up on the wires causing them to break. Cross arms and poles would go down from the ice and wind. But when there was trouble with the lines, farmers would often donate their time to help get the lines working again.
The original switchboard of the Home Telephone Company was in W.H. Bonney’s home. When the cooperative was formed, the office and switchboard was moved from home to home. The family with the switchboard assumed 24-hour-a-day responsibilities, handling emergency calls and the general communications needs of the community. Operator wages averaged $28 per month in 1912.
The growing cooperative needs office space
In 1927, an office was built near the Redland store (between the store and the present location of the Grange Hall). The new office housed the switchboard and the operator as well. Operator wages were $50 per month.
Helen Conrad, operator at the time, would later recall … “We had no bathroom or water…a kerosene lamp hung on the wall behind me so it could shine on the switchboard… the place was overrun by big rats… hours were from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M… after hours, it was 20 cents per call if they got their party.” Helen served as operator for the company for 15 years. She is fondly remembered by several long-time members as never failing to answer after hours calls or help people in any way possible – even when called upon to help round up stray goats.
Rubbering-in was common
Only party lines were available during this era and people soon recognized the ring for every family on their party line. It was common for six or more families to be on one party line. Since there was no radio or television, one method of entertainment and way to get news was to gently pick up the receiver and listen in, or “rubber in” as it was called then, whenever anyone’s ring was heard.
When one long ring sounded it was the signal for everyone to listen in. That was the general ring that the operator gave when there was an announcement of public interest to be made. It could mean the warning of a fire, notice of a school meeting, local road district meeting or it could give the date of the next basket social at the school.
Major upgrade of the lines occurs in the 1930’s
In the 1930’s, member Howard DeLano recalls: “I graduated from Oregon City High School in 1930. The Thirties were very tough times. We were in the Depression during those years. I wanted to go to college but I didn’t have sufficient funds and so I worked as a lineman for Clear Creek Mutual Telephone Company to earn some money. At that time electricity was just being introduced to the area. My job was to change the telephone lines from a ground system to a metallic system so you wouldn’t get interference on your telephone from the electric power coming in. It took about three years to change all the lines.” Howard’s father was manager of the company for several years during the late 1920’s and 30’s.
Direct dialing comes to Redland
In 1955, a new building was erected on the present site of the Clear Creek Telephone office. The switchboard was retired and a direct dial system was implemented. For the first time, callers could dial direct to Oregon City and Portland. Redland’s prefix was TE1. In 1983, a digital switch was placed into service; in 1991 the Company buried its first fiber optic cable. Today, a backbone of fiber optic cable circles the exchange providing an unsurpassed quality of telephone service to nearly 3,000 members. The fiber optics have also allowed the cooperative to offer a state-of-the-art cable television and broadband Internet services to members.
As we move forward, Clear Creek will continue to look at emerging technologies that will benefit members of the cooperative. The decision on whether to introduce these new technologies and service offerings will always be made with the cooperative’s primary goal in mind — to provide members with the services they want and expect at reasonable rates.
All of us at Clear Creek Communications look forward to the exciting times that lay ahead.