Communication with the outside world was by either mail or telegraph service provided at the railroad depot.
Then came along an Indiana native, John H. Evans, and his wife, Estelle, both of whom had work experience in the fledgling telephone industry. After receiving a grant from the Railroad Commission, the predecessor of the Public Utilities Commission, they set about to provide Patterson with phone service.
The Evans Telephone Co. commenced providing service to 39 subscribers on Jan. 10, 1913 — 100 years ago next week.
The first office was in rented space on Del Puerto Avenue at about the present location of Curl World. The couple, who had moved here after a short stay in Newman where he worked for the Bell system, lived in the back of the office with a baby daughter, Virginia.
The new company listed an investment of $1,500 for equipment, including 133 poles, 12 miles of aerial wire and 30 miles of cable. It provided 24-hour service for $2.50 a month for a single-line business phone, $2 for a single-line residential phone and $1.50 for a four-party line. These rates continued for more than 40 years.
The switchboard was a three-station combination battery and magneto piece of equipment operated by Estella. John handled the installation of phones and maintenance of the lines.
The Patterson Irrigator had the distinction of having “1” as its phone number. Hotel Del Puerto was 2, the Bank of Patterson 3, Yancey Lumber Co. 10, Dr. A.M. Field 28, and so on. Sharing the first four-party line were J.E. Johnson, E.R. Gordon, Robert Shimmin and James Rouse.
In 1919, John was named to Patterson’s first City Council and soon became its first mayor.
It wasn’t until 1920, however, that a direct physical connection was made with Pacific Telephone and Telegraph and local subscribers could make long-distance calls.
Founder John H. Evans died in 1932 at age 57, but Estelle and Virginia carried on the business. Economic times were hard, and in 1933 the company had only 413 total phones in service after 58 subscribers discontinued use because of the cost. Calls dropped dramatically, from 62,000 in 1932 to less than 29,000 the next year.
But hard work prevailed and technological upgrades were made over the years before the locally owned utility was sold to a large firm more than a decade ago.
It all started 100 years ago next week.
— Ron Swift, curator, Patterson Township Historical Society museum