ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Telephone Service



The first telephone was installed in 1877 by photographer John B. May, the line running from his office on Main St. to Turner Hall. 



John B. May began telephone exchange in Watertown and a 30-member switchboard was installed in his office.  Telephone #1 was installed in the Globe Milling office.  May later sold his telephone service to the newly formed Watertown Telephone Company with office on upper level of 101 E. Main.







During the coming summer the Wisconsin Telephone company will improve many of its lines by putting in metallic circuits. Such an improvement is contemplated between this city and Whitewater, via Jefferson and Fort Atkinson, a distance of thirty-two miles.   WR


04 03       RATES CUT

Our businessmen and others who use the telephone service are congratulating themselves that the Wisconsin Telephone company has cut rates one-quarter, beginning April 1. ’Phones now rent for $3 per month.



The Wisconsin Telephone exchange is now permanently located in the Post Office block.  The service throughout the city has been rebuilt and improved, notable change being the substitution of the "return" system for the old method of ground circuits.  A new switchboard holding 100 wires adorns the central station, and is used to nearly its full capacity.  The wires enter the station in cables, which overcomes the great network of wires formerly in evidence.  With the most modern devices in electrical appliances in operation here, the company claims Watertown now enjoys the very best telephone service obtainable.   WR


11 27       A gang of the Wisconsin Telephone Company's Iinemen are at work in this city altering wires and stringing new ones preparatory to locating the central station in the Post Office block.  We understand all wires will run into the central in one large cable.  Thomas Berry superintends the work.  Frank Beaulieu, employed on the telephone line force, had a narrow escape Monday evening from electrocution.  He had hold of a wire which crossed an electric light wire, and when the current was turned on at the electric light plant he received a severe shock which handled him quite roughly for a moment.  Nothing serious, however, resulted.   WR



10 12       The constantly Increasing business of the Wisconsin Telephone Company at the Watertown exchange necessitates the addition of another switch-board, which will be placed in position this week.  The new board will be entirely for the toll lines; ten of which pass through the local office.  It will be in charge of Miss Marie Mentink.  The board for local calls will be presided over by Miss Jennie Mentink, who will be transferred to night work. Miss Etta Toussaint will be night operator hereafter.   WR



08 04       Watertown should have cheaper telephone service if a company can be found which is willing to give it such.  The Wold River Promotion & Construction Telephone Co. has asked for a franchise for that purpose, and has been refused by our city council.  The committees to whom it was referred say that after due consideration they recommend it not be granted, but gave no explanatory reason in their report why it should not be given.  They may be right in their conclusions, but [what] the franchise asks for [promises] as published appears to us to be one that would be of great advantage to our people.WG




During certain seasons of the year it appears to us that the day operators at the telephone office in this city are overworked.  That class of work is very trying on the nervous system, and telephone operators should not be made slaves of.  We have repeatedly noticed that the operators at the Watertown telephone exchange have very trying positions to fill, and it looks to us as if they should have shorter hours to relieve the nervous strain on their systems.   WG



11 15       “HELLO” GIRLS

Nine hundred “hello” girls are studying the art of “telephonic elecution” so that soon none but pleasing voices shall be heard over the wires. The only trouble is that the sweet and well modulate voices are inspiring an epidemic of marriages.   WG



08 23       IMPROVEMENTS

The telephone exchange is to be enlarged and remodeled, a larger switch-board installed and a change made in the operating force which will be increased.  Under the new arrangements, Miss Mentink becomes clerk, and Miss Emma Jantzen chief operator.  Service will be greatly improved.



The manager of the telephone system was here Monday investigating the complaints as to the service, and hereafter, it is to be hoped that the wires will not be busy, the pauses between call and response not as long, and after waiting until one is ready to explode, a sweet voice will not come over the line: “Are you through?”    WR


12 12       IMPROVEMENTS

Extensive improvements are in progress at the telephone exchange and when completed, this city will have one of the largest and most convenient exchanges in the state.  The entire second floor of the post office building is to be occupied, and will be so arranged that the superintendent's office and the apartments for the male employees will be in the front end of the building, the operating room in the center and ladies' rooms in the rear reached by a side door at the south end of the balcony.  Each of the office apartments will be provided with lavatories and every appointment up-to-date.  A new large switchboard has already been received, as well as other necessary equipment for making it a perfect exchange in all the requirements for a first-class service.  The improvements are being made under the personal supervision of W. C. Stone, and it is unnecessary to remark, that nothing will be left undone to give the people of this city as good a telephone service as is possible to be obtained.




Three weeks ago, the Republican in the issue following the fire at the Brennecke residence contained a gentle criticism of the Telephone Company for not turning in the alarm to the fire department telephoned to the central office.  Immediately following the appearance of the article in the Republican, the Daily Times January 6th contained the following “Explanation.”


As an erroneous impression has gone abroad regarding the turning in of a fire alarm at the time of the Brennecke fire, the telephone manager wishes it corrected.  He says that since the introduction of the fire alarm system the telephone central has never been requested by the authorities to turn in fire alarms as previously done.  On the day in question, however, one of the operators was called up and told to turn in an alarm.  The manager claims the girl tried the west side house but got no response and she then notified the person calling that it might be quicker to turn in the alarm from the box and not wait.  If this be true the published statements regarding the affair are unjust to the operator.  Just censure is always admissible but unjust censure harms innocent people.


And on the 17th inst., the following local appeared in the Daily Times:


Telephone Fire Alarms.


Hereafter when persons wish to send in an alarm in case of fire and when the fire alarm box is not in the immediate vicinity they may send the alarm by telephone to the central station, giving the location of the fire and central will notify the fire department at both houses simultaneously.  This matter has been arranged with the telephone management by Chief Glaser, who requested that the public be notified through the press of the change.  Since the introduction of the fire alarm system but little attention has been paid to the method of notifying the department, but good service in this respect is now promised at the central telephone station.


The Republican does not claim that it brought about the change — but has a sort of a suspicion that it set the ball in motion which has resulted in good.




A telephone pay station has been established in the Deutsches Dorf Cafe, Main and North Third streets, where long distance telephoning can be done without going to the general office by depositing the charges in the phone receptacle.   WG




Upon a request of the Wisconsin Telephone Company to the city to enter into a new contract for telephone service at a higher rate to be furnished to the city, the Common Council at its last meeting directed the Public Buildings Committee and the City Attorney to investigate into the entire telephone proposition for the purpose of determining what would be just and right for the city to do under the circumstances.


It appears that the Wisconsin Telephone Company, through its agents, is working among private parties with a view of raising telephone rates for private services also, without consistent reasons.


In behalf of the Public Buildings Committee I would appreciate parties who have been approached by representatives of the Telephone Company, who consider themselves aggrieved by the demands of said Company, to communicate their grievances to the Public Buildings Committee so as to enable said committee to take proper action in the matter.


Dated April 13, 1910

H. Tetzlaff, F. C. Werner, M. D., Frank Kalina,

Members Public Buildings Committee

Chas. A. Kading,

City Attorney                  WG



     Telephone service in office of Dr. Adolph Hartwig 



12 19       FIRE ALARM CALL – From this date parties discovering a fire and notifying “central” at the telephone station, must state the exact location of the fire.  It is then the duty of “central” to at once notify both engine houses as well as the waterworks station.  – John Glazer, Chief.   WG




Monday evening in honor of the anniversary of her birth Miss Alma Neitzel entertained the day operators of the Telephone exchange at her home in Rockwell Street.  A delicious supper was served, covers being laid for 14.  The decorations were in red and white.  The guests present presented Miss Neitzel with a handsome cut glass bowl.    WG




The May number of the Bell Telephone News has a very good picture of Miss Emma Jantzen, chief operator of our local telephone exchange.  Under the picture is a brief sketch of Miss Jantzen as follows:  She entered the service of the Wisconsin company in 1901 and has held the position of chief operator at Watertown since 1907.  She has an enviable record of being out of service less than nine months.  During her period of service she has watched the Watertown exchange grow from three operators, handling only a few calls a day, to ten operators taking care of 1,700 subscribers.   WG


10 28       PLANS TO EXPAND

Announcements by the Wisconsin Telephone Company of plans to expand in the neighborhood of $15,000 to extend its facilities is an indication of the confidence the Bell Telephone System has in the future of Watertown.  And the fact that this big system considers it worthwhile to increase its investment here speaks well for the city’s past and present development, as well as its future.


In the present instance, the commercial engineers for the telephone company, who made an examination into local conditions, report that the city’s prospects are excellent.  While there has been nothing of the spectacular in the progress of Watertown, its industrial, commercial and social development has been steady and consistent and there has been a corresponding development in the local business of the telephone company.   WG





10 28       ATTENTION !

Please do not make telephone calls during or immediately after an Air Raid Alarm as it is essential that the lines be kept free for use by the Defense Authorities.  If your telephone rings, however, answer if promptly.  - 1943 Watertown Telephone Directory insert.



12 04       There’s a fascinating project of “weaving” under way these days in the Wisconsin Telephone Company’s central office building at 115 South Fourth Street.  The “loom” is a new long distance switchboard of the latest type, consisting of 12 operator positions.  The “threads” are thousands of small wires.  And the “weaving,” of course, is the intricate task of interconnecting these wires to form the switchboard’s voice paths over which Watertown area residents will carry on their telephone conversations with the rest of the state and nation, and with many parts of the world.  The “weavers” are Western Electric Company installers who are adept in these large-scale switchboard installations.  WDT




   114 South Fifth St.

In 1959 parking lot purchased by telephone company from the city for its 1960 expansion project.  Telephone company furnished the city a new parking lot on site of demolished St. Luke’s church on North Fourth St.




Reports which have been in circulation for some time relative to expansion plans of the Wisconsin Telephone Co. for Watertown, including introduction of a dial system, were revealed to members of the City Council at their committee meeting yesterday afternoon.  The company revealed plans for construction of an addition to its present building which is directly west of the Market Street parking lot.  In order to carry out such a plan the company would need the parking lot and has offered to purchase it from the city.  The addition would conform in color and design with the present building and would be two stories high.  It would be approximately 100 by 100 feet.   WDT



Councilman George Shephard said this morning that he believes the City Council will give favorable consideration to any proposal the Wisconsin Telephone Co. presents to the City Council relative to the proposed purchase of the Fifth Street parking lot for future expansion purposes by the telephone company.  The plan for a 100 by 100 building addition to the present telephone building, which adjoins the lot, was conveyed to the Council at a recent meeting but a definite plan and proposal are still to be given the councilmen.   WDT



The property of St. Luke's Lutheran Church on North Fourth Street, running through to North Fifth Street, is one of the sites that has been proposed as an alternate city off-street parking lot to take the place of the South Fifth Street lot in the event the latter is purchased by the Wisconsin Telephone Co. to enable the utility to carry out its recently announced expansion program.  That was reported to the City Council last night by the City Plan Commission which has been making a preliminary survey of possible sites to replace the present parking lot.   WDT



01 06       The Wisconsin Telephone Co. failed to have a representative at yesterday afternoon's City council committee meeting to outline a proposal relative to replacing the South Fifth Street parking lot in the event it is sold to the company for its announced expansion program.  City manager C C. Congdon in his letter to the Council outlining the agenda for discussion had stated that the company representative would be present.  But he did not appear and as a result the Council did not get information for which it has been waiting.  WDT


01 23       It was announced today at the office of City Manager C. C. Congdon, that the Wisconsin Telephone Co. now plans not to begin expansion work on its Watertown facilities until about April of 1960.  The telephone company is seeking to purchase the present South Fifth Street parking lot from the city for its expansion project.  Since it does not propose to begin expansion until 1960, the company will have ample opportunity to prepare plans and specifications for a new parking lot which it proposes to furnish the city on the present St. Luke’s property in North Fourth Street.    WDT




Dial telephone service is on its way to Watertown, the Wisconsin Telephone Company announced today.  In relating the details of the announcement, Hal Prey, manager, said that present plans call for a complete conversion here in the spring of 1962.  “Changing from a manual to dial-operated system is a vast undertaking,” Prey pointed out.  “It requires a great amount of time, manpower and equipment.”  The Watertown project presents an even greater challenge because the long distance equipment will be installed in conjunction with the dial equipment.  The total cost of the planned project will be about $1,420,000.   WDT



Informal negotiations for at least two more property purchases to eventually extend the parking facilities in the North Fourth Street parking lot, recently opened, have been underway here.  One involves the Grabow property, north of the present lot, fronting on North Fourth Street, and the other is the Hesse property in North Fifth Street.  Prices have been secured on both properties and Councilman George Shephard is preparing to bring the matter into the open at next week's council meeting. The Grabow property would permit the extension of Madison Street through to North Fifth Street.   WDT



Indications are that nothing further will be done, at least for the time being, on the question of acquiring a North Fourth Street property and a North Fifth Street property in order to extend Madison Street from North Fourth to North Fifth Streets.  At this week's council meeting, the council was informed that the price tag on the Theodore Grabow property, located at 123 North Fourth Street, is $15,000 and the tag on the John Hesse property, located at 120 North Fifth Street, is $14,000, making a total of $29,000.  This report, made by Acting City Manager Glenn Ferry disclosed that both property owners were willing to enter into a 90 day option at these figures, on the condition that they could retain the properties until July.  The price, in each instance, far exceeds assessed valuation.



Ground was broken today for the Wisconsin Telephone Company s new building addition, which will house Watertown’s dial telephone system.  The addition will adjoin the rear of the existing building at 115 South Fourth Street.  A ceremony marked the formal start of the project which will bring a completely new telephone system to Watertown, scheduled for spring of 1962.  Present at the ceremony were Glenn Ferry, acting city manager; James A. Fitzpatrick, city attorney; Edward Hinterberg, prescient of the city council; Ronald C. Moser, vice president of the city council; William V. Resneck; president of the Watertown Association off Commerce, John D. Clifford, publisher of the Watertown Daily Times, and Earl R. Maas, of the Maas Bros. Construction Co., Watertown.




A new look in telephones — a dial equipped instrument — made its appearance in Watertown today.  The instrument was installed in the office of Mayor Robert P. White.  Its installation signaled the start of work to provide all Watertown telephone subscribers with dial-equipped telephones, marking another step forward in the Wisconsin Telephone Company’s plans to bring dial service to Watertown.  A special crew of 12 telephone installers will be in the community for about one month to make telephone instrument changes in residences and business establishments throughout the city.   WDT


12 30       When Watertown telephone users are introduced to a new dial telephone system next spring, the “new look” in telephone numbers will also make its debut here, manager Giles Clark of the Wisconsin Telephone Company announced today.  The new numbers will be the latest kind — seven numerals.  This new metropolitan-type dialing arrangement, known as All Number Calling, is being gradually introduced throughout Wisconsin and eventually will be standard across the nation.  Notices of the new numbers are being mailed to residence and business customers this week. They will become effective with the Watertown dial conversion next spring.   WDT



01 10       Passers-by might wonder what is happening inside the Wisconsin Telephone Company building on South Fourth Street these days.  Huge crates and boxes are being hoisted into the building, and many new faces can be seen working in the area. These are the constituents for the installation of central office equipment, which began here a few weeks ago. When completed, the equipment will provide for an essential part of Watertown's new dial telephone system. The crates and boxes contain about 50 tons of numerous relays, switches, iron work and associated equipment necessary for the installation. This equipment is the "heart" or nerve center of the dial system which will begin serving local subscribers late this spring, according to Manager Giles Clark.   WDT


06 14       Everything is ready for dial telephone service in Watertown at the scheduled time, 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 17, Manager Giles Clark of the Wisconsin Telephone Company announced today.  The changeover from the present manual equipment to the dial switching system in the company’s building at 115 South Fourth Street will be accomplished in just a few seconds.  The entire operation will follow a closely coordinated plan.  At no time will telephone service be interrupted.  A staff of approximately 50 telephone people will take part in the cutover, simultaneously disconnecting the manual switching equipment and placing the new dial system into service.   WDT



01 07       A new high in the number of telephones serving Watertown was announced today by Manager Ron Gillard of the Wisconsin Telephone Company in his 1962 yearend report.  The present total is 7,600, an increase of 290 over the 1961 total. Customer calling at Watertown also increased, Gillard said. Latest figures indicate a local daily calling average of 16,300.  Long distance calls numbered some 3,400 per day.   WDT



12 26       Steady telephone growth in Watertown during 1964 has been reported by Manager William W. Carroll of the Wisconsin Telephone Company. He made his report public today. The total number of phones in the exchange rose by 3.5 per cent during 1964. Carroll explained, “There now are almost 8,100 telephones here.” To help handle the increased calls resulting from the added telephones, over $57,000 in dial switching equipment was added in the exchange’s office during the year. This brought the total plant investment of the Wisconsin Telephone Company in Watertown up over $4 million.   WDT




Watertown is one of two Wisconsin Telephone Company exchanges in the state which will be offered an experimental residence Direct Distance Dialing (DDD) service within Wisconsin at a flat monthly rate.  For customers who subscribe to the optional service here, it will be possible to dial station calls during certain time periods to anywhere in Wisconsin without regular long distance charges applying.  The flat rate for the experimental service will be $15 per month.  Customers can call as frequently as they wish each weekday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day, and on weekends from 12 noon Saturday all day Sunday and up to 6 a.m. Monday.   WDT



Mrs. Helen Fredrick, an operator for the Wisconsin Telephone Company in Watertown, was honored with a company citation at the Jefferson Country Club at noon today.  Mrs. Fredrick, rural route 1, Juneau, is credited with helping save the life of a woman, whose dog turned on her the night of Sept. 25, 1965.  Mrs. Fredrick received the call from the frantic woman and connected her to the Oconomowoc police department.  Calls for operator assistance from Oconomowoc are answered in the telephone company’s Watertown office . Police were unable to determine the victim’s name and address, but Mrs. Fredrick had obtained the first three numbers of the address and what sounded like a name — either the woman’s or that of the street — before the caller was driven from the phone by the engaged animal.   WDT




An anniversary took place in the early morning hours here today, but people celebrated the occasion.  One might ask why the anniversary went unnoticed?  The reason might be the ease with which residents can pick up their telephone and dial a friend or relative, almost anywhere in the country, is an everyday occurrence.  And yet, at 2 a.m. on June 17, 1962, the voice of the telephone operator saying, “Number please,” was replaced by the hum of the dial tone for some 7,400 telephones in the city as dial service went into effect.  On hand in 1962 were about 50 employees of the Wisconsin Telephone Company who disconnected customer lines from the manual switching equipment as they transferred the connections to the $550,000 dial equipment.   WDT



03 30       Wisconsin Telephone introduced a new method to streamline the processing of long distance calls placed from coin telephones today, according to Ron Walters, phone company manager. “In most of the 414-calling area, persons who place a customer-paid long distance call from a coin telephone will now be notified of the amount to deposit by a computer-like voice instead of an operator.”  Walters said, “The new equipment, known as Automated Coin Toll Service, automatically computes the charges for a coin toll call, announces the charges to the customer, counts the coin deposits and then completes the call.” Walters said the equipment for Automated Coin Toll Service is being phased in to service for nearly 18,000 Wisconsin Telephone public phones in the 414-area.   WDT



The Wisconsin Telephone Company office at 115 South Fourth Street, will be closed next summer.  All Watertown customer records will be transferred to a centralized unit in Beloit.  Art Jaehnke, district manager of residence service centers, said the firm's four local business office personnel will be offered other employment in the company. Installers, repairmen and linemen are working out of a central office in Ixonia which handles all Watertown and Oconomowoc work.  A small staff of maintenance officials will remain in the local facility, but no services will be provided for the public.  Jaehnke said the move toward consolidation of various customer business offices in the state was being made to take greater advantage of a new computerized system which eliminates most paper records.  The centralized Beloit office will handle customer telephone service activities involving sales contracts as well as customer billing and collection matters.   WDT




The state of the art product line may not be the easiest to understand for a lay person, but the philosophy behind one of Watertown’s newest businesses comes through loud and clear . “The best way to put it is that we want to be the best employer in Watertown.  We want to have stability,” said William Shier who with Enno Knief are the executives of Ennovation, designers and manufacturers of what they are calling “intelligent sensors.”  The company is located in the Wisconsin Telephone Company building, 115 South Fourth Street, which is being renovated into an office building equipped with a new digital telephone system.  Knief is president of the firm, Shier vice president.  Both men left Eaton Corporation in 1985.  WDT







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History of Watertown, Wisconsin