Ponderosa’s Historic Journey

Newspaper Articles  from the 1950s

From left to right:

  1. Photo caption: LINEMAN – Chris Castro, a converted cowboy, checks the junction box at the new dial station building in North Fork, preparatory to switchover

  2. Photo caption: MODERNIZED – Mrs. Clara Ashworth runs telephone tickets through a modern micro billing machine, part of the new equipment installed by mountain area telephone company. Bee Photos

  3. Article: North Fork will Get Dial Phones Sunday
    by Louis Evon, Fresno Bee Staff Writer

    NORTH FORK, Madera Co. – Fifty-one years ago, the telephone – a single line strung from tree to tree – was introduced to this mountain community. Sunday the only original subscriber still living in North Fork will make the first official call inaugurating the change-over to a modern dial system.

    William A. Ellis, 85, the original subscriber with the Bigelow Telephone Company, now the Ponderosa Telephone Company, says he will call Superior Judge David E. Peckinpah. Ellis, a Madera County supervisor from 1903 to 1927, used to drive a team hauling lumber and freight for the Peckinpah mill near North Fork.

    However, Ellis says his call will not be too official.

    “It’s just that every once in a while I like to call the judge and remind him I was at his father’s mill the night he was born.”

    180 Will Be Switched

    J.E. Bigelow, the president of the telephone company, which has its main office in O’Neals, said 180 telephones and four toll circuits will be switched over officially at 12:01 AM sunday.

    The first telephone line was strung from O’Neals to North Fork by Bigelow’s father, Harmon, who founded the company. The switchover from the old crank type magneto phones to the dial system is a part of the company’s improvement program. A similar dial system for subscribers in Auberry was ac- (End of clipping.)

  4. Photo caption: NEW SYSTEM – Jesse Bigelow, president of the Ponderosa Telephone Company, explains a diagram of the new dial system in Friant to Albert Weiss, Jack Myrick and Ralph Sinor, Friant businessmen, left to right.

    Article: 36 Year Patron Will Break In Friant’s Dial Telephoning

    FRIANT – Albert Weiss, who recalls when “the entire community had only five or six telephones,” will officially inaugurate Friant’s new modern dial system tomorrow at 11:01 PM.

    The changeover from the old magneto crank phones to the modern circuits is a part of the Ponderosa Telephone Company’s improvement program in its mountain service area.

    Weiss, a service station operator, the oldest subscriber in the point of time, had his first phone installed in 1924, the year he went into business.

    Amateur Messenger

    “Years ago,” he recalls, “before we had many phones around here, I was forced into delivering messages. People used to call my number and I would drive as far as1 2 miles to call the party to the phone or relay a message. I didn’t mind it too much, because most of the calls were emergencies.”

    He plans to place a long distance call to his daughter, Mrs. Albertine Mangan of Los Angeles, to initiate the new dial system.

    The initial changeover, said Jesse Bigelow, president of the telephone company, includes 80 phones. The improvements, including a building for the circuits, poles, wire, and cable, cost $90,000. It is the third phase in the company’s switchover to a modern system. The changeover was accomplished in Auberry last May and in North Fork, Madera County, last December. Similar plans are being made for improvements in Shaver and O’Neals, Madera County, the company’s headquarters.

    First Phone in 1910

    The first telephone was installed in Friant in 1910 when the Ponderosa was known as the Bigelow Telephone Company. Harmon Bigelow, the founder, in 1901 also established the Bigelow Stage Line which passed through Friant to North Fork and Sugar Pine in Madera County.

    Accompanying the new Friant dial system will be a 24 hour service. Under the former system the service was limited to 7 AM to 10 PM and emergency calls. The prefix will not be the usual name, but a number, 85.

  5. Photo caption:
    FAMILY CORPORATION – Jesse Bigelow, president of the Ponderosa Telephone Company, founded by his father as the Bigelow Telephone Company, checks the new four toll trunk like installation. His daughter, Mrs. Robert Silkwood, shown with him, is the office supervisor and chief operator. Bee Photos

  6. Article: Phone Cranking Yields to Dials in Pioneer Setup
    by Lou Evon, Fresno Bee Staff Writer

    O’NEALS, Madera Co. – One day in 1908, Mrs. Harmon Bigelow sent away for and subsequently received by mail order two telephones. A rancher’s wife, she wanted constant communications with her mother who lived about a mile down the road.

    That was the start of the Bigelow Telephone Company which brought telephone service to the mountain area and now, as the Ponderosa Telephone Company, is engaged in a $120,000 program to transform its crank type magneto phones into a modern dial system.

    Jesse Bigelow, president of the company, says the switchover to the dial system has already been made at Auberry and will also be made in North Fork, Friant, Shaver and O’Neals with a complete changeover expected by 1961.

  7. Photo caption: Working in the field to expedite the conversion are Troy Harris, Roy Vaughn (on pole) and Kenneth Castro, line foreman

  8. Article: New Phone Line in Operation

    Built by H.E. Bigelow one of O’Neal’s enterprising citizens, at a cost of $4,000, the new telephone line from Clovis to North Fork, Madera County, which has been under construction since last May, was completed last week and is now in operation.

    The completion of this line marks a new era in the mountain life in the Sierras, for its places the Sierras, from Trimmer Springs on the south, to El Portal on the North, in immediate telephone communication with Fresno and the state in general. Hitherto the only means of communication has been over the private line of the San Joaquin Light and Power Company, which has been of little benefit except to those in the immediate vicinity.

    The Bigelow line connects with the forest service telephone system at North Fork, and by doing this enables anyone to communicate with the valley from any forest service station. The forestry people have about 200 miles of telephone line.

  9. Photo caption: FIRST CALL – Albert Weiss will make the first call on Friant’s new telephone system. The old magneto crank telephone, shown with the new dial phone, will be eliminated. Bee Photos

  10. Photo caption: READY – William A. Ellis, 85, the original North Fork subscriber, gets the feel of the new dial instrument as he leans on the old crank type magneto telephone about to be replaced.

  11. Photo caption: Ponderosa Independent Telephone Company Inc.

    Description: This graphic depicts a former logo of Ponderosa Telephone Co. The words above are stacked inside of double-lined circle. A telephone handset rests upside-down in the middle of the circle, so that the word “Independent” arches across its handle.