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Remember When: Sewickley’s 741 phone exchange began in 1961

August 8, 2018

Making news in the Herald this week 57 years ago in 1961:

• The big news this week, taking up much of the Herald’s print space, was the Sewickley switchover to seven-digit dialing as of 3:01 a.m. on Aug. 5. The new exchange -- 741 -- would replace the operator-assisted calls which previously used station names and letters to designate individual telephone customers.

• A Herald editorial noted that the Sewickley exchange had 14 phones in 1887 and 4,900 as of the 1961 switchover date. The explosive growth of telephone service had made names, with the first two letters as the code (such as in the Elizabeth Taylor film “Butterfield 8”), impractical as there were only 60 usable two-letter combinations on a rotary telephone dial. Sewickley avoided having a letter-coded exchange entirely due to Bell Telephone’s scheduling: the proposed name would have been Riverside, but the switch to all-number dialing happened first. Some government offices in Leetsdale, Ohio Township and Franklin Township continued to use letter-coded exchanges.

• Edgeworth resident Edward O’Neil’s family had had the same telephone number, Sewickley 3, since establishing home phone service in 1887. O’Neil had the honor of making the second “direct distance dial” call from the Bell Telephone 741 office to his wife, who was vacationing in Canada. (Burgess Laurence Gibb made the first.)

• A number of local businesses advertised “7-4-1 sales” in this week’s Herald. Gaetano Interiors on Beaver Street offered 25 percent off stock furniture in their showroom and warehouse; Hegner Office Supply Co. on Locust Place offered new Underwood Studio Portable typewriters for $95, a discount of $24.50. Gusky’s, a ladies’ wear shop at Beaver and Walnut streets, offered dresses and bathing suits for $7.41 each, while Miller’s Shoe Store had women’s flats at two pairs for $7.41. Isaly’s Beaver Street location advertised a 7-4-1 special on Klondikes, eight for 69 cents.

Find the entire Herald archive -- dating from the first edition of Sept. 19, 1903 -- on the Sewickley Public Library’s digital research archives at sewickleylibrary.org.

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