Saturday, January 30, 2010


Thanks to those who sent in updates, additional information, and corrections.

These can be sent in either via e-mail or as comments.

Two updates of some significance have been reported.

  • A recently-retired long-time TPC employee has stated that in his recollection the Elkhorn and Waterloo CDOs were separate, discrete, and each located in their respective towns prior to 289 and 779 going ESS in the mid 1970s. I do recall that at one time prior to the cut, the same numbers could be dialed using either prefix. We may have to agree to disagree on this factoid until something in writing can be located.

  • A person 'in the know' reports that the Internorth Centrex on 633 was Centrex-CU using a local WECO Definity, as opposed to a Centrex-CO hosted off of the main switch as I had erroneously reported.

  • Late update: Another former TPCer reports that Council Bluffs did not use the Omaha time announcement service on 844-8111 and the 844 prefix was not dialable from Council Bluffs. Instead they had their own similar time announcement machine on 328-8116. This time announcement machine could also be reached from Glenwood, which at the time was not within the Council Bluffs calling area.

Thanks, gang, and keep those cards and letters coming.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The CDO's

Historically speaking, in the 1950s and 1960s the small towns surrounding Omaha in Douglas and Sarpy counties had local dial service, but very limited local calling areas. These communities were served by 'Community Dial Offices' consisting of smaller direct-control Step-By-Step (Strowger) facilities. These typically served anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand subscribers.

The switches in these offices were typically configured to allow 'permissive' 5 or 7 digit dialing. For a call within the office, the full seven-digit number could be dialed, but only the last five digits were actually required. 'Digit absorbing' first selectors in these offices permitted dialing plans such as this.

Party lines were very common in these offices until the 1970s, with the far rural areas having availability of four-party fully-selective service (ringer is silent except for calls to that particular subscriber) if they were lucky, but often times eight-party semi-selective (one long ring or two short) service only.

Ma Bell chose to avoid the frequency-selective ringers used by independent telcos which allowed fully-selective ringing for up to 12 parties on a single line. Instead they chose a system where the ringing voltage was applied to either one conductor or the other, in either a positive or negative polarity, giving four possible fully-selective combinations. To service eight parties, one-long and two-short ringer cadences were used.

The advent of Subscriber Carrier ('AML') in the late 1960s provided some relief for far rural subscribers, but the result was often that one lucky subscriber on each rural line received a private line, while all others were stuck with eight-party semi-selective service.

Bare copper open-wire lines, supported on wooden crossarms with glass insulators were still in use into the 1970s. As these were upgraded to either multi-conductor aerial or underground lines, the availability of single-party private lines became common in rural areas.

Around 1970, several nearby communities with existing CDO's were integrated into Omaha's toll-free local calling area. This made significant use of the 19th. St. Crossbar Tandem office. As phone 'enthusiasts' know, Step offices do not easily interface directly with Panel and some #1 Crossbar offices, making either a tandem office or a toll office a necessity to provide direct dial service between them.

Calls from metropolitan Omaha to these extended-area offices required the usual seven digits, and except in a very few cases, these calls were routed through the Crossbar Tandem. The outpulsing of dial pulses from the Crossbar Tandem to the Step CDO was clearly audible after dialing was finished.

Calls from these CDO's to Omaha numbers or other CDO's required the dialing of an access code, usually 5 or 7, in addition to the seven-digit number. The dialing of this access code caused the first selector in the CDO to seize a trunk to the downtown Tandem's dial-pulse receiver.

One-plus Direct Distance Dialing from these offices was available, but DDD calls were routed to a 'CAMA Intercept' operator to verify and record the calling number, since automatic number identification of the calling number was not possible with the Step type CDO equipment.

Trunking from the Tandem to the CDOs at the time used analog medium-haul trunks with hissy analog repeaters, and background noise and 'singing' on calls to and between these offices was not uncommon.

In the mid 1970s, these offices were converted one by one to smaller WECO ESS units, but it most cases the calls were still routed via the 19th. St. Tandem.

Although calls to metropolitan Omaha (including Carter Lake) were toll-free, calls to Council Bluffs were long-distance to and from these communities until the 1990s.

  • Elkhorn and Waterloo

    Originally, Elkhorn and Waterloo, neighboring communities separated by the Elkhorn River, each had their own local Step CDO. These were combined just prior to the extended calling area, resulting in the Elkhorn office serving both the 289 and 779 prefixes.

    An access code of 5 was required to dial numbers other than Elkhorn or Waterloo.

    Although residents of Elkhorn continued to be assigned 289 numbers, and residents of Waterloo continued to be assigned 779 numbers, the prefix codes were interchangeable and 'aliased' to each other as long as the office remained on the Step equipment.

    Due to the aliasing, the digit absorbtion, and the tandem connection, a local call from a 289/779 number to another could be dialed with 9 plus the last four digits, either 289 or 779 and the last four digits, or 5 plus either 289 or 779 and the last four digits.

    The Elkhorn CDO was cut to a #2 ESS around 1975. Some subscribers expressed dismay at losing the 5-digit 'shortcut' for Elkhorn and Waterloo calls. At this time 289 and 779 became discrete offices.

  • Bennington

    The Bennington CDO had a very large service area but only a few hundred subscribers in the Step CDO days, including the town of Elk City, and extending as far north as some parts of Washington County, including the unincorporated community of Washington.

    Only two levels of the 238 prefix were actually in service, with the 9000 level aliased to the 2000 level, allowing for only 1000 total lines.

    It was rumored, but not substantiated, that Ma Bell put the Bennington CO and facilities up for sale to another telco during the 1990s.

    An access code of 7 was required for calls to other communities.

  • Valley

    The Valley CDO was the most northwest in Douglas County, but the service area extended far south to the communities of Two Rivers and Venice.

    Several auto dealers in Fremont subscribed to FX service out of Valley to provide flat-rate toll-free service from Omaha customers, prior to the inclusion of Fremont in the Omaha toll-free calling area.

    The Valley CDO hosted the 359 prefix.

    An access code of 7 was required for calls to other offices.

  • Springfield

    Springfield was the smallest of the CDOs with only the 2000 and 9000 levels provisioned, again aliased to each other. An access code of 7 was required for calls to other offices.

    A somewhat controversial decision by the Ma Bell powers that be was to cable the upstart community of Hawaiian Village, literally a stone's throw away from Springfield, to the far-more-distant 84th. and Harrison office.

    The Springfield CDO hosted the 253 prefix.

  • Gretna

    The Gretna CDO had the distinction of hosting the most distant local calls from metropolitan Omaha, those being in the Linoma Beach and Beaconview communities, halfway between downtown Omaha and Lincoln.

    During the Step days, an access code of 7 was required for calls to other offices.

    The Gretna office hosted the 332 prefix. Due the similarity of 332 to other west Omaha prefixes, this was sometimes perceived as being 'more urban' than the other CDO's.

All of these CDO's were converted to ESS in the mid 1970s, allowing for Touch-Tone and various calling features, but toll-free calling to and from Council Bluffs would not come for another two decades.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Expansions - The New Prefixes

Omaha's growth and increased telecom usage sparked the equipment upgrades and addition of the following prefixes to existing COs between our timeline start in 1953 and our checkpoint of 1977.

  • Douglas:

    In the mid 1950s, a new #5 Crossbar system was installed at 19th. and Douglas, replacing much of the aging Panel installation, part of which was Ma Bell's first Panel roll-out, serving ATlantic and JAckson. The first new prefix was EXpress, originally serving as Ma Bell's own internal Centrex. EXpress (and later 344) served some of the very first IMTS (direct-dial) mobile phones.

    A recorded time service was launched out of the Douglas Crossbar with a listed number of TIme-8111. See further notes on 844 below.

    At the time of the Great Renumbering 348 was added to the 19th. St. #5 Crossbar, becoming Omaha's first prefix not to have descended from a legacy named exchange. There is some evidence that what became the 348 prefix was originally scheduled to be launched prior to the Great Renumbering (tentative name of BLackstone), but that various circumstances delayed the roll-out until September of 1960.

    At the same time, 347, serving Carter Lake, was added to the Crossbar, giving Carter Lake its own dedicated prefix. See separate article for more details on this.

    271 and 281 were an enigmatic pair of prefixes, and elicited hours upon hours of talk, experimentation, and speculation among telephone 'afficianados'. :) These served the Union Pacific Headquarters exclusively at the time. Whether the UP installation was Centrex or DID-PBX is really a question of semantics. It was basically an on-premesis Step installation driven by the #5 Crossbar at 19th. and Douglas.

    The only listed number on the 281 prefix was the main UP incoming number, 281-5822. All other listed numbers for UP were on 271. The two prefixes 271 and 281 were 'aliased' to each other and could be interchangably dialed. You could dial either prefix plus the last four digits. Consensus was that this was done to 'balance the load' somewhat, directing the calls to the main number over one set of trunks, and direct-dialed calls to various UP offices to another.

    221 was another Centrex-or-DID-PBX which served the Federal offices in Omaha. Again, a Step installation off of the #5 Crossbar.

    536 and 541 were set up on the #5 Crossbar to serve mainly 101 ESS Centrex-Cu customers, some of which were also served by 348. Original Centrex-CU customers out of these offices were Norwest Bank, Lutheran Hospital, UNMC, and Lozier Corporation, among others.

    Phone 'enthusiasts' were quick to note that of these new prefixes, access to 536 from many other Omaha offices was via the downtown Crossbar Tandem, and a distinctive burst of MF could often be heard when calls to 536 were placed.

    The big addition to the 19th. and Douglas office was a very significant #1 ESS, commissioned around 1970. This replaced the last of the Panel (345, 346) and added 422, 444, 449, and eventually 633, 636, 977, and 978, among countless others as the facilities were expanded..

    Ma Bell's internal Centrex was then converted to 422 on the ESS, and Centrex-CO for Eppley Airfield was added to 422 as well.

    The main customer on 444 was the Douglas County offices, including County Hospital, a Centrex-CO installation. 444 also served some IMTS mobile phone customers.

    The then-new St. Joseph hospital on north 30th. was the first major customer on 449, Centrex-CO.

    633, 636, 977, and 978 were added during an expansion in the late 1970s, mostly intended to serve large Centrex-CO customers. OPPD, originally a Centrex-CU customer on 536, eventually spilled over to 636 as well. InterNorth (nee' Northern Natural Gas) was the first major customer on 633, a Centrex-CO replacing the former #101 Centrex-CU on 348. Omaha Public Schools was the first major customer on 978. 977 was at first mainly used for pagers and some pre-cellular mobile phones.

    844 was hosted out of Douglas, used exclusively for the automated 'Time' service. 844-8111 was the published number, but anyone with any kind of curiosity knew that the time recording could be reached equally well by dialing 844 and any four random digits.

    No, I haven't forgotten about 894. Yes, at the turn of the 21st. Century, 894 is a general service prefix out of 156th. and Harrison. However, 894 began life as a somewhat red-headed-stepchild 'choke' prefix out of Douglas.

    Only two published numbers ever appeared on the orignal 894 prefix, one being a recorded weather announcement, sponsored by a radio station, and another a medical advice recording, sponsored by a local hospital.

    894 was originally hosted on the #5 crossbar, as an 'alias' for 344. You could dial either 344 or 894 plus the four digits and get the same number.

    However, when the #1 ESS came to life, shortly after the 894 prefix was moved to ESS and 'aliased' to 444.

    341, 342, 344, 347, 348, 536, and 541 remained on the #5 Crossbar well into the 1980s.

    So, at our 1977 checkpoint, we have the following out of Douglas Street:

    221, 271, 281, 341, 342, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 422, 444, 449, 536, 541, 633, 636, 844, 894, 977, and 978.

  • Izard:

    The Panel office serving 551 and 553 remained in service well into the 1970s, until a new #1 ESS replaced it. Along with 551 and 553, 554 and 559 were added to the new #1 ESS.

    556 and 558 remained on the #1 Crossbar into the 1980s.

    An interesting quirk was that while the Izard #1 ESS was being installed, what would become the 551 and 553 sections were temporarily accessible from several other Omaha offices via 531 and 533. Many phone 'afficianados' became 'acquainted' with the Izard ESS this way.

    'Bay 1, circuit 2, Centrex Direct Inward Dialing intercept.' :)

    1977 checkpoint prefixes were: 551, 553, 554, 556, 558, and 559.

  • Fowler:

    KEnwood was the last remaining Omaha office to have manual ('Numberrr Pleeze') service. KEnwood was added to the Fowler #1 Crossbar in about 1957, finally bringing dial service to all of Omaha. 457 was added as an expansion in the late 1960s.

    Prefixes as of the checkpoint: 451, 453, 455, and 457.

  • O Street:

    The only major expansion to the long-lived O Street #1 Crossbar was the addition of the 734 prefix around 1970. O street was the only one of Omaha's #1 Crossbar offices which was converted to MF signaling on the interoffice trunks. The others (Izard, Fowler) used revertive pulsing throughout their lives.

    The O Street #1 Crossbar lived on until around 1985.

    1979 prefixes: 731, 733, 734.

  • Bellevue:

    I admit. I don't really know too much about the Bellevue CO. The earliest I remember this CO was in the early 1970s, and it was a #5 Crossbar. It was a bit quirky in that it had a tone plant which gave a ringback tone which could best be described as a 'low rumble', with not very much in the way of tones or harmonics as were typical in the 'metropolitan' ringing machines which were common on Panel, #1, and #5 Crossbar offices, or the newer 'precise' tones.

    The nuances of the connections indicated that it was most definitely a #5 Crossbar.

    At the time of the Great Renumbering, the only prefix in Bellevue was 291. 292 and 293 were added in the early and late 1970s respectively as the community expanded.

    I'm not really sure if the 294 prefix, which served Offutt Air Force Base exclusively at the time, was actually hosted out of Bellevue, or out of Douglas. I've heard some 'in the know' people say one, and some say the other.

    Prefixes at the 1977 checkpoint: 291, 292, 293. Honorable mention: 294.

  • Council Bluffs:

    The area's first #1 ESS switch was installed in Council Bluffs ca. 1970, replacing the Step offices serving 322 and 323. An additional prefix, 328, was added at the time of the cut, and 325 followed several years after, giving the main Council Bluffs downtown CO a total of four prefixes at the time of our checkpoint.

    In 1971, toll-free direct seven-digit dialing was established between Council Bluffs and metropolitan Omaha.

    Along with metropolitan Council Bluffs, the Manawa CO, serving prefix 366, was added to the Omaha dialing area. The Manawa office was unique in that it used 'directorized' Step switches. This was a typical up-and-around Strowger-switch type office, but with a common-control 'Director' device added. The Director was between the linefinder and the first selector. The Director returned dial tone to the subscriber, received the dialed digits, and then drove the switches appropriately to set up either an intra-office or inter-office call. This also allowed true Touch-Tone service on this Step office, as opposed to a simple tone to pulse converter. The Manawa office was the only Director Step office in the Omaha area.

    Council Bluffs also had toll-free calling to a few nearby rural CDO's, all on the Iowa side, in Silver City/Mineola (526), Crescent (545), and Underwood (566), but these remained toll calls from Omaha (and Carter Lake, Iowa) until the 1980s.

    Prefixes as of the 1977 checkpoint: 322, 323, 325, 328 downtown CB and 366 in Manawa.
  • Carter Lake

    The community of Carter Lake, Iowa is a geographic oddity as well as a telecommunications oddity.

    Carter Lake, an incorporated village, lies physically on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River, but remained politically in Iowa when a flood, ca. 1880s, caused the river to shift.

    Carter Lake has an Iowa Zip Code, residents vote in Iowa elections, and students attend Iowa public schools. Carter Lake is in Iowa, except for one telecom-related quirk.

    In the subscriber dial era, Carter Lake has always been served from Omaha's Douglas Street office, and has always been toll-free to and from Omaha. Carter Lake's original dial prefix name was LAke, and those who are observant can easily see that this is simply a renamed JAckson, which was the second Panel office out of Douglas.

    For some unknown reason, at a date I'm unable to precisely determine, Carter Lake subscribers were moved from the LAke prefix to the 'new' YEllowstone prefix. YEllowstone was implemented sometime prior to our 1953 beginning of the epoch. Again, those who have been paying attention will notice that YEllowstone is simply a renaming of WEbster, rinse, repeat.

    At the date of the Great Renumbering in 1960, Carter Lake was spun off to its own distinct prefix, 347, in anticipation of Direct Distance Dialing.

    Carter Lake, politically in Iowa, was within area code 712 and was dialable as such. However, anecdotal evidence persists that at one time the 347 prefix was dialable from outside the area as either 402-347 or 712-347.

    Carter Lake has always received the short end of the stick as far as local calling area is concerned. Carter Lake's toll-free dialing options into nearby rural Iowa communities have always been fewer than those from Council Bluffs or Omaha proper.

    An interesting quirk of the 347 office, noted by many phone 'enthusiasts', was that the 5000 and 9000 levels were interchangeable. You could dial any 347-5xxx or 347-9xxx number using either 5 or 9. Yes, this facilitated some game-playing with 'check for coin' procedures. :)

    Toll-free seven-digit dialing remains between Omaha and Carter Lake to this day, with Carter Lake still being served out of the Douglas office.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    The New Offices

    Let's discuss Ma Bell's newer physical offices which came about between our timeline start (1953) and 1977, which is a good 'checkpoint' at which things were reasonably stable again.

    The westward and southwestward expansion and sprawl of the Omaha area required the construction of several new offices, beginning in the mid 1950s. A total of six new CO buildings, three of them originally #5 Crossbar and the other three #1 ESS appeared within a 20 year span between the mid 1950s and the mid 1970s.

    • 90th. St. and Western Avenue

      The first of the newer central office buildings in Omaha was the 90th. and Western Avenue office, ca. 1955. This was a brand new #5 Crossbar office which served two new prefixes, HUdson and TErrace prior to the Great Renumbering.

      The service area of the 90th. and Western office began at approximately 72nd. St. and reached westward past Boys Town. This relieved part of the load from the Izard St. office and allowed westward expansion without as many issues due to long loops.

      It covered the newer suburbs such as Rockbrook, Maple Village, and Tomahawk Hills and replaced the Izard St. service in Irvington, which was still a disjoint unincorporated community.

      TErrace became 391 and HUdson became 393 in September of 1960.

      A third prefix, 397 was added in the late 1960s and 392 was added to the #5 Crossbar in the mid 1970s.

      496 and 498 were temporarily hosted on the 90th. and Western #5 Crossbar as the 132nd. and Fort office (see below) was constructed and subscribers in part of the area to be served by the Fort St. office were migrated.

      A major addition, an eastward expansion of the building and a new #1 ESS switch appeared in the late 1970s. When this was complete, 397 was moved to the ESS, 399 and 390 were added, and 398 was moved from the 135th. and Center office (below) to 90th. and Western.

      At our checkpoint of 1977, the 90th.and Western office served 391, 392, and 393 on the #5 Crossbar and 397, 398, 399, and 390 on the #1 Ess.

    • 84th. and Harrison and 135th. and Center

      'The Twins'

      Two similar and very significant #5 crossbar offices were constructed in the early 1960s to expand the Omaha dialing area and to serve the westward and southwestward expansion. These were at 84th. and Harrison and at 135th. and Center.

      84th. and Harrison originally hosted the 331 and 339 prefixes and served the Ralston (formerly served by O Street), La Vista, and Papillion areas, all of which had explosive growth in the 1960s and 1970s. 592 was added to the office in the late 70s, bringing our prefix count for this office at our 'checkpoint' to 3: 331, 339, and 592. 593 was eventually moved to 84th.

      135th. and Center originally hosted the 333 and 334 prefixes and served a very large area of West Omaha, roughly west of I-680 from just north of Dodge south past the community of Millard, then an independent town. 330 was added in the mid 1970s.

      The 398 prefix, originally used mainly for Centrex-CU for Bergan Mercy Hospital was temporarily hosted out of 135th. until it was moved to the new ESS at 90th. in the late 1970s.

      Another significant temporarily-hosted prefix, 895, was temporarily served out of 135th., as the 156th. and Harrison office was constructed.

      At our 'checkpoint' of 1977, 135th. hosted 333, 334, and 330. (691, 697 and others were yet to come.)

    • 78th. and Girard

      The first of the new stand-alone ESS offices was commissioned in 1971 at 78th. and Girard and was intended to serve the somewhat-sluggish northwest expansion of Omaha. It took its service area from existing subscribers served by 90th. (391, 393, 397 at the time), Izard (551, 553, 556, 558 at the time), and Fowler (451, 453, 455, 457 at the time).

      571 and 572 were the original prefixes out of 78th.

      The service area was large and stretched northwest from approximately 60th. and Ames. It originally included sections of what was to be served by the 132nd. and Fort St. office (below). The 493 prefix was temporarily hosted at 78th. as the new Fort St. CO was constructed and customers for that area were migrated.

      Due to the less than predicted northwest expansion, the 78th. St. office held a permanent prefix count of two (571 and 572) for almost two decades.

    • 156th. and Harrison

      The next office was the 156th. and Harrison office, hosting the 895 and 896 prefixes. This served the Millard area, recently annexed into the city of Omaha with significant angst. 156th. took a large chunk of its service area from the 135th. and Center office and some (Westmont, etc.) from the 84th. and Harrison office.

      895 had been temporarily hosted out of 135th. and Center and many of the customers in the new office's service area were migrated prior to the actual turn-up of the 156th. and Harrison office.

      156th. and Harrison also 'temporarily' (for several years, actually) hosted the 593 prefix, used mostly at the time for the Centrex-CU installations at Midlands Hospital in Papillion and the Sarpy County offices, also in Papillion.

      At our checkpoint in 1997, 156th. hosted 895 and 896 for general service and at the time hosted the 593 prefix for the Centrex-CU installations.

    • 132nd. and Fort

      The third of the large ESS installations was at 132nd. and Fort, coming on line in the late 1970s. This new office took its service area mostly from portions of 135th. and Center (333, 334), and 78th. and Girard (571, 572).

      A 'choke' prefix, 962, used mostly for radio call-in lines, was added to the Fort office in the late 1970s.

      At our checkpoint of 1977, Fort. St. hosted 492, 493, 496, 498, and 962, three of which had been temporarily hosted by neighboring COs during the construction period.

    The Great Renumbering

    September 10, 1960 was a red-letter date in Omaha's telephone history!

    Late Saturday night, Omaha went from a two-letter, four digit, to a seven-digit numbering plan, to allow Omaha to join the nationwide Direct Distance Dialing plan.

    This was a 'hard cut' with no period of permissive dialing when old and new numbers would work.

    Lettered exchange names were totally eliminated (All-Digit Dialing), and there was no attempt to retain any of the legacy prefix numbers. The legacy prefixes were reassigned as follows:

    • Douglas Street:

      ATlantic - 341
      JAckson - 342
      EXpress - 344
      HArney - 345
      WEbster - 346
      YEllowstone - 347
      TIme - 844

    • Izard Street:

      WAlnut - 551
      GLendale - 553
      REgent - 556
      CApital - 558

    • Fowler Street:

      PLeasant - 451
      PRospect - 453
      KEnwood - 455

    • O Street:

      MArket - 731
      ORchard - 733

    • Bellevue:

      BEllevue - 291

    • Millard:

      334 (Joined Omaha toll-free calling area)

    • Papillion:

      339 (Joined Omaha toll-free calling area)

    • Council Bluffs (still long distance to/from Omaha):

      COuncilBluffs: 322
      CouncilBluffs-3: 323

    I was told that some, not all Omaha offices, were able to identify and 'trap' misdialed calls to some old numbers and route them to an appropriate intercept for some time.

    The offices - historically speaking

    I'm going to begin the historical timeline in the year 1953. No, that was not the year I was born, nor the year I came to Omaha. It's a year at which I have a fairly good understanding of the way the Omaha area's phone system was. (Yes, I still have some unanswered questions about that era.) It was a stable period in time, and the Omaha area had a variety of types of central offices, from manual ('Numberrrr pleassse') to crossbar, the 'high tech' of the time.

    I do plan to do at least one post on the history of Omaha's central offices prior to 1953 ('How we got here.'), but that will come at a later date.

    The physical offices at the time, and the central offices (prefixes, exchanges) within them were easy to enumerate and study.

    In 1953, Omaha used a 2-4 dialing plan, two letters for the exchange name and four digits for the line number. Council Bluffs used a mixed 4 and 5 digit plan. At the time, Council Bluffs and Omaha were long distance from each other, but I'm including it in my discussion since the two calling areas essentially became one in the early 1970s. At the time, Carter Lake, politically in Iowa but geographically on the Nebraska side of the river, was included in Omaha's dialing plan and toll-free calling area. Some duplicate exchange names (LAke, YEllowstone) were used to give Carter Lake subscribers somewhat of their own identity.

    In 1953 the Omaha toll-free calling area included all of metropolitan Omaha, Bellevue, Irvington (then a distinct rural community), and I believe it extended to Boys Town, although this may have been something of a FX situation.

    Let's review the physical offices and COs within them:
    1. Douglas Street, the main downtown central office. The 'Old Building' as it was sometimes known. This housed four COs at the time: ATlantic, JAckson, HArney, and WEbster. All were Panel at the time, but ATlantic and JAckson were shortly to be converted to the Latest And Greatest #5 Crossbar. The building stands today, housing the successors to the offices listed among many others.

      An interesting bit of telephone trivia, and a true 'first' for Omaha, is that the ATlantic office was Ma Bell's first full-scale subscriber-dial ('machine switched') Panel central office ever! This dates back to 1921. Panel switches had been used during the 19-teens as automated B-boards in New Jersey, but Omaha's Atlantic office was Mother's proof-of-concept roll-out for the dial telephone in a major metropolitan area.

      The Douglas office served the central business district, extending north to about Lake St. or so, west almost to 40th., and south to Deer Park Boulevard or so. Carter Lake (YEllowstone, previously LAke) was served from this office, but that is a topic in and of itself and it will be discussed in a separate item.

    2. Izard Street, the 'West Omaha' office. In 1953 this housed three COs, WAlnut, GLendale, and the brand-new #1 Crossbar switch which hosted REgent and soon to be CApital. WAlnut and GLendale were Panel, Omaha's second pre-WWII dial installation. As with most CO buildings of that vintage, it's still standing today and houses the successors of the legacy prefixes among many others.

      The Izard office had the largest geographic service area of any Omaha office in 1953. In the urban core, it extended east to 30th. St. in parts, north to Ames in one little 'tongue', south to the vicinity of the main-line UPRR tracks, and westward to a vast area stretching from the southwest 'burbs to Boys Town, to the village of Irvington. The Izard service area was incrementally decreased as new offices were constructed.

    3. Fowler Street, the 'North Omaha' office. This building housed PLeasant and PRospect on a recent #1 crossbar switch. KEnwood, which still had manual service at the time, was soon to be added to the new Crossbar switch.

    4. O Street, the 'South Omaha' office. Another postwar #1 Crossbar serving the MArket and ORchard exchanges. Again, still stands today, housing the successors of the legacy offices plus others.

      O street served metro Omaha from Deer Park Boulevard or so southward into the north end of Bellevue, and at the time the community of Ralston.

    5. Bellevue. Kind of the enigma of the bunch at this point in time. I don't know much about it. I have reason to believe that it was a dial office of some kind, but this was too early for it to be the #5 Crossbar installation which served Bellevue for many years.

    6. Council Bluffs, so close but yet so far! Council Bluffs was served by two Step offices at the time, the first known as 'Council Bluffs' and the second known as 'Council Bluffs 3'. Council Bluffs used a mixed 4/5 digit dialing plan. Four digits were used except for numbers beginning with '3', which required 5 digits. Omaha and Council Bluffs were long-distance from one-another, although next-door neighbors, and no direct subscriber dialing between the two.

    That is an overview of Omaha's 'legacy' dial offices.

    Additional information or comments will be appreciated.

    Who am I?

    You don't know me and I don't know you. :)

    Let's keep it that way. :)

    We really don't have a need to know each other personally.

    No, I'm not being snobbish or standoffish, it's kind of a habit. Telephone 'enthusiasts' often times did not know each others' real names, even though they may have met in real life.

    Let's just say that if we find each other we have a mutually beneficial relationship. I'll share with you what I know (or what I think I know) and you can enjoy it and share what you know with me and the others reading this blog.

    I'm middle-aged now, lived in Omaha now for most of my adult life, and I've been fascinated with telephone systems, and Omaha's telephone system for decades.

    I'm harmless! I haven't done anything illegal with the telephone system for countless years, long since any statutes of limitations have expired, and I don't intend to again.

    I'm a techie by trade, and proud to say that I'm quite competent with either the keyboard or the soldering iron. I've worked in technology in one form or another ever since high school.

    What inspired me to start this blog was when some casual web searching landed me on the Atlanta Telephone History web site.


    Even though I can count my total days in Atlanta on both hands with fingers (well, one of them) left over, it was a very interesting read with a lot of trivia.

    I just thought that it would be a good thing to put down some of what I know in writing, so others may enjoy and learn from it.

    Anyway, I do hope you enjoy what I have written, and if you have, tell me so. Please leave a comment. I don't know everything, so please, if you have anything to add, anything to correct, etc., please feel free to leave a comment and share what you know with me and the viewers.


    Enjoy! :)