It’s been a long time since we’ve had a quiz, but I’ve got a doozy this week, thanks to Ed and Claire Snyder, Jim and Jan Snyder, and Tom and Lisa Hayner. They raised the subject of the two-letter telephone prefixes that were used in this county from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.
If you grew up here and you’re around my age or older, you may remember some of those prefixes, but if you’re young enough to wonder what I’m talking about, I’d better explain.
In the late 1950s, Direct Distance Dialing (DDD) came to Hamilton County, making it possible to place most telephone calls without having to go through an operator.
In the years before DDD, local phone numbers were small, usually one to three digits. After the arrival of DDD, most local numbers consisted of two letters and five digits. The two letters were taken from a distinctive name the phone company assigned to each telephone exchange.
(As an example, the telephone exchange used by state offices in Indianapolis was Melrose. Each office’s phone number began with the prefix MElrose 3 or ME 3, as in ME 3-1234.)
Can you come up with the telephone exchange names for the following Hamilton County communities? (I’ve added clues to help you out.)
1. The name assigned to Sheridan’s 758 prefix made Sheridan sound like it was a nice place to live. It’s also the name of one of Noblesville’s more heavily traveled streets.
2. The name associated with Noblesville’s original 773 exchange describes what the ‘49ers did when they panned for gold in California.
3. The exchange name for Cicero (532) is shared by a college and a valley in Pennsylvania, but it’s rather obscure, so I’ll give you the first two letters — LE.
4. The Fishers exchange (849) also had an unusual name. The best clue I could come up with was the Democratic presidential nominee in the 1876 election, so I’ll give you those first two letters, too — TI.
5. I don’t know if this was a coincidence, but Arcadia’s exchange name (984 in numbers) was extremely appropriate for a community whose high school athletic teams later became known as the Huskies.
6. The name of Carmel’s original 846 exchange is the same as the name of a prominent member of the current Indiana Pacers team, as well as a “mature” actor of the 1950s.
7. The exchange name for Jolietville (896) was the same as a recent popular series of books and movies about vampires.
By the mid-1960s there weren’t enough letter combinations to keep up with the demand for phones, so the exchange names were ditched in favor of seven digit phone numbers.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about Westfield and Atlanta, so am I.
Westfield and Jolietville shared the 896 prefix, but while Jolietville definitely had an exchange name, the Westfield phone numbers I saw in newspaper ads from that time period seem to go directly from a simple “3” prefix to the “896,” bypassing any exchange name.
Atlanta also apparently never had an exchange name. In the old ads some Atlanta phone numbers consisted simply of digits like “130.” Other numbers appeared as “x on x,” e. g. “4 on 49.” (I’m guessing that indicated a number on a party line?)
Maybe someone out there can clarify the Westfield / Jolietville and Atlanta situations.
Okay, ready for the answers?
1. PLeasant. 2. PRospect. 3. LEhigh. 4. TIlden. 5. YUkon. 6. VIctor. 7. TWilight.
Thanks to Michael Kobrowski, Lisa Hayner and Claire Snyder for additional research help.
Notable Nineties Update: Former Noblesville high school teacher and coach Glen Harper has added himself and his wife, Marilyn. Congratulations!
Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com