Debby Carter

The first direct-dial Mountain Area call, Wawona Tunnel Tree falls and more

Ernest Hoskins puts through the first call from his new dial telephone.
Ernest Hoskins puts through the first call from his new dial telephone. Sierra Star archive

Compiled by Debby Carter from the archives of Fresno Flats Research Library and the Sierra Star.

60 Years Ago

Direct dial – At exactly one minute past midnight, Ernest Hoskins of Auberry sat down at the telephone and put through a call to Richard Owens, secretary-treasurer of the California Farm Bureau Federation in Berkeley. What the two men discussed is of no importance. The call itself, however, marked a new era in the long history of the newly named Ponderosa Telephone Company, up to last year’s reorganization the Bigelow Telephone Company of O’Neals. The call officially inaugurated the company’s initial cutover to dial telephones as part of an ambitious expansion program to streamline its system in order to provide improved service through eliminating crowded party lines, installing completely modern equipment, and accommodating big tree.

Midway Super Market ad – Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese 79 cents per pound; MJB 2-pound coffee $1.29; 7 Bone Roast 55 cents per pound; Chiquita bananas 2 pounds for 25 cents.

50 Years Ago

Famous tree falls – Weakened by fire over a hundred years earlier when its heart and a large chunk of its trunk burned out, the world-famous Wawona Tunnel Tree of Yosemite National Park finally gave way to weather, wind and man sometime since mid-February and now lies broken and twisted on the ground in its Mariposa Grove home. Subject of millions of photographs since John, Henry, and Edward Washburn, owners of the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company, hired two woodsmen, the Collins brothers, to enlarge and clean up the burned-out hole for $75 to accommodate horse-drawn stages in 1881, the tree was named “Wawona” after an Indian word meaning “big tree.”

Ahwahnee Boys Ranch – At the monthly meeting of the Ahwahnee Sanatorium board of directors last Friday Jim Tally, of Hughson, answered several questions from members about the proposed Ahwahnee Boys Ranch. Tally said it would be patterned somewhat after a successful operation near Tulare, and would be limited to boys aged 13 through 18, not hard-core delinquents but youths that courts felt had bad home lives and needed stabler situations that their trained crew leaders could provide.

40 Years Ago

Nude beach – A proposal for a nude beach at Millerton Lake is being opposed by the Madera County Board of Supervisors, while their colleagues in Fresno County have declined to take a stand on the issue. Madera County Supervisor Donald Darnell said nude beaches “cause kids to ask questions before they are old enough to get answers.” “I don’t want people from Los Angeles telling me I can have nudity on my beach,” chairman Bill Hill said. “If they want it down there, they can have it.”

Hospital going up – The long-awaited Sierra Meadows Convalescent Hospital and medical services on Highway 49, just west of Highway 41, now in its final phases of construction, is expected to open in late June to serve residents of Eastern Madera County. Patients are expected to occupy the building the first week of July.

First flea market – The first annual Mountain Peddlers Flea Market, held Sunday in Oakhurst, was a smashing success. Sponsored by the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce, the one-day event drew thousands of buyers and featured over 200 seller booths.

30 Years Ago

Best in state – Caleb Roope, a senior at Yosemite High School, won the California Interscholastic Federation’s State High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Roope was among 10 boy finalists selected from a field of 450 qualified candidates from throughout California.

Airport talks – The next public input meeting on the proposed mountain area airport was scheduled. The site selection process has narrowed possible sites to two locations: the Veater Ranch in Coarsegold or Allen Ridge north of Oakhurst.

Gold panning – The State Gold Panning Championships and the Central California Amateur Horseshoe Pitching Tournament will be held at Bass Lake. The fastest gold panners on the West Coast will compete in four divisions.