What was your telephone exchange? Albany, North Berkeley and El Cerrito anticipate dial phone service in 1940



North Berkeley and Albany (and the southern part of El Cerrito) still did not have direct dialing in 1939, and it looked like they would have to wait until 1940 for it.
Pacific Telephone & Telegraph received a permit from Berkeley to construct a $100,500 exchange (prefix) building at Solano and Ventura avenues that would provide the first dial service to the area, as the Oakland Tribune reported on New Year’s Eve of 1939 (above). The ornate brick building, still standing today and now carrying the AT&T logo (the historic name of Pacific Telephone’s parent company), is one of the more overlooked structures on Solano, even though it is at a prominent corner. You may recognize it from the Google Street View at this link.
The (52) LAndscape telephone exchange is still used in Albany, North Berkeley and El Cerrito and the post office across the street at 1831 Solano is called the Landscape Station.
So why is part of El Cerrito included in the exchange? When PT&T was wiring its network early in the century, the southern part of El Cerrito was connected out of Berkeley, the northern part out of Richmond. As a result, well into the 1940s, the southern part of the city could call Berkeley and Oakland with no added charge, while the northern part had to pay toll fees. The phone company, through its many changes of ownership in the last 30 years, still continues this division by distributing Oakland telephone directories to the southern half of El Cerrito and West County (Richmond) directories to the northern half.
By 1943, cities from Oakland through Richmond had dial service and new seven-digit phone numbers. (Cities in less populated central Contra Costa kept six-digit phone numbers into the 1950s.)
Those who wonder what telephone exchanges are can learn about them at this link.

PT&T explains service areas, exchanges and toll charges in its 1943 directory.

Pacific Telephone explains to customers how to properly use dial telephone service.

Telephone etiquette tips from PT&T in 1943.

Chris Treadway