K.M. of Montecito sent me a photograph of George Washington Moore Sr., a Lompoc rancher/merchant who was the father of the man of the same name who founded Moore General Mercantile Store in 1878. It was sold in 1990.
The photograph shows an older man, borne out by the handwriting on the bottom as “Grandfather Moore.” I date the photo by the suit to the first quarter of the 20th century. The rough texture of the fabric on the suit and shirt means that Mr. Moore was a working man.
This is a silver gelatin print, shot by a professional photographer in a studio; it was not done by amateurs. It took a knowledge of chemistry and lighting.
The light source is from the right side — a soft light from a north facing studio window. In the early 1900s, Lompoc had some electricity, but I doubt a photographer would have relied on that variable light source.
Keith also sends me a calendar, given to Moore’s customers: “M. M. CO’s Hardware, Groceries, Boots and Shoes, Hats and Caps, Dry Goods and furnishings ARE BETTER,” printed by a specialty advertising firm in Coshocton, Ohio. It’s a lovely expression on the cover: “Motto: Quality, Service, Satisfaction,” and “We need your trade and will endeavor to hold it.”
But what really intrigued me was the TWO phone numbers at the top of the calendar booklet: “Phone Home 383, Pacific 8-R.”
In 1917 in Lompoc, I would not have expected a business to have two working phones, so why did George Washington Moore’s shop?
This is because Lompoc, in the days when “important” business calls came in at M and M and Co.’s shop, had two competing phone companies, and neither one let calls from the other competitor through. So if you wanted to retain your customers, who had one or the other service provider, you had to have two phones installed.
I found this tidbit of valuable Lompoc history recounted in an issue called “Respectable Town,” No. 26, 1980, of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society, Inc’s Quarterly Bulletin, which cites the reminiscences of Oscar Fabing, who worked for both companies. “I recall many times when the telephone would ring and a person answering would pick up the receiver and say ‘hello,’ and if no answer, they would say ‘wrong phone,’ hang up and take up the receiver for the other company.”
What a place was Lompoc! And what a pain in the caboose for George Washington Moore in 1917.
Another Issue of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society Inc.’s Quarterly Bulletin, No. 81, 1999, gives a timeline of phone service coming to Lompoc.
The first system consisted of just one telephone at the Lompoc Post and Telegraph Office, connecting Lompoc with the Lompoc Landing at Purisima Point, 1885, though the Western Union Co.
In 1892, Western Union withdrew service leaving the Lompoc telecommunications field wide open for William Barker, a Lompoc entrepreneur with contacts in the “phone world” in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
So connected was he that by the end of 1882, eight Lompoc businesses had a phone!
By 1893, Lompoc businesses had 23 phones, with service only to Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, Los Olivos and Santa Maria. It was expanded in 1894 to San Francisco and Los Angeles by — sources are not clear on the original name — either Sunset or Pacific Telephone Co.
In 1908, Home Telephone Co. “burst” upon the Lompoc scene, and Pacific Telephone refused to interconnect with users of the other. George Washington Moore’s Mercantile company had to have two phones.
Oscar Fabing, a very young — he was just a teen — Lompoc worker, serviced both companies’ lines. Fabing recounts in the Historical Society Bulletin of 1980 that the (respectable) Lompoc house at Walnut and J street was sold in the early 1900s to Tim Armstrong, maintenance manager for Pacific Telephone Co., managed by Arch Reed.
From another house, M. Buchanan managed the Home Telephone Co. The enterprising young technician Charles Dougherty rose to the high position of manager of Pacific, but the world was going to change for the young men of Lompoc.
In 1917, a mandatory draft was called during World War I, and Fabing, who had signed up fast, was on the first train to Santa Barbara from the Surf Station.
K.M.’s photograph of George Washington Moore is of little value (except great sentimental) to anyone but K.M. Both are promised gifts to the Society of California Pioneers, of which K.M. is a member.
I bet you never thought “the titans of telecommunications’”were battling it out in Lompoc upon the stage of the Moore Mercantile Company during the first quarter of the 20th century.