Carson’s First Telephone

This is how the first phone in Carson looked. Photo by Joe Haupt

By Don Kirk

In 1914 when the first phones came to Carson it was something new and exciting. Now one could be in touch with the outside world! The first phones were not like the ones we now have. They were a big wooden box on the wall, with two bells on top, a place to talk into on the front, a hand crank on the right side, and a hand-held receiver on the left side. See the photo above.

To use the phone, one would pick up the receiver and crank the handle on the right. “Central,” (now called the operator) would then come on the line and call your number for you. There was an eight-party line at first for Ojo Caliente, Taos Junction, and Carson. Each party had a set of rings for their call. Everyone on the line knew when you received or made a call, and most of the time they would be listening in too. That way everyone knew what was going on.

Part of the old phone line can still be seen west of the Post Office on the left side of Highway 567, just past the cattle guard. With the phone lines up in the air, every time we had thunder and lightning the phone would ring, and you could not use it without getting shocked. Phones were a lot of fun in the old days, and only a nickel a call.