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Bob Allen is the executive director of the Selma District Chamber of Commerce.

It is time for a little History of Selma Lesson.  Thanks to Randy McFarland, we have access to a wonderful resource book: "Centennial Selma, Biography of a California Community’s First 100 Years."  He wrote and published this book in 1980.  Randy continues to be loyal Selma Supporter and Historian.

Did you know?  When the City of Selma started, it was a school system and then quickly acquired a post office for communications.  It had a constable and beyond that, other utilities were missing.  During the Wheat Boom, an enterprising businessperson brought water, gas, electricity and telephone services to the community and got a fire department started. 

Telephone service in Selma started in the fall of 1885 when a crude switchboard was installed in the T.R.Brewer’s drug store.  It was connected with five phones by wires strung loosely across buildings and across fences.  When attorney E. S. Reichard strung a wire to his office, the owner of a neighboring business objected for fear a fire might result.  This in-town phone system only worked for in-town calls and did not last long.

In December 1888, there was no local phone service when Sunset Telephone Company proposed to connect Selma with the company’s exchange in Fresno and other towns.  W. E. Knowles secured the financial pledges and the poles were set, wire was strung and on the morning of May 25, 1889, the first local telephone connection with Fresno was made in W. S. McCartney’s store on the northeast corner of East Front and  Second Streets.  Long distance call to Los Angeles and San Francisco were possible by the end of November 1890.  The first telephone directory was published in the local paper the, Irrigator.

Of course, the story does not stop there.   We progressed from the early business to residential party line phones (How many of you had to ask your neighbors if they could get off the line so you could make a call?) to today where there are cell phones that are smarter than many of its users.  We have cell phones that will do almost anything.  Sometimes I really long for the simple things in life — but we are thankful for progress that helps make our daily living easier.


Bob Allen is the Executive Director of the Selma Chamber of Commerce.

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