A HISTORY OF THE "TELEPHONE COMPANY" IN HAWAII--Part
Prompted by the pending acquisition of Verizon Hawaii by The Carlyle
Group, we been presenting a concise history of telecom in Hawaii. We
left off at the end of 1931--after 49 years of service--with the
number of phones in service totalling 24,983. Now we go from
Depression to War.
The Great Depression had begun in October 1929 and by late 1931 was
beginning to bite at Mutual's business. During late 1931, 180 small
businesses disconnected their phone service but a whopping 823
residence subscribers cancelled. In the country districts, six
percent cancelled along with the nine percent on the city side.
The Interisland phone service hit 15,328 calls, but not enough to
cover the cost of service. By the end of 1933 the losses stopped and
in 1934 727 new subscribers were added. In 1935 the largest one-year
gain occurred with 1,590 customers added.
Interisland and transpacific rates were reduced which increased
traffic by 60 per cent. In 1937 interisland traffic increased by
In 1940 Mutual had 37,154 subscribers, annual revenue of $2,141,622.
and 657 employees. That year, 4,072 customers were added consistent
with the military build-up, especially the U.S. Navy's basing the
fleet at Pearl Harbor.
This prompted a major construction project of burying phone cables
around the Oahu.
As 1941 began, Mutual's management was concerned about a war coming
and they began to order a stockpile of supplies and materials from
the Mainland. As they did, the demand for phone lines increased so
by mid-1941 they had installed as many lines as in all of 1940.
The Sunday attack on Pearl Harbor taxed the phone lines and the
Military asked radio stations to broadcast a plea to only use phones
for emergencies. That reduced traffic by 30 percent.
On December 9, Mutual was placed under Military control, giving them
first use of the lines. The public was still able to use what
capacity was not in use.
In a few days, Mutual installed the Island's largest manual
switchboard with 300 lines on the Punahou School campus for the Army
The Central Office was expanded by four floors per Military request,
the two buildings had sandbagged entries with armed Army guards. No
entry without proper ID was allowed
The main lobby was turned into a 24/7 call center for Military
personnel to call the Mainland.
By the end of 1942, Mutual added 5,763 lines, competed 112,626,922
local calls, and 55,852 transPaciic calls In1943, the growth was as
In October 1944, Martial Law was lifted and Mutual no longer was
under Military supervision.
With the War's end in September 1945, Mutual faced a backlog of
4,000 requests for phones and a severe shortage of copper wire and
other materials to expand.
Next installment: the post-War boom.
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Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE