Chapter 9 -- Part 4

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In 1895, Hampton had only two telephones -- one at the Hotel Whittier and the other at Cutler’s Sea View House at the Beach. The Exeter exchange had only 33 subscribers, while the whole state, according to an old phone directory, had 400 subscribers. In November 1898, the selectmen gave permission to the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company to install poles and wires along today’s Lafayette Road. In June 1899, the second issue of the Hampton Union reported, "A local telephone circuit has just been completed which connects the hotels and most of the stores in town and not only enables them to converse with one another, but also saves the necessity of going to the central office to reach other towns and cities." The exchange was set up in the Hotel Whittier. By 1905, the telephone company was promoting its utility by offering three months of free service and free calling from Hampton to Hampton Falls and Seabrook. A 1906 petition to erect poles and string wire was granted by the selectmen to the Peoples Telephone Company, which listed Warren Batchelder of Hampton as an incorporator. This was one of many small companies that attempted unsuccessfully to compete with the established phone company.

In 1907, the old Marston House, an annex of the Hotel Whittier, was renovated for use as the telephone exchange, and in 1910, a public telephone booth was installed at the depot. In an unusual decision, the telephone company in 1911 announced a decrease in rates. A two-party business telephone decreased from $25 to $24 per month; a four-party business phone (in place of a six-party business phone) was $21, and one-party residence service dropped from $27 to $24. The changes were made to equalize rates throughout the territory and to change businesses from six- to four party lines. By 1915, Hampton had 228 subscribers; in 1925, when the telephone company asked for an 18 percent rate increase, the town had 460 subscribers.

Donald Warren, son of the Reverend and Mrs. Edgar Warren, called his parents on Christmas 1937 from St. Louis and, the Union was pleased to state, it took only three minutes from the time he called the operator until his father answered. The call was relayed from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Boston to Newburyport to Hampton.

Hampton’s first dial telephone call was made in December 1941 (probably at 1 P.M. on the 16th *** when the telephone book numbers became operational) by Selectman Elroy G. Shaw to Chief George Lamott at the Beach fire station, telephone number 315. Prior to this time, the local phone system was a magneto or hand-ringing system presided over for many years by Miss Minnie Stannard. James Tucker and others tried unsuccessfully to have that old system updated to the common battery system. In 1941, when Hampton had 665 subscribers and its first telephone book, local telephone numbers had three or four digits. That changed in 1955, when the Hampton exchange was given the prefix WAverly and callers dialed WA-6 and four digits. In 1958, Hampton had 1,430 subscribers, and by 1970, when the telephone company asked for an addition to its Winnacunnet Road building, there were 4,200 local phone customers. Eventually, WA-6 gave way to the current 926 prefix (and since January 17, 1987, 929, which opened up an additional 10,000 new numbers). In June 1973, direct dial came to the seacoast, eliminating the need for an operator to place long-distance calls. On November 10, 1979, when there were 6,000 local customers, the phone company placed in service a new electronic switching system, which added Touch-Tone push-button dialing, making possible such waiting and allowing the local exchange to handle up to 20,000 customers. The new system, the first in New Hampshire, came as a result of the corporate needs of Wheelabrator-Frye. In January 1988, Hampton had 6,524 residential telephone customers (many with more than one telephone) and 1,673 business customers.

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