Telephone exchanges in the Los Angeles metropolitan area

The history of the telephone exchange names in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, as in most significant United States cities, can be divided into three periods:

  1. The pre-dial period, when all telephone calls were completed by manual action by operators, and there were no constraints on exchange names other than that there was no likelihood of confusion when a customer gave the name to the operator,
  2. The early dial period, in which the Los Angeles telephone numbers were set up to accommodate dialing the first two letters of an exchange name followed by a four-digit number designating the individual line, though in fact not all exchanges provided for dialing by the phones in those exchanges, and
  3. The late dial period, whose beginning in Los Angeles was not at a sharp point in time but lasted for several years in the early 1950s, in which, instead of the first two letters of an exchange name alone, one dialed the first two letters and an "office numeral" (This was the terminology used in an early New York City directory, though it was not common terminology in this period), again followed by four digits designating the individual line.

While the transition from the early to the late dial period extending over several years is unusual, a similar piecewise process was followed in Atlanta, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana.

It might be noted that while Los Angeles is now one of the largest cities in the United States, during the early dial period it had a system of two letters and four digits like varuous medium-size cities in the country, as opposed to the three letters and four digits found in four large cities (by contrast, Boston, Massachusetts, now considered a much smaller city, had the three letter and four digit numbers.)

For Los Angeles, some of the complications in organizing the data arise from the way the information was listed in the 1951 directory which supplied most of the information presented. The following two supplementary tables include exchanges that cannot be clearly classified as pre-dial and early dial, or as early or late dial:

The exchanges below were listed as in the metropolitan Los Angeles area, but not dialable directly from Los Angeles. When a dash is shown in the last column under "Exchange Name," at least one listig was found in a 1951 directory showing that exchange name and 4 digits, but whether the exchange was in an early dial period (but only dialable within its own local area, not from Los Angeles) or in the pre-dial period (fully manual) cannot be determined because both would be listed the same way. It may be assumed that "Zuma" was in a pre-dial period, of course, since "Z" is not on most dials.

The "Long Beach 6" exchange was shown that way, so it can be assumed that Long Beach was in a late dial period, dialable as LOng Beach 6 locally, but not from Los Angeles.

The remaining exchanges could not be found as listed numbers in the only directory available, so it cannot be determined whether office numerals existed for those exchanges, nor whether they were locally dialable.

Exchange Name Community
El Segundo El Segundo
Lomita ? Lomita
Long Beach 6 Long Beach
Malibu Malibu
Mount Wilson ? Mount Wilson
Topanga Santa Monica
Zuma Malibu

The exchanges listed below were listed in a 1951 Los Angeles directory, but the directory did not distinguish between exchanges with office numerals and those without, and no example could be found of an actual listing that would enable me to determine which was the case for these particular exchanges.

Exchange Name Community
CHurchill Crescenta
CUmberland Los Angeles
CUster Sierra Madre
DOuglas Arcadia
ELliott Monrovia
EMpire San Fernando
FLeetwood Covina
FLorida Tujunga
FOrest El Monte
GArfield Los Angeles
JEfferson Los Angeles
LAfayette Los Angeles
MEtcalf Compton
OSborne Hawthorne
OXford Whittier
POplar North Hollywood
SYlvan Pasadena
TOrrance Torrance
TOrrey Downey
UNderhill Los Angeles
UNion Montebello

Los Angeles metropolitan area:
Main metropolitan Los Angeles page
Chronological periods of the metropolitan Los Angeles data:
Pre-dial period Early dial period Late dial period

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Last modified March 11, 2015.

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