I'm sure there are proper ways to install a new telephone pole. Methods that have been tested, tried, and approved. Methods that are safe as well as being efficient.
Unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule, and there was a case in San Francisco that proved this.
A friend of mine, Pat Abbott, was in charge of a group of men who handled outside plant problems. I don't know what he was called, back then, but that is not important. What was important was that when there was an outside plant problem, he and his men were assigned to solve it. No questions asked.
It so happened that in the middle of the 20th Century the San Francisco area was growing by leaps and bounds. In one particular area, for instance, 4 apartment complexes were placed on the 4 streets of a city block. Behind the 4 buildings there was common property, and in the center there was a large telephone pole. Somehow telephone service was sent to the pole, and then it was broken down for each of the apartments. In effect, the back yard of the complex looked like an umbrella, with 1 large center pole, and dozens of wires heading to each of the apartments. Nothing wrong with that.
But the city was growing, and with it the apartment complex. Buildings were added, each adjacent to the already-existing building. After a couple of years the entire block was built out. Each building was attached to an adjacent building. There were entrances to each building, but they were not through entrances -- that is, they did not pass through to the center common property. In fact, to get to that center area you had to negotiate several right angle turns.
And still that lone pole stood, each year holding more and more wires.
Actually, the pole was in trouble. Craftsmen (if that is what they were called in those days ) were reluctant to climb the pole. It simply wasn't too secure. It was rotting out, and it was only a matter of time.
Because of the enclosure, there was no way to get a bucket truck in there. In fact, there was no way to get a new pole in there. And therein lies the problem.
Pat Abbott received instruction from on high: Get rid of that old pole, and put a new one in!
Pat went to check the situation out. He circled the block twice -- once in the company truck, and then on foot. There were plenty of entrances to the buildings, but none of the entrances extended through to the center area. He, in fact, had to get there by negotiating 3 right angle turns -- certainly something that a telephone pole could not do.
After circling the block yet a third time, he leaned against his truck, and pondered. It would seem that nothing short of a helicopter would solve the problem. And, yes, he was convinced that the pole needed replacement. It was rotten, and apparently was being held upright by all those wires emanating from it.
As he leaned against his truck, totally dismayed, a lady in her late 60s came out from one of the apartments.
"Young man, I see you're from the telephone company. I hope you are here to fix our problems. Are you?"
Pat had to admit, that yes, that was why he was there, but he wasn't getting anywhere in solving it. He explained, almost as if he was convincing himself, that this was a ring of buildings, without a gap between any of them, circling the block. And the problem was in the center of this complex. A rotted telephone pole, and no way to get a new one in.
"Look," he said to the lady, who had now identified herself as Mrs. Olson, "You can see right through your living room, out your dining room, and see that rotted-out pole."
"Yes," said Mrs. Olson, "we can see it, but we can't get to it."
Then Pat had an idea. See it? Get to it? Well, why not. "Mrs. Olson," he started, very politely, "we can see the pole that needs replacement. We have the people necessary to get rid of the old one, and we have a new one. And with a new one you wouldn't have all those telephone problems. You could help out. And the residents would love you for it. What if you were to open your front window, and your back window, and we were to take a new pole, and with lots of guys holding it up, were to pass it in the front window and out the back window. If we could do that, I'll take you out to lunch.
Mrs. Olson's eyes lighted up. A free lunch? And better telephone service? And proving to that upstart in the apartment above me that there's still something left between my ears? Why not?
"Sure. Let's do it!"
Word went out that evening that the team would pass a telephone pole through the living room and dining room of a 60-year-old lady. And we'd better not drop it on her dining room table, went the word.
At eight o'clock the next morning the street in front of Mrs. Olson's house was crowded. Not only with telephone company trucks, (no supervisors -- they weren't told), but also a couple of TV trucks. A telephone pole --through a resident's living room? This we've got to see. And so do the viewers.
Pat was in charge. Mrs. Olson appeared on the front steps, and Pat introduced her. Mrs. Olson would give the signal from her open front window. And that's the way it went. The crowd waited in anticipation. The trailer with the new pole was lined up with the front window and the back window, and alongside were several dozen of the strongest of the Pac Tel workers. Upon the signal from Mrs. Olson, and quick confirmation from Pat, the men hoisted the pole on their shoulders, and advanced toward the now-open window. As one end passed through the opening, the half dozen men supporting that end raced inside, and took up the burden. The pole continued. And as it did, the men supporting that segment moved inside to pick up the loads. Finally the butt end of the pole reached the rear window -- the dining room window -- and passed out. More shifting of men, with Pat yelling out orders. Finally the entire pole was in the house, and then out of the house. It hadn't dropped on the dining room table; it hadn't smashed window sill. It hadn't broken any windows.
It had made it.
By then a new hole had been dug -- by hand, of course -- about 5 feet from the old pole. The new pole was dropped into the hole. The hole was filled in, and the pole made secure. Linemen, with spikes attached, scampered up the pole, and with true telephone company precision made the transfer to the new pole. When the last transfer was made, another crew, chain saws in hand, made fast work of the old pole. It was sawed into manageable chunks, and carried out to the trailer. The TV channel covering the operation dutifully captured each worker on tape. These guys would be heroes that evening in their respective homes.
And Pat? Well, he would be hoisting a few at the local bar with his stalwart helpers.
And Pac Tel management? The smart ones had their television sets turned off, and "I know nothing" speeches ready for the next day.
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