In the 1980's St. Tammany was growing by leaps and bounds, and one of the most accurate indicators of that was the number of new installations of residential and business phone lines. That was a good measure back then, but not so much any longer today due to home phones being disconnected as a result of the prevalence and convenience of cell phones.
But decades ago, the demand for new landline phone service was a reliable sign of growth, especially business growth. More new phone numbers were needed, new area codes were needed to provide those new phone numbers, and telephone wires were being strung up everywhere.
In the 1987 edition of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce magazine, an article spelled out the growth in telephone lines and explained their significance. Here is the text from that article.
Phone Lines Tell The Growth Story (1987)
The number of new telephone lines, both in residential and business service, often tells the story of growth in a dramatic and conclusive manner. New figures recently obtained by the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation reveal the area by area growth of St. Tammany between 1980 and 1986, as reported through the different telephone exchanges.
In January of 1980, Covington had 7824 residential phone lines and 2018 business phone lines, and six years later in 1986, those had increased to 10,526 residential and 3288 business phones. That represented a 34.5 per cent growth in residential phones and a 62.9 per cent growth in business phones for the Covington area exchanges.
During the same six year time period, however, the Mandeville telephone exchange experienced a 53 per cent increase in residential phones (from 2751 in 1980 to 4214 in 1986) and a 164.4 per cent growth in business phone lines (from 570 phones in 1980 to 1507 phones in 1986).
Madisonville Area Growth
The really spectacular growth came in the Madisonville phone exchange. At the beginning of the decade, there were 1261 residential and 108 business phones in the Madisonville area, and in January 1986, there were 2816 residential phones in service and an impressive 197.2 per cent growth in business phone service during those six years.
A large portion of that Madisonville growth took place in Beau Chene and the commercial areas along La. Hwy. 22.
Folsom underwent a 34.9 per cent growth in residential phones during that period, as well as an 86.5 per cent growth in business phone service. Starting out with 1325 home phones and 111 business phones in 1980, Folsom had, by January of 1986, some 1788 home phones and 207 business phone lines.
Lacombe had a similar percentage growth, some 37.9 per cent growth in home phones and 84.3 per cent growth in business phones during that time. Lacombe's exchange listed 1680 home phones in 1980 and 2316 of them in 1986, as well as 102 business phones in 1980, increasing those to 188 business phones by January of 1986.
Bush Phone Statistics
The Bush telephone exchange up in the northeastern corner of the parish showed the smallest percentage growth, with 29.4 per cent more home phones in those six years and 57.8 per cent more business phones.
The actual numbers for Bush started in 1980 with 656 home phones and 45 business phones, and came to 849 home phones and 71 business phones by January of 1986.
The total number of all residential phones in the parish in January 1980, came to 32,848, and six years later that residential category totaled 46,109 home phones, representing an average increase of 40.4 per cent.
In the business phone category, the totals for St. Tammany parish were 6073 in January of 1980 and 10,935 in January of 1986, representing an increase of 80.1 per cent.
In a month to month breakdown of last year's (1986) phone totals, a slight decrease was seen in some business exchanges. The number of business phones in Slidell decreased between August and September, while increases continued in Madisonville, Covington and Mandeville.
Covington felt a two per cent increase in home phones between January and September of last year, while Mandeville felt a six per cent increase and Madisonville underwent a 4.2 per cent increase in home phones between those two months.
Some 83 new business phones were connected in the Mandeville exchange between January and September, and over 235 new business phones were connected in the Covington exchange between those two months, according to the figures. These are averages, of course, between old phones disconnected and new phones added.
Month to month decreases in the number of phone lines in service is nothing new, however. In June of 1980 there was a decrease in residential phones compared to the figures one month earlier, and decreases appeared again between July and August of 1983, between October and November in 1984.
Big Increase in 1980-81
Significantly above average increases in the number of new residential telephones in service came between June and July of 1980 and between March and April of 1981. Significant increases in new business phone installations took place between August and September and again between September and October of 1980, between May and June of 1981, and between September and October of 1982.
Other major percentage increase in new business phone connections took place between October and November of 1982, between March and April of 1983, and between September and October of 1983. Even the last two months, November and December, of 1983 were busy for new business phone installations.
Since then, above average months for business phone connections in St. Tammany Parish have been March and May of 1984, with a whopping increase in August of 1984 and another busy month in April of 1985. Business phone installations continued to be above average in June and November of 1985, with April of 1986 the only slightly above average business phone connection month for that year.