Early telephone equipment prevented operators from speaking to more than one caller per line. In 1940, Time Service was first in the nation to receive a new device from the American Telephone and Telegraph company that allowed operators to speak to as many as 40 callers simultaneously.
Time Service operators relayed not only a product promotion and the correct naval observatory time but also football scores and Bible verses. Founder Ruth McClain was a graduate of Rice University and fan of its football program.
McClain depicted in the center of the clock. McClain met her future husband, Shad Graham, during the production of this advertisement. Graham was the owner of Texas News Trailers as well as the Houston representative for Fox Movietone.
"When you want the correct time, just call Capitol 7171!" This 1940s advertisement promotes Time Service, a telephone number that Houstonians could call to hear an operator say the time. Funded by national and local advertising, the operator always begins the message with a product promotion. According to the advertisement, more than 150,000 telephones existed in Houston at the time, with some 75,000 callers using the time service every day. Ruth McClain quit her job as a secretary at a Houston advertising firm and formed Time Service with three telephone lines in 1931. Within ten years, the company had expanded to 36 lines, with a team of operators accepting calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thank you to the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) for digitizing this 35mm film, and Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle for sharing documentation about the history of Time Service.
The digital preservation of this collection was made possible by a grant to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the Houston Public Library from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Many more films from the KHOU-TV Collection are available on the Houston Public Library Houston Area Digital Archives website.