Remember This?

Downtown Auburn goes underground

Utility poles make way for beautification
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Who are these men and why are they showing off two distinctly different types of cable?

The scene is in front of the Hotel Auburn on Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn in March 1972 and the photo is a time capsule into the changing streetscape of the city.

Published in the Journal, there is no photo credit so we don’t know who took the picture. The wide angle and style suggests that it was not shot by Merv Doolittle, the Journal’s photographer at that time.

But we do know who was in the shot and the significance of the group coming together on what appears to be an overcast day in A-Town.


Piece of the past

The cutline says that Pacific Telephone manager Perry Johnson and retired telephone company patrolman Jim Bowman, both prominent in the foreground, are displaying a piece of Auburn history that was about to vanish at that location.

Until that year, Downtown Auburn had numerous wires strung above on poles along Lincoln Way between the Post Office Building at what is now the Clocktower and Harrison Street. They’d been there since 1913, held in place with ribbon rings.

Bolstered by utility company funding and chipping in $10,000 of the final $100,000 cost, the city of Auburn went ahead with plans to underground the cables.


1913 vintage

According to the AJ article, the cable and ribbon rings had originally been placed along Lincoln Way in 1913 - about the same time that the road was first paved.

Almost 60 years later - and 47 years ago - Lincoln Way’s clutter of cables and poles were removed. And Bowman, whose patrol domain stretched from Roseville to Donner Summit, recalled a time when the utility poles outside the Hotel Auburn were square - not round - and made of redwood.

In case you’re wondering who else is in the photo, the others are head lineman Dale Davis, Keith Maben, Ed Gride and Gene Classon. Some of them are holding onto the new, thicker cable that was buried below ground at the time.

“Remember This?” and Gus Thomson can be reached at or 530-852-0232. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.