The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Jon Hammond
Land of Four Seasons 

A 400-pair telephone cable cut through. Could it get any worse? Why yes, it could. . .

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi


February 1, 2020

Jon Hammond

Jimmy Womack working to splice wires down in a trench before the rain and snow started. A crew of four men worked 29 hours straight to get power restored.

At about 10 a.m. on April 13, 1992, a backhoe operator working on the City of Tehachapi's new sewer line on Dennison Road accidently tore through a telephone trunk line, cutting phone service for every single resident of the Ashe Village (formerly known as Ashe Tract) neighborhood north of the railroad tracks.

Pacific Bell construction splicers Lonnie Latham, Mike Mattucci, Charlie Lunn and Jimmy Womack were dispatched to fix the massive problem, and arrived at the site at about noon to discover that the severed line was a 400-pair pulp cable with paper-insulated wire. The old wire was installed in the late 1950s and was not color-coated, meaning that every pair looked identical and had to be physically identified and then spliced to ensure a dial tone.

The wind blew harder and harder throughout the afternoon, and at about 4 p.m., things got worse: a driving rain pelted the workers and caused additional problems since the paper insulation was dissolving upon contact with the rainwater. It was so cold that the rain began to turn into slushy snow as the crew continued working through the night.

"The wind was blowing 25-30 miles an hour, and it was so cold that your hands would go numb and you'd have to jump in the trucks to warm up for a few minutes before going back out into the weather. I was hunkered down by what we call a 'B Box' that was next to the railroad tracks on Tehachapi Boulevard, across from where Gracian's Grill is located, and there wasn't much shelter. Lonnie and Jimmy were down in the muddy trench, and Charlie was up in the air checking the phone lines in a lift bucket. We had to work all night, but the next day we had restored service to everyone. It was the most grueling experience of my entire phone company career!"

– Mike Mattucci

"With all the rain and snow, the Onan generators that we were using to power our work lights kept getting wet and cutting out, and the big lights were also pulling too many amps and tripping the breakers. It was miserable, and poor Charlie had it worst of all -- he was 30 feet up in the air in the bucket, exposed to everything and getting hammered by the storm. We worked 29 hours straight before we had everyone reconnected."

– Lonnie Latham


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