Radio Cab’s History 1946
During the spring and summer of 1946 two groups of WWII Veterans held meetings to discuss creating new taxi companies. One group called themselves Tuxedo Cab, the other — Radio Cab. Each group appeared before the Portland City Council to request taxi company operating permits. City Council told them to leave, join forces and come back as one company. They got together, appeared before Council as Radio Tuxedo Cab Company, and were granted 35 taxi permits to operate in the City of Portland, Oregon.
Early driver training program, circa 1946
Radio Tuxedo Cab hit the streets on August 23, 1946. Our first phone number was BE-1175. The original office was located at 1715 S.W. Salmon. It was a two room wooden structure with only two phones for incoming calls. Out on the streets we shared call boxes with other cab companies or used free phones in service stations and restaurants to get our orders from the dispatchers.
Our new company was formed as a corporation, owned collectively by the drivers. Each owner/operator held a share of the company assets. Together they decided on the rules and operating procedures. It was well understood that their individual success was entirely dependent on the success of the company – and it has remained that way to this day.
Our original fleet numbered 35 cabs. All of the drivers wore blue uniforms complete with chauffeur caps and were members of the Teamsters Union. Times were good, but operations were difficult because of the scattered taxi stand locations and lack of two way radios in the cabs.
Radio Cab History 1948-1949
In 1948 a switchboard was installed in our dispatch office and the first two way radios were put in the cabs. The radios were not very good, and the fact that all three local cab companies shared the same operating frequency made matters even worse. We could hear each other calling in or dispatching orders! It wasn’t until 1950 that the F.C.C. granted each cab company their own frequency to operate on.
In 1949 we increased our fleet to 37 cabs. The City had revoked two permits issued to Beacon Cab because of illegal activities. We applied for the two permits and they were eventually issued to us.
Radio Cab’s Rose Festival float, circa 1950
Radio Cab History 1950’s
In 1950 we moved our offices from 1715 S.W. Salmon to 1776 S.W. Madison. By this time we had dropped the Tuxedo part of our original name and were now officially known as Radio Cab Company. In our new facility we had an office, a dispatch room, and a driver’s room.
Dudley Lapham, our manager at the time, had the foresight to see the need to build up the night business. He installed direct line phones in clubs, taverns, and motels. This enabled frequent callers to make immediate contact with our dispatch by simply lifting up the receiver on a phone, without having to dial. This innovation really helped to boost the night business. Post-war Portland had a lively nightlife with lots of clubs and after hour spots. The downtown area was alive and business was good for our growing cab business.
During the 1950’s Mr. Lapham also managed to work a deal to purchase the cabs and operating permits owned by Union Cab Company. This acquisition added 30 more cabs to our fleet and made us a solid company, big enough to make City Hall pay attention to us when issues arose.
S.W. Madison location, circa 1950
Radio Cab History 1958-1959
In 1958 we made the big decision to buy our own property. The Oregon Transfer Garage, located at 1613 N.W. Kearney, was purchased and became our new headquarters. We have been located there ever since. It is a large building and easily houses a gas station, auto repair shop, offices, dispatch room, driver’s room, radio repair shop, taxi meter repair shop, with enough room left over to install a car wash.
In 1959 Yellow Cab of Portland came up for sale. In those days the cab stands belonged to individual companies and Yellow Cab owned all of the good stands. A joint venture by the two remaining large companies, Broadway and Radio, resulted in the purchase of Yellow Cab. This added an additional 30 permits and vehicles to our fleet and gave us some good taxi stands on which to position ourselves. Later on in 1970 Mayor Goldschmidt made all stands open, operating on a first come first served basis.
Radio Cab History 1960-1979
The 1960’s brought us a new airport, the Vietnam War, and some local civil unrest. Demonstrations and riots sometimes made cab driving a little more dangerous than normal. A few of our cabs were attacked. During that period being a “Veteran Owned and Operated” taxi company was not always a good thing.
We persevered and managed to get through the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. The war ended, but then the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo led to gas rationing. Up until that time the gas pumps in the building were only used to supply our own fleet. Rationing allotted us only a percentage of the fuel that we normally received, consequently there wasn’t enough gas to supply our whole fleet. After getting through that problem we decided to open the gas pumps to the general public. This would increase the amount of fuel routinely delivered to our station so If rationing were to take place again we would receive enough to supply the fleet. The gas pumps have been open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ever since. It’s the only indoor gas station in the state of Oregon.
Radio Cab History 1980-present
The 1980’s brought some internal financial difficulties for us and our chief competitor, Broadway Cab Company. We toughed it out and survived. Broadway did not, and eventually filed for bankruptcy. They are now owned by outside interests. We continued on to the present under the original structure as a driver owned and operated company.
Throughout the years Radio Cab gradually grew in number. We acquired other smaller cab companies and were issued additional operating permits. We are currently permitted to operate 136 taxicabs inside the Portland city limits, and also have a growing fleet of cabs operating in the greater Portland metropolitan area, including Vancouver, Washington. This makes us one of the largest taxi fleets in the Pacific Northwest.
Our dispatching procedures and equipment have gradually changed during our history, too. Keeping track of the cabs and taking orders from customers was done manually at first. Hand written paper order slips, magnetic boards with numbered buttons for each cab, and two-way radios were the standard means up until the mid 1990’s. It was then that we made the decision to computerize the dispatch system. Today we have the most advanced digital dispatching system available. It uses mobile data terminals in the vehicles to receive orders from dispatch. GPS allows us to keep track of the location of all the cabs.
We have also replaced most of the direct line phones with automated call boxes at the clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments. These call boxes automatically dispatch cab requests with the simple push of a button. In spite of all the digital enhancements to our operations we still make use of our two-way communications radios occasionally, because after all — we are Radio Cab Company.