Tag Archives: Bell Telephone

Ghost Story Ride 2- Who You Gonna Call?

Ghost Story Ride 2- Who You Gonna Call?


I had a lot of children on the Ghost Story ride at Pumpkin Fest and I wanted them to be interested in history– so sometimes you have to look out of the box to get their attention. So how do you make the Carleton Place telephone building interesting? Well, I brought Ghostbusters into it– yes, kids today know all about Ghostbusters— but only the original one– they don’t really don’t care for the sequel LOL.

As I approached the old telephone building on Beckwith Street I asked them: “Who you gonna call?”  and while a few said 911 most said, “Ghostbusters!!  So that lead me to explain that once upon a time 20 odd woman asked “Number please” in that very building and they were kind of like the Ghostbusters of Carleton Place. Rational? Of course not, but they got it and hopefully remembered.

The telephone first came into public use in Carleton Place and nearby Ontario communities in 1885. The photo below shows the old telephone company building on Albert Street near the corner of Beckwith in Carleton Place that now houses Balance Within Yoga. The Bell building was (and still is) across the street from the old Zion United Church. It was built in 1927 and the interior was reported in the newspaper to be carefully finished. A glass partition separated the public space and the operating headquarters. Next to the switchboard there was an operator’s restroom and the chief operators desk along with a terminal rack at the rear. In the basement there was a new hot water furnace, coal storage space, a battery cupboard  and a workroom for the parts man.


download (6)

So that brought me to ask the kids if they knew what a telephone looked like before a cell phone. One young chap told me that his Father had said that ‘you had to put your finger in a hole and turn it in a circle”. I immediately felt very very old at that particular moment.



Who remembers dialing over and over again as fast as you could because the number you were calling was busy and you wanted to beat the next random person to the call i.e. calling radio stations or stores etc.

Bryan Reingold I miss the old phones and the ring. I know we can get a “ring” tone for our cell phones…but not the same. And the worst call you got was a wrong number….now with all this modern technology, call display, voice mail, digital dialing, etc…we also get spam calls, telemarketing, fraudulent phone numbers being used, etc. Our cell phones are no longer simple phones but pocket computers that you are attached to.

Ann Calcutt We still have one in the basement, years ago one of our daughters’ friends wanted to make a call and didn’t know how to use it, they thought it was ancient and took so long to dial 😐

Sandra Rattray We still have a vintage wall. phone from my father’s family home where it hung on the hall wall.



Some of the ladies who were the Bell telephone operators in Carleton Place. Photo- From Bonnie Tosh of Carleton Place– with  Audrey MacDougallEve GilhulyNorma McKienHelen SmichLois McGeeNorma AndisonLous MacDougallInez DoucettRetah Jennings Lalonde’s Real Estate PageMc Pherson, Phyllis – Mc Pherson PhyllisShirley F Nesbitt and Joan Whalen.



The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
14 Jan 1939, Sat  •  Page 20




The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
14 Jun 1976, Mon  •  Page 2



The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
26 Sep 1973, Wed  •  Page 3



Tales from the Ghost Story Wagon– 1- Alligators on Lake Avenue East


The Devil’s Telephone? The Ouija Board

Smiths Falls in 1955–3,031 Telephones!!

Telephone Tales from 569 South Street

For the Love of a Telephone Table

The Day the Balderson Telephone Co Disappeared

The Telephone and its History in Almonte

But I Can’t Spend my Telephone Money!

Number Please? Carleton Place

Where Did the 257 Telephone Exchange Come From in Carleton Place?

Jenny, Jenny, Who Can I Turn To?

The Telephone and its History in Almonte


Working on the Telephone Lines — Electrocution at Carleton Place




Ghost Story Ride 1- Alligators on Lake Avenue East

Jenny, Jenny, Who Can I Turn To?





I came home the other day to see the”Bell box “in front of my home which houses all the neighbours wire connections wide open and unlocked. Immediately, sensing an impending New World Order Disaster I decided to call Bell Telephone thinking they would be grateful for the information. Boy, was I wrong.
First of all it– trying to find a number to call was ridiculous, and when I finally found one, “no one was really at home” as they say. Next I decided to try Live Chat and immediately nothing fit the reason for my call– so I attempted to wing it.  Let me suggest to you that in this day and age ‘winging it’ is not the right way. When I got the famous “for staffs amusement, your call will be recorded” message I knew there might not be any solution to this dilemma.

An agent came on and asked for my personal phone number. Okay, I can deal with that– but in reality, my address might help you– but my number won’t. After listening to my minute-long tirade, a customer service representative suggested that I give him my phone number and address again so he can get a work sheet started for repairs on MY issue– MY telephone problem. But it’s not MY issue I keep repeating, it’s YOURS.

“Let me talk to your manager,” I protested, but again, they probably wouldn’t care either.  Have you noticed there is always some uproarious laugh when a customer asks to speak with management? They probably hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to be able to speak with a supervisor. The agent put me on hold and I was sure at this point that he was telling his co-workers what a dumb ass he had on the phone, and that some sort of “random act of fate” had directed me to his desk.

The service representative finally told me that he had no access to local repairmen to shut and lock the box and maybe I should call the other Bell number. That statement felt more like: “it wasn’t covered in our sales training so let’s just stick to the script okay?”

I tried to tell him that I did call that other number and was told: as much as my call was very important to them– it was going to be a 25-35 minute wait. I am sure if they had the option like the airlines the message would have also said: at this time we would like you to eat and drink at regular intervals while you continue to hold. In the end I just gave up and longed for the old days when I got a human operator who tried to solve things.

My summation was: why did I have to press 1 for the language of my choice when no one could understand me anyways? The moral of this story is: If you are not happy with the service a little disappointment is going to go a long way to build up your character– and just go out and shut the door of the box. Remember the universe is never under any obligation to make sense to you.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.



Related Reading:


The Telephone and its History in Almonte

Number Please?

For the Love of a Telephone Table

But I Can’t Spend my Telephone Money!

Where Did the 257 Telephone Exchange Come From in Carleton Place?



What Came Out of the Old Drummond Swamp


Perth Courier, Feb. 13, 1891

Mr. *S.S. Merick of Carleton Place has been gathering up various lines of produce in this vicinity and shipping them to the U.S.  So far about 14,000 hop poles from the Drummond swamp near Perth and from Lanark Township have been drawn here and sent away and as many more are expected.



About 100 cords of spruce wood for paper pulp have also been cut in the Drummond swamp and shipped to Watertown, N.Y. and a considerable quantity of potatoes have been sent across the line also with grain of various kinds.

Mr. Merick is a “hustler” and the farms about here may yet find him a very large buyer.  Unfortunately, the *McKinley Bill at present hinders his operations and prevents him paying for these products what the worth is to the farmers, the money being relentlessly collected by the U.S. Customs Officers at the border.




*McKinley Tariff

*S. S Merrick–The Bell Telephone company’s lines spread rapidly through southern Ontario and Quebec.  The Carleton Place Herald early in 1885 reported that Mr. S. S. Merrick of Carleton Place was “obtaining 3,300 first class poles for the 106 mile contract” awarded to him for the Ottawa Valley telephone line then being built, that would connect Ottawa and Brockville, Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place and points northward.  The new telephone service in this district was proposed to be placed in operation with a musical programme by telephone, according to Mr. W. W. Cliff of the Carleton Place Central Canadian. —Howard Morton Brown

Author’s Note— He was also in the Independent Order of Foresters

Perth Courier, May 1, 1891

Easton—Died, at Easton’s Corners, on the 20th April, S.S. Easton, grandmother of Mr. S.S. Merrick of Carleton Place.


Related reading:

It Came From a Lanark County Bayou?

Lanark County 101 — It Began with Rocks, Trees, and Swamps

Let’s Talk About Mud Baby!

Living In Constant Sorrow in a Lanark Swamp

The Telephone and its History in Almonte




Almonte Gazette July 30, 1970 


Walrus moustaches and hair slicked with oil, high stiff collars and bowler hats characterized the young gallant of the middle eighties when the first telephone exchange was established in Almonte. Set up in the rear of M. Patterson’s drug store, the tiny, primitive switchboard created a minor sensation in those horse and buggy days.

It was not until August 1887, that the first list of Almonte subscribers was published in a small, pocket-size directory containing the names of practically everyone in Eastern Ontario and Quebec who had a telephone. Under Almonte the names of 29 subscribers were listed which reveals the progressiveness of the local residents of that time, for in these days this new means of communication was regarded in many quarters as little more than a silly fad.

In 1886 Almonte became an important long distance centre in the rapidly-growing wire network which the Bell Telephone Co. had begun to erect throughout Ontario and Quebec. That year an 82-mile pole line to Pembroke was completed, which meant that local subscribers could telephone many intermediate points.

At first voice transmission was limited to 20 miles. But Bell engineers and scientists steadily devised methods of improving the first crude instruments. Galvanized iron lines were replaced by copper and the loading coil, which boosts voice impulses, was invented. This invention was later followed by the vacuum tube repeater which, as its name implies, amplifies the voice currents  at intervals along the circuit and makes it possible to talk across the continent.

With only 29 telephones in Almonte in 1887, subscribers were called by name, not by number. A notice in bold type in the directory advised subscribers that “The name of the party wanted should be spoken with especial distinctness to prevent mistakes.” Another footnote warned: “Do not attempt to use the telephone on the approach or during a thunderstorm.”

The initial list of Almonte subscribers recalls the names of prominent residents and businesses establishments in the community at that time: Almonte Knitting Company; Almonte Gazette; McLeod & McEwan; Almonte House; T. W. Raines; Bank of Montreal; Burns, Robert, M.D., surgery; Canadian Pacific Railway, Station; C.P.R. Telegraph Office; T. W. McDermott; Davis House; John Gemmill; Dowdall & Fraser, Barristers; Lawson, Walter, livery stable; Linch, D. P. , M.D., surgery; Macdonald & Skinner, Barristers, etc.; Mississippi Iron Works; Young Bros.; Munro, J. M.; Patterson, M., drug store; Rosamond Woolen Co., office; Rosamond, Jas., Jr., residence; Robertson, James, merchant; Robinson & Shaw; Shearn, C. H.; Windsor House; F. Reilly; Wylie, J. B. , merchant.

It is interesting to note that of the 29 telephones in service here in 1887, 23 were in business establishments.

With the title of “Agent”, M. Patterson supervised the local affairs of the Bell telephone Company whose switchboard and associated equipment occupied part of the premises of Mr. Patterson’s drug store on Mill Street.

Mr. Patterson continued as local manager until succeeded shortly after the turn of the century by the late “Tom” Armstrong, who, with headquarters at Carleton Place, served as local manager for more than 15 years.

In 1920, a territorial reorganization placed Almonte under the management of John J. Gardiner, whose headquarters were in Smiths Falls. Mr. Gardiner retired in 1937 following over 37 years’ Bell service.

As early as 1900 Almonte had more than 50 telephones. By 1911 the number passed the 100 mark. The 200th instrument was installed in 1920.

In 1947, when the exchange had almost 500 customers, the old hand crank type of telephone was replaced by a much more streamlined set. Common battery telephones enabled subscribers to contact the operator by simply lifting the receiver.

It was a great help to the operator too, because, as an editorial in the ALMONTE GAZETTE of Nov. 20, 1947, pointed out, “When the receiver is removed from the hook a light flashes on in front of the operator; when she makes the connection it goes out and when the receiver is replaced it comes on again, indicating that the conversation is terminated. She breaks the circuit.”

Under the old system, the editorial continued – “people neglected to ring off … the only way ‘central’ could determine whether the parties were through with the line was to listen in.”

Since that major renovation in the telephone system, the Bell has attempted to provide Almonte subscribers with up-to-date telephone service to meet their ever expanding needs. As the town has grown, the demand for service has grown with it, and the company has had to keep abreast and even a step ahead of local development to meet demands without delay.

The change to dial in March, 1966, and the introduction of direct distance dialing gives Almonte a communications system second to none. Subscribers here will be served by the same type of telephone switching equipment that now serve Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. They will also have direct dialing access to the same number of long distance telephones as residents of the larger metropolitan areas.




Lanark County Genealogical Society Website

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News