Tag Archives: phones

The Local ‘Gabblers’ on the Party Lines! 1950s

The Local ‘Gabblers’ on the Party Lines! 1950s

The second photo (also found at almonte .com) is labelled as the “Telephone Central Office”. Switchboards were still in use in the 40s. Where was this office located? In that Mill Street space? The second photo may be older than the first, and the office was relocated to Mill Street later? The windows are hard to place in the second photo, but perhaps the building was rebuilt since then… Anyone have other details? Can confirm locations of the “central office”?The two women in the second photo are switchboard operators – manually connecting calls with cord pairs. If you zoom in, you can see these cords quite clearly #Almonte#EarlyTelecommunications#HelloOperatorDowntown AlmonteUnexpected Almonte

Almonte Gazette- 1951

District complaints have come, recently, regarding the shortening of telephone circuits as carried out by the Bell Company. Before the Bell took over the Lanark & Carleton Counties Telephone Co., these circuits were quite large in most instances and it was possible for a person on one of them to call a great many more patrons, without going through the central exchange board, here, than is now the case. Those who do not like the breaking up of these large—sociable— loops, say the Bell Co. is going right on with its policy and they complain, as stated above, that where they used to be able to call a friend many miles distant without ringing central, they must now go through the local exchange.

The only argument they use against this is that it causes them some inconvenience, and, for good measure they criticize the service given at the central switchboard here. Most reasonable people admit there are some very good operators in Almonte—and to put it delicately—some who are not so good. But even the operators who are accused of being a little slow or careless do not create half as much inconvenience as the gabblers on the rural lines. They are the real nuisances and their long visits may be discouraged by shortening the circuits so they will have to go through central to get a connection. If they camp on the line too long and someone else wants it for an important message, the local operator will have a definite knowledge of who is doing the visiting.

This photo is interesting not just because of the snowstorm & the two good-natured gents, one with a broom, sweeping the snow. Also in this picture is a hanging sign that states “Business Office” and has the old/original Bell Canada bell logo on it. This photo is from 1947.–Unexpected Almonte

Complaints are heard from many sections about well known bores on the rural lines. There are mammas who call up their daughters every morning and talk for half-an-hour on any subject from the best method of emptying a certain bedroom utensil to what subject is going to be discussed at the next meeting of the Ladies’ Aid. There are, also, the problems of pickles, preserves, picking apples, the state of the barn yard, the state of the garden, the state of the neighborhood, the state of the township and the state of the nation. There is the question of quilting quilts and many other topics too numerous to mention.

The gripe that many rural people have about these gossips is that they monopolize the lines and make them useless for the transmission of sensible messages or transaction of business. One method of getting these magnetic talking machines off the line used by quick tempered men is to damn whoever is holding up that line—damn her with great big words of disapprobation. If the adjectives are hot enough the receivers click up and a startled voice generally gasps: “Well, I never! How ignorant can some folks be?”

The people who camp on the rural lines generally make a habit of it, do it around the same time, and are well known to the exasperated neighbors and more distant patrons who would like to get a word in edgeways. As stated before, the shortening of the rural circuits by the Bell Co. may be a blessing in disguise because these people who have nothing to do but monopolize the service with their silly chatter will not have the face to go through central, every morning or afternoon, and keep everybody from using the line for the next hour or so.

In the above it is admitted that most of those who are opposed to shortening of telephone circuits are not influenced by the desire to monopolize the lines. They simply feel it is an inconvenience to call central in town to get someone whom they used to call on the longer circuit by giving a signal on their own phone. But, as pointed out to these and other people, the policy of the Bell may in the end have its compensations. It has on other rural systems because- people who use them have attested to th at fact. One real cause for complaint though, is the constant changing of rural numbers of people paying for business telephones.

Karen Dorman sent this photo in..The top photo is the girls at the Bell telephone circa 1953. Starting with the far left standing are Audrey MacDougall, Joan McKim Whalen, Thelma Dowdall, Louise Kerr, Margaret Kingston Billings, Shirley Nesbitt Sadler, Janet Arbuckle, ?(chief operator), Helen Smith, At switchboard Joyce Stanzel Saunders, Joan Ferguson, Velma Bryce, Rose McKittrick Seated Norma McKim, Phylis MacPherson, ? HorrickNumber Please? Carleton Place



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

Mary Cook and her Telephone Pin

Did You Know This About Perth?

Did You Know This About Perth?

In November of 1939 a new telephone system was inaugurated in Perth and district at seven o’clock in the morning, when the crank system went into the discard and in its place the flashing of a small electric lamp at central informs the operate a call is being placed.


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Perth Remembered —Picture of the backside of the Perth Hotel looking from North Street down Gore Street. This was picture taken before the fire at the hotel showing the third floor. The building in the foreground once housed the Bell Canada switching office where all the switchboard operators worked



The actual cutover which took less than a minute, did not inconvenience the public.  To Perth, one of the oldest towns in Eastern Ontario, belongs the honour of having the second telephone that ever was in use. Professor Bell, inventor of the telephone, sent to his friend. Dr. J. F. Kennedy, a dentist of Perth, a pair of telephones and the doctor stretched a wine front his office on Foster street to his residence on D’Arcy Street and was able to communicate between the two places. The first exchange established here was in 1888.




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Perth Remembered photo

That all changed September 15th, 1963 when Perth would have one of the most modern dial exchanges in Canada. There were 2,375 phones in Perth at the time. George Thompson, regional Bell Telephone manager provided the following suggestion about the use of the dial telephone: “The most important step is to be certain you have the right number and if you are in doubt consult your new telephone directory. If the number is not listed dial 411 to reach an information operator. Once you are sure of the number pick up the receiver and hold it to your ear. Listen for the dial tone, a steady humming sound. Now you are ready to dial. Place your index finger firmly in the dial opening through which the first figure of the number desired appears. Pull the dial steadily around to the finger stop. Then remove your finger and allow the dial to spin back by itself. Do not try to hurry it for doing so can result in a wrong number. If you finger slips replace the receiver and start over. After you have dialed the figures of the number listen for the signals. A soft intermittent bur-r-r signifies that the called telephone is ringing and a buzz-buzz-buzz means that it is busy.”

If you had a party line as many of you would remember you would dial the number, hear the busy signal and they you would hang up then both your own and the called party’s bell would ring. When the ringing would stop that would mean that the called party has answered and you would pick up and answer. We are still on a party line at the cottage at Otty Lake.

When this picture was taken in 1951 there were over 1,600 telephones in service in Perth. The picture shows the operators at their switchboard. Included in the group were operators, Primrose Lindop, Helen Dodds, Constance Horan, Joyce Code and Rhona Huddleston with chief operator Nettie Burke. In 1935 the telephone exchange was located in the Meighen block on Foster street and then moved the building attached to and behind the Perth Hotel at the corner of Gore and North Street.– Perth Remembered



Perth Courier, August 3, 1934

Early Telephones

Forty seven years ago this month in August of 1877 the first list of Perth subscribers to telephone service in a small pocket sized directory that contained the names and addresses of all telephone users in eastern Ontario and Quebec was put out.  At that time there were 19 telephones here.

The limited number of instruments in Perth in 1887 excluded the need for telephone numbers.  Subscribers were then called by name.  A notice prominently displayed in bold type at the bottom of various pages throughout the book advises persons calling that he name of the party wanted should be “spoken with especial distinction to prevent mistakes”.  Another foot note frequently encountered throughout the directory was “do not attempt to use the telephone on the approach of or during a thunderstorm”.  Recalling a feature of the old time telephone appliances the in use in homes and places of business there appeared another note to the effect that “should the transmitter be out of order it is possible to speak through the hand telephone (receiver)”.

The following subscriber lists of August, 1877 recalls the names of prominent citizens and business establishments of many years ago:

Allan House, Gore Street

Allan, J.A., barrister, Gore Street

Bank of Montreal, Gore Street

Canadian Pacific Railway, depot

Court House

Electric Light Company, Gore Street

Elliott and Rogers, barristers, Foster Street

Farmer’s Hotel, Foster Street

Fraser, Dr. H.D., Foster Street

Hale, F.A., barrister, Foster Street

Hicks House, Gore Street

Inland Revenue Office, Gore Street

Kennedy, J.F., dentist, D’Arcy Street

Kellock, Dr. J.D., D’Arcy and Gore Streets

Kellock, J.F., druggist, Gore Street

Malloch, E.G., barrister, Foster Street

Meighen Brothers, merchants, Gore and Foster Streets

Radenhurst, W.H., barrister, Gore Street

It is interesting to note that there were no home or residence telephone here at that time and of the 19 instruments in service in offices and other business establishments, there were five located in law offices.  The late Dr. J.F. Kennedy operated with the title of “agent” in charge of the Bell Telephone Company’s Central office containing the switchboard apparatus and associated equipment located on D’Arcy Street on the same premises occupied by his dentistry parlors.



Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.



The Day the Balderson Telephone Co Disappeared


The Devil’s Telephone? The Ouija Board

But I Can’t Spend my Telephone Money!





Ad in the Carleton Place Canadian circa 195os- from the files of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

One of the ironies of modern life is that everyone is glued to their phones, but does anyone really use them as a telephone anymore?  Have our phones just become fancy two-way pagers with keyboards?

The land line phone served a purpose when there were no alternatives. I spent many hours on it with my friends when I was a teen. But that still doesn’t mean it’s superior to a cellphone, any more than a horse and buggy was superior to an automobile. Awww, too bad, landlines were a drag, right? Well batteries and charging are even worse.

The telephone network of the 1970s and 1980s sounded far superior on local calls than that achieved by the still-awful HDVoice cell phone companies have started to implement. The smart phone has won, because we have adopted it in overwhelming numbers, and abandoned the limited, old, clumsy land line.

We do not care that cell phone conversations are inferior to land line conversations, nor are we rummaging through our pockets for change anymore for the payphone.  Is it because phone conversations are no longer that important, given the many other ways we communicate?

Smart phones still suffer from a bit of what I call “Swiss Army Knife Syndrome.” The old red pocket knife is not the world’s best knife, or corkscrew, or nail file. But it’s the best single item combining all those functions when asynchronous, textual media like email or WhatsApp allow you to intricately craft every exchange.

Surely you jest you say? You can’t mean the ‘crafting” of ungrammatical, misspelled, poorly constructed, illogical collections of non-sentences that are all too common in written communication today? Or, are we just annoyed that the kids invented a more efficient way of typing words phonetically?

Today I salute those people from 1985 who managed to go without cellphones and still not die: those were the real heroes!





What is a Payphone? In Memory of Former Telecommunications


Written in 2013

It is pouring rain in Lanark County, and as I walk out of a gas station payphone I spy a teenager walking in the drenching rain sheltering his cellphone as he texts.

Why, I ask myself?

Since my sons gave me my iPhone on Mother’s Day I have treated the phone like the black sheep of any family. I try and ignore it, but it will not let me, and I feel like I am never alone. Granted it was my choice to get rid of the landline and finally move into the 21st century like everyone else. But what happens to the memory of what once was?

Texting was easy as I already had several weeks of repetitive training/cajoling on my iPad– but my brain no longer wants to attempt any mental feats of strength that are not needed. Instead of texting back, most times I answer the text on my laptop with an email. Friends have told me I will get used to it and end up loving it, so am I secretly sabotaging myself? I have not set up voice mail because others have told me they cannot retrieve messages so I use that as an excuse.


This morning I watched my oldest son use both his thumbs to text as I have seen many times. I marvel at the precision and speed he uses and think of my texts this week with misspelled words that even spellcheck could not pick up. I remember the 4 year-old-girl on the Apple commercials and how she whizzed through feats of technology without help and how I wish I could be smarter.

I have in my hands a fabulous piece of communication that I am shunning like the Amish. It attempts to entice me daily to use it like a prosthetic for the rest of my life. I refuse to let it become the bearer of my vital signs and continued activity in my brain. Is there a middle ground? Has cellphone dependency resulted in compulsive communicating? Or will I eventually turn into a Ninja when someone touches my phone?


In memory of landlines and the payphones in Carleton Place I once used:

Mr. Gas

Outside the IDA

Mac’s on Lake Ave West

Mac’s at the four corners

Art’s on Townline

Esso Station on Hwy 7


My telephone booth inside my house that was one of the original phone booths from the Ottawa General Hospital.
Darlene Gerbino Pistocchi from Screamin Mamas from Florida said: Getting rid of payphones is a huge mistake… I mean how are we supposed to change into superheroes now????