Early Phone System

The telephone was introduced to Elk Point on August 9, 1913.  The first telephone operator was Charles Hood who was also our postmaster and hardware dealer.  His premises were located on the corner lot west of where the Beattie residence stands.  There were very few phones in Elk Point in 1913, no more than a dozen.  They were mostly installed in business locations.  The early phone was a wall phone which had an extended mouthpiece as well as an ear phone.  It was made up of a transmitter and receiver.  These phones all had a line leading to the phone office and were hooked up to a switchboard.  When you turned a small crank you alerted the person at the switchboard, who connected you to the party you wished to speak to.  To make long distance calls you had to phone central - the operator then connected you to the long distance line.

   Charles Hood was in charge of our local phone system until February 25, 1922.  On that date, the system was turned over to Dr. F.G. Miller, who had come to Elk Point in 1920 and established a medical practice, which he operated out of his home.  In 1922 Dr. A.G. Ross arrived and a long-standing partnership was formed between the two early pioneer doctors.  The same year they established Elk Point’s first hospital, which was located on the lot east of the new United Church.  Some of the early pioneer businesses which used this early phone system were the Caskey Hotel, C.J. Markstad’s IHC shop, the Bank of Commerce, the hospital, Jim Babcock’s store, Johnson Bros. store, the Plante Hotel, Ray Keitges’ store, Sam Lee’s restaurant, Oran Caskey’s garage, Hood’s Hardware and the residences of Drs. F.G. Miller and A.G. Ross.  A few other residences were also hooked up to the early phone system.

   Dr. F.G. Miller turned the local phone system over to Stewart Bruce MacDonald on October 31, 1928.  The phone office was located in Mr. MacDonald’s Drug Store which was located where the Kelly’s Closet stands (4910 50 Ave).  This phone office and drug store burned down in 1939 and was rebuilt shortly after, at the same location.  During the early years the operators of our phone system had to be bonded.  The early operators worked on a commission basis; the later ones were put on a salary.  On June 1, 1945 the phone system changed hands again; this time George H. Graham took it over.  On March 1, 1946 the drug store was sold to Robert Joseph Tredger and he became the new phone operator.  On June 16, 1950 Ronald Barwick took the phone system over from Mr. Tredger and operated it out of his clothing store, which was located on the lot that now houses IDA Drugs.  The next operator of our phone system was Mrs. Ella Williams, who took over from Mr. Barwick on June 1, 1954.  The agency was moved to a small building in the general area where Ralph Riemer now has his home.

  The last of the phone system operators was Kaye McAleese who took over from Mrs. Williams on August 1, 1956.  She operated continuously until September 1, 1963.  After this date the Alberta government changed it into a direct dialling system.

 During the early years of the telephone, you sometimes had trouble taking a call from a nearby neighbour because of the line interference.  Today a call from Australia comes in as loud and clear as if it was coming from an adjoining room.  With the improved direct dialling system, you can now reach any country in the world.  What used to take hours to make an overseas call is now done in a fraction of a minute. The phone has come a long way since it was first invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.  Today, the telephone plays a major role in everybody’s lives.  It is a device very commonly used - one that would be difficult to do without in these modern times.