Monday, 24 August 2015

The Telephone: Off the Hook

I was telling my daughter that her son is so cute that her phone will be ringing off the wall pretty soon.  Well... there is a saying we won't be hearing in the future. Who still has a telephone on their wall?

Wall panel phone with intercom
like we had in the 60's 

My Dad worked for Bell Canada for over 30 years.  At one time he was a supervisor in the safety department, teaching home, work and vehicle safety. When I was young my Dad drove with his head lights on during the day and other motorists used to honk at him. Now it is the law in Canada to have daytime running lights. We always had the latest fashion in telephones in our house, and as kids we each had real old fashioned telephones (not connected) to play with.

My brother worked for the phone company all his career, preferring to work outside than at a desk even when they offered him promotions. When he went independent he installed many phone and computer lines for movie sets around Alberta. Cable strung through the woods to cast and crew trailers had to be buried or hooked in trees to keep the animals from chewing on them. He predicted that one day everyone will have one number and it will be for all things including your phone.

I worked for Bell Canada in the 1970's, in the Computer Communications department, which was responsible for installing computer modems in offices and polling stations during elections. Before that I worked at old fashioned switch boards.

It is a rarity these days to see a phone booth.  Or one with a phone that actually works.  When my kids were in high school they would go the phone booth and call telephone operators around the world (calls to operators were free) and chat about weather and customs. 

For many years since about 2003 we had Vonage phone service, which is a VOIP (Voice over Internet) company, used with an ordinary cordless phone. It cost us about $45 per month for US and Canada calls.  A few years ago we switched to MagicJack, and now our phone lines costs us less than $50 a year. We have 2 lines and numbers, and we take it wherever we go. The MagicJack APP is free for your mobile phone and can be used anywhere over free wifi, with or without an account.

What will the next innovation be??

Fun:  There are many old songs and movies that have to do with telephones.  A few of my favourite classic movies are "The Gazebo", "Sleepless in Seattle" and  "Phone Booth".
Do you have a favourite "telephone" song or movie?

Relevant Links

Canadian Independent Telephone Company 1910

Bell Telephone memorial: Brantford Ontario 1917

Telephone exchange: rules for the guidance of subscribers - BC 1881

Philipp Reis, inventor of the telephone, a biographical sketch - 1883

Telephone catalogue no 15 and price list - Montreal 1899

The "Unique" telephones, manufactured by John Starr, Son & Co - 1892

Exchange and toll station directory, Elgin, ILL, Chicago Phone Co 1892 

Southern Bell Telephone, Florida 1899

By-laws and act of incorporation and amendments, NS Telephone Company, 1888

Agreement and schedule of wages - between BC Electric Railway, Western Canada Power and BC Telephone - 1916

Montreal's first hundred thousand - 1923

The telephone systems of the continent of Europe 1895

General instructions, tariff of charges and exchange lists, Vancouver 1890

Bell Telephone Magazine (American Telephone Co - various vols)

Recipes for use in the dining service department of the Pacific Telephone Co - 1922

Modern Telephone Service for the Home - 1920

The Telephone News, Pennsylvania 1914

San Francisco and Oakland Chinese Telephone Directory - 1945

Telephone Timeline

Les Nouveautés électriques - France 1896

Quotations about telephones

Songs about telephone calls

Turn your touch phone into a musical instrument

Telephone Directories


  1. The picture of the switchboard took me back. I worked night shift for General Telephone in Ohio during summers home from college at a switchboard with cords (alternating red and white sets). I still remember the pay phone calls and counting the money dropped in every three minutes (1 beep for a nickel, 2 for a dime, and 5 fast beeps for a quarter) - I hated when people put their money in all mixed up!

    1. That must have been way more complicated than a small board in a company! But probably more interesting too!


Leave me a note to tell me you were here! Thanks for visiting.

By joining our Facebook group you get other genealogy news from time to time, and you can download pages of links that go with the posts. Use follow buttons at top right under search bar.

Copyright © Genealogy: Beyond the BMD
Division of Dianne at Home