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Thursday, April 6, 2017
Going backwards to go forward as Chapleau returns to operator-assisted telephone calls in 1951
The Chapleau Post reported that Chapleau was "believed to be the first town in Ontario to boast a dial telephone system' in 1924 but effective on August 21, 1951, the dials were removed and a manual system installed.
The Chapleau Automatic Telephone Company was formed in 1924 and shares were sold to each subscriber with each required to purchase three shares at $50 each
The newspaper explained that it "may appear like a backward step" but the size of the exchange did not warrant a large enough dial system to handle the volume of traffic.
By 1950 with 300 subscribers no new ones could be added. The system had reached capacity. Charles W. Collins, secretary-treasurer of the Chapleau Board of Trade announced that negotiations were underway for improvements.
As the operator assisted exchange was being launched, E.M. Patton. president of the Chapleau Telephone System announced: "This new step in the improvement of Chapleau's telephone service will provide more people with a better local and long distance service."
Directions were issued for using the new system which advising customers to "lift the receiver and give operator the number", be aware that certain numbers were changed and to follow instructions in the new directory.
We did not have a telephone at our house before 1951, but did shortly thereafter, but at first it was a party line, but in due course we got our own number which was 188. Amazes me how I recall that number more than 60 years later.
A rate increase was met with some opposition but again the Chapleau Post supported it pointing out that it was the first in more than 20 years in Chapleau, bringing their business in line with present costs of doing business.
The monthly rate for an individual home phone rose to $3.35 from $2.58, while the business rate rose to $5.30 from $3.83.
The telephone company defended the rate increase by pointing out that a central office with new equipment had been established on Pine Street. The telephone equipment had previously been located in the old Town Hall basement but was now in the former Orange Hall on Pine Street. In later years that became the by-law office. It also noted that it had to keep pace with Chapleau's growth in the 1950s.
Township council approved the rate increase as did the Ontario Municipal Board.
And so, in 1951, Chapleau phone users were able to hear the "cheery voice" of the telephone operators, "Number please." Mrs. Myrtle Delaney was the chief operator.
This is the first of two articles on the telephone history in Chapleau. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org