LOOK BACK: Telephone communications in Port Alberni

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Telephone operators Enid Garrard (Mrs. L.M. Rosenborough) and Minnie Mundy (Mrs. Colin Martin) (possibly this is Margaret Watson (Mrs. E. Kierstead) sit in front of a large panel of telephone circuits and ‘cables’ at the B.C. Telephone office on Fourth Avenue, sometime after 1912. Manual switchboards, or ‘cordboards’ were used for decades in the early 20th century. This photo is one of 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s collection. See more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com/. (PHOTO PN04334 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

Today we think nothing of turning to our smartphones to make calls, video calls, multi-party calls, use it to search the internet, play games, take photos.

Telephone communication has come a long way since the first voice call was made, less than 150 years ago.

After the telephone was invented in 1876, manual telephone switchboards were used to connect circuits of telephones between a caller and who they wanted to call. Telephone operators had a microphone and earpiece so they could listen to and speak with the caller and person on the other end of the line.

There is also another photo in the museum’s collection, PN01152, that shows Minnie Munday, Steve McDonald and Enid Garrard (Roseborough) on the porch of a private residence, that around 1922 also served as the B.C. Telephone company office. It wasn’t unusual for the switchboard to be installed in an operator’s residence, so they could answer calls whenever necessary.

Although manual switchboards eventually gave way to newer technology, operators were still used well into the 20th century to connect people making long-distance and overseas calls.

This photo is one of nearly 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s collection. See more online at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com/. The Albernis: Then and Now, 1912-2012 is still available for purchase at the Alberni Valley Museum.


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