Can anybody enlighten me as to the significance of the letters of the alphabet following each number in the early Salt Spring telephone numbers?
What layers of meaning can be gleaned from them?
Did they indicate locality? It would seem not.
Did they indicate type of residence or business?
Did the first telephones with service have the numbers 1A, 2A, 3A and ones getting hooked up long afterwards have the letter Z after their number?
... and the letter indicated the morse code dits and dahs (shorts and longs) of the rings (turning the crank just once around for each short, and twice around for each long
You can see the morse code on the 1930 Directory:
May I suggest you talk to Ellen Bennett or Elsie Price. I believe they are both around and were operators of the old system.
The party lines had numbers, and the individual rings on the party line had letters. We were 109G, which was line 109, ring G = short and two longs (or something like that, I don't remember exactly). R was two shorts, I recall. Any of the people with phones before 1963 might remember their code. 1963 was the year the island went to dial phones -- my father project managed the process and did much of the work.
Duncan, thank you!
That makes so much sense - the letters were probably morse code?
I remember we had the same system in New Zealand (party line number, and then a number of rings, short and long, to know whether to pick up or not - you could recognise if it was for you. It made carpooling nice and simple, as everyone picked up, when the plan to do so had been prearranged for a certain time of day.
Thank you also for the tip re who to consult.
The 1931 Phonebook for Ganges and Sooke can be downloaded at:
http://saltspringarchives.com/1931Phonebook.pdf (3.6 MB)
Our phone number was 9F. One short ring and one long.
Presumably the number was the number of the party line (and also the plug-in number for the phone cord at "central"...the telephone exchange switch board).
The number of rings was either two or three, in various combinations of short and long (not just a single ring, since you rang one short ring to get the operator's attention, and another short ring when you rang off).
As far as I know, there is no particular significance to the lettering. But there was a limit as to how many subscribers could be on any one line. The practical limit was probably around 6 to 8. (Since only 12 letters were used, the absolute limit was presumably twelve)
There were only three on Line 9 (the hospital, Dr. Lawson, and our house).
As to how the other lines were assigned, from a quick look at the 1931 directory I see that most of those on line 28, for example, lived on Churchill Road, and mostly on Rainbow Road for line 13. From that quick look, I presume the line numbers were assigned primarily by neighbourhood.
P.S. The short and long rings weren't Morse Code-related.
The number that preceded the letter was your local area line,my grandparents next door,my aunt across the highway and ourselves all had the same number the Courtenay exchange. The letter indicated our ring. If we were visiting the above relatives we could pick up the phone when our number was rung. I think we were 7M (M indicated three long,I think). Ellen Bennett is no longer on the island but June Mitchell is an old operator and she lives in Kingfisher. I can't remember our number when I was married and lived on Rainbow Road. I remember when Hattie Jenkins who lived down the road,heard our number being rung and rung and there was no answer. She knew that I was in Lady Minto having a baby and that she had gone over and given Ivan a drink or two the previous evening. She was pretty sure Ivan was out for the count and that the call would be the doctor. She was right, and the doctor being very young was suitably shocked that Ivan wasn't hanging by the phone. That was Dr.Ankenman,he was visibly shaken when I chose him for my physican. He told me sadly that he hadn't wanted a nurse for his first delivery. I pointed out that I already had children and could help him out by doing all the work. I was sorry I missed him at the reunion.
All the best,Sue