I have some stuff on telephone exchanges on SSI in my box. I will check
it out. Not much on that old building but there are a few people we could
check. I think a Donna Layard would have been in that exchange. She married
and went to the Okanagan,I seem to remember. Nora Layard may have some
stuff on her.I will give her a call. I also met Mrs.Potts again some
years ago,I will see if she is still alive (she is my age,so who knows
!). She and her husband ran a grocery store in the old exchange building
in the early fifties or late forties. It was not a success and only survived
briefly. Marg Simons might be a contact,I think her boys ran the bike
shop there and Marg was always interested in history and did some good
tapes when she was at the Community Centre.
See you tomorrow at the Archives,cheers,Sue
* Firstly, I'm delighted that Eddie Jang bought the property that the
old telephone exchange and the old Jam factory are on, in order
to preserve and restore these historical buildings. I had fears that
they would be sold to a "developer" who would have torn them
* Marguerite Lee's mother, Daisy Gear, worked in the old
telephone exchange. Maybe she has some information.
I recall Ted Gear talking about her (Daisy) working there when
he visited from Galiano and was courting her. (I might even
have that conversation on tape).
* Elsie Perks worked in the telephone exchage when it moved
up the hill to where Piccollo's is now. Maybe she has some info
on the old one.
* Freda Aitkens was the primary operator in the old exchage in
my time, but I don't know if she left any mementos behind, or
who acquired her possessions after she died.
* Re the old jam factory, I remember Mrs. Murakami commenting
once that the workers soon discovered that the juice was useful for
Ellen Bennett was also an operator in the "Piccolo" building;
she may know something about the older place.
Joan Stevens worked there as a 16 yr.
old ( perhaps 1961-63) and, of course, followed the gossip like a fly on the wall.
We are looking for tips to solve the mysteries surrounding the old telephone
exchange and jam factory on Hereford Avenue.
When was it in operation?
Who were the operators? What were they doing back in early days of telephone
on Salt Spring?
BINGO: from my Harbour House research, naturally.
Anecdotes from the tape of those best friends Betty Stone (née
Kingsbury of the Divide, born 1912) and Doreen Morris (née Crofton,
of Harbour House, born 1911) interviewed by Dorothy Wrotonowski.
Here's my transcription of the relevant section, about the earliest Telephone
Exchange, hot from the keyboard:
DW: - And you were in charge in the telephone
BS: - Well, I went to work in the telephone office in about 1926 I guess.
In those days it was open from 10 to 1, and 5 to 7 on Sunday, and it closed
at 10.30 at night, on weekdays; until during the war, just after Japan
entered the war, there was a deal of Jap balloon landing being
sighted on Maxwell Mountain or Musgrave’s, I’m not sure which,
it was one of the high mountains, and so I had to keep the office open
all night (because we had blackouts in those days, you know, you had to
check everybody with their blackouts) and that was the first time that
the office (was open at night) - from then on it was open at night. In
those days there were only 200 subscribers - there’d be 7 or 8 on
a party line - and at night if there was anybody very ill, we had sort
of a three-way plug, and we’d plug them in with the doctor, or if
there was an emergency, they’d either wait with Aitkens, who was
the Agent, or myself, and we’d go and open the office for any emergencies,
which there were once in a while.
DW: - Well, there’d be no ambulance then, would there?
BS: - No, no. And if there was a fire you’d just phone up anybody
that was around.
Dor(C)M: - And the questions you used to get! We’d phone the telephone
operator and say “Is the boat coming down the harbour? What time
is the Mary coming in?” Or “What is the time?”, and
we always very politely got this answer, you know, they’d give us
the time. And if there was a fire “Where was the fire?”, and
‘Central would always tell us’.
BS: - And then somebody would phone and they’d want So and So, and
we’d know that she was out playing Bridge or at tea, and say “Oh,
well, try Mrs. So and So, she’s over there.”
DW: It was more of a friendly exchange than a telephone exchange!
DM: - It was certainly missed.
BS: It was a terrific deal on election night in the old days, because
it was definitely Liberals and Conservatives, and the Croftons were the
Conservatives, and the Mouats were the Liberals, you see. And every tme
Uncle Fred would have a granDor(C)Mhild, there would be another Conservative
DM: No! A child first -
BS: A child first, yes -
DM: Because he’d phone Gilbert and say “I’ve got a Conservative
BS: - but that was before my time.
DM: And then as you say, it would be a granDor(C)Mhild.
DE: And would Mouat reciprocate?
DM: Oh yes, they were great pals, and took it all as -.
BS: And I geneally was working election night, and if the Conservatives
were winning, Major Turner was a great Conservative, I’d get a little
present from Turner’s Store, and if (the Liberals) were winning,
I’d get a box of chocolates sent over from Mouat’s, so it
was sort of up and down!
DW: As if you had anything to do with it, really.
BS: Oh, it was bedlam!
DM: - Fighting!
BS: When (St. Paul’s) church was burned down- it opposite Claire
Butterfield’s, it was right on (Ganges) Hill. Ivan Mouat rushed
down and woke me up and said the church was on fire, and I dashed down
to the telephone office and phoned everybody round to go up. We all went
up afterwards, and saw it.
DM: - Mr. Bullock’s house was burned, Harbour House, Barnsbury.
Thanks to Bob Rush's informative email, I realise that what I heard Mrs.
Stone say as "wait with Aitkens, who was the Agent" would be
"wake Miss Aitkins, who was the Agent" - from such small hearing
deficiencies could much historical mischief come about... my apologies!
I forgot to specify the tape transcribed:
It is number 13 on the Salt Spring Island Audio Files page < http://saltspringarchives.com/audio.html
It was recorded in 1977.
(The recording is in prime condition, and is long, but well worth enjoying
audially and in full.)
In my transcription:
DW refers to Dorothy Wrotonowski the interviewer
DM refers to Mrs. (Doreen) Morris who was one of the six Crofton family
children of Harbour House
BS refers to Mrs. (Betty) Stone who was one of the Kingsbury family who
lived up on the Divide.
My typist cat Barnaby has performed a clever trick and turned the grandchild
in the transcription into a grandDor(C)Mhild - twice over; quite remarkable
of him. I hope it happened after I sent it to you, nut in case that's
what you got, this is the cause... and the solution.
(In case you are intrigued, Dor(C)M is my "Clue To Self" to
indicate Doreen Morris née Crofton.)
We need photographs (especially if they are an inside job) that will stand
up in our kangaroo court.
An' inside job' photograph most certainly exists, I know it well, probably
from Mouat's Mall? My batty memory associates it with the pic of the chicken
coops in Mahon Hall, Fall Fair show... Will hunt it down on website with
next cup of tea perhaps...
Who were the operators?
Freda Aitkens was the "Primary Operator" (in Bob Rush's time,
and in his words) the "Agent" in Betty Stone's words, on audio
tape 13, SSIA.
Betty Kingsbury was an early operator who worked in an exchange from 1926
until during and possibly beyond World War 2.
Ellen Bennett was one operator who worked in the exchange in the photograph
(on Hereford Avenue) in the late 1950's and early 1960's (according to
Charles Kahn in SSI-Story of an Island)
Daisy Gear and Elsie (or Elsy?) Perks were operators Bob Rush remembers.
Dorothy Fanning (née Elliott) and Elsy Perks (née Price)
we have proof positive of having worked in the building in question -
scroll to the end of this email if you have no patience with me...
When was it in operation?
When was the telephone exchange in operation?
Well, we know when it stopped - "the switchboard system was finally
replaced by the dial system in 1964"
See below for source quote from SSI-SOI (Story of an Island) pages 272-273
And we know when it WASn't there yet - 1895.
Rev. Wilson lists "telegraphic communication with Vancouver Island"
as one of the settler needs at the end of his 1895 pamphlet advertising
Salt Spring as a choice location for settlers to flock to.
Reverend Wilson once excited me by reporting the following:
1896 Jan? “A short private telegraph line is now in operation on
the Island between the residence of Mr. Broadwell, and the Rev. E.F. Wilson,
the proprietors being Mr. Joel Broadwell Jr. and Mr. A.L. Wilson. The
idea of the young men is to perfect themselves in the act of telegraphing
in the hope that some day the line may be extended to more distant parts
of the Island, and eventually. perhaps, be made to connect with Vancouver
Island.” (A resident of Thetis Is. later contacted them in encouragement)
As a result, I wrote an assiduously researched article on the cutting
edge international communication of the day - and the laying of undersea
cables across the globe. Can I find the article? Not so far! Did I ever
submit it to any paper for publication? Nope. Will I donate it to the
archives if I find it? Yup! (But it has nothing to do with the telephone
I was much amused (as I always am, by the Rev. Wilson - I find his tone
deliberately amusing) by Wilson referring to the two lads concerned as
The Proprietors: they were young Island lads who were neighbours: the
sons of Reverend Wilson and of Joel Broadwell. I imagined these two being
nuts about the long distance telegraph system that was, at the time, much
in the news; a chess championship was conducted via morse between a champion
in Seattle and - of bother, my memory doubts what I was going to type
- another country, possibly Britain, possibly Eastern Canada. At the time
I was finding all this out, emailing across the globe was still unknown
to most people I knew!
On page 113 Charles Kahn in Key Dates says "1897 The first telephone
wires are erected on Salt Spring"
On page 144 Charles Kahn in Key Dates says "1902 Ganges and Victoria
are connected by telephone"
(But I much prefer the the wording on page 158 of SSI-SOI:
Telephone cable was laid between Salt Spring and Vancouver Island in 1901,
and Ganges and Victoria were somewhat undependably connected by telephone
the next year.
page 206 of SSI-SOI:
Around 1916 Joe Garner and his older brother Tom - at ages 7 and 9 - cut
and peeled about sixty cedar telephone poles in one month for Jim Horel,
who was responsible for setting poles and stringing telephone wire from
Fulford Harbour and Burgoyne Bay to Ganges. "He gave us a contract
to supply as many poles as we could and place them along the road where
he had put marker stakes. These poles had to be 25 to 30 feet long with
a top size of 6 inches. The price per pole was $1.50 unloaded at the markers."
(Footnote cites the source as - Joe Garner "Logging on Salt Spring
Was Vital to the Island")
page 226 of SSI-SOI:
Telephone service expanded rapidly during the 1920s. By 1924, the island
had 106 telephones, and many lines carried more than the proposed six
phones. The Dominion Government Telegraph and Telephone Company struggled
to provide service from about eight in the morning to eleven at night
except on Sunday, when the service extended from nine to six. Operators
connected callers manually, and relayed personal and emergency messages,
birth announcements, and election results.
(Betty Stone info)
We know that Betty Stone started working at the 'office' - presumably
the building in question? - in 1926.
(Read my previous email for the full transcription)
page 226 of SSI-SOI:
By 1938, Salt Spring had 185 phones, but twenty-four-hour service came
only after World War II.
1951: The island’s newspaper then, the Spotlight, estimated that
there were “on the island approximately three hundred motor cars,
telephones, and pigs.”
What were they (the operators, presumably?) doing back in early days of
telephone on Salt Spring?
See my previous email of Mrs. Stone's account of what she was doing (transcription
of tape 13, SSIA).
Here's Charles Kahn's aforementioned SSI-SOI mention (pages 272-273),
from Ellen Bennett on tape number 23, SSIA:
While there may have been fewer services on the island in the fifties
than there are today, those that existed were usually friendly and informal.
For example, even when the telephone exchange was expanded and taken over
by BC Telephone, the service remained personal. Here is how Ellen Bennett,
who worked at the exchange on Hereford Avenue (behind what, at time of
writing, was the Tide’s Inn) in the late 1950s and early 1960s,
I always felt that the telephone operators were sort-of the lifeline of
the small community. We were secretaries to the doctors, the businessmen,
the police,... the fire department. And when there was any emergency,
wherever it was occurring, someone would just phone the operator and say
“There’s a fire” or “Get the police” or
“I need a doctor in a hurry” and we just sent them. In the
old days, the fire department was one fire chief and all the neighbours.
There was no great fire department. You called the fire chief and then
you phoned all the neighbours. And in those days we knew all the neighbours....
You just phoned in and screamed “Fire!” and half the time
the operator knew who it was without identification, because you get very
good ears for voices when you’re a telephone operator.
People even called the telephone operators when they wanted to know the
time. The telephone operators knew because they were plugged into the
Of course it didn’t always work out, as Jack Green discovered: “One
evening I was calling my wife from Victoria. Central told me that there
was no point in putting the call through to my house, she’d just
seen my wife going into the movie house across the street. Later I found
that Shirley had been home the whole time.” On another occasion,
however, Shirley found the Greens’ nineteen-month-old son floating
face down in the couple’s reservoir, and Central reacted quickly
to help save the boy’s life, sending Goodie Goodman and an ambulance
containing an inhalator to the Green home. When the switchboard system
was finally replaced by the dial system in 1964, the community lost something
very precious—the personal attention of real people.
John Stepaniuk remembered the fifties as a time when “everybody
was interested in everyone else.” He remembered a relaxed lifestyle
in which the island seemed much smaller and people accomplished tasks
Frank neglected to ask another pertinent question -
What were they (the telephone callers) doing back in early days of telephone
on Salt Spring?
I refer you to SSI-SOI page 156:
The isolated Cranberry seemed to attract eccentric bachelors who enjoyed
being off by themselves. Charlie and Bert Toynbee and Abraham Secord Wright
probably fitted this description. In later years, Harry Nobbs’s
daughter Jessie Wagg remembered that one Cranberry bachelor named Mr.
Waite hung his telephone by his bed so that he could listen in on all
the conversations on the party line.
Of course, others were using the telephone exchange for far more acceptable
pursuits such as asking the time, reporting an emergency, checking up
on their spouses (as well as calling up simply wondering where one's wife
had got to, Harbour House Hotel's bar got regular calls from wives ordering
the bartenders to send their husbands home). I'm not quite sure how the
voters thought that bribing the operator with chocolates would affect
the outcome of the election, but that they did so seems in no doubt...
We need photographs (especially if they are an inside job) that will stand
up in our kangaroo court.
The Charles Kahn Collection
Telephone exchange switchboard, c. 1949
8" x 10” snapshot of Dorothy (Elliott) Fanning and Elsy (Price)
Perks at the telephone exchange switchboard in Ganges
http://saltspringarchives.com/ckc/pages/077.htmWhat kind of jam did the
tenants in the rear get into?
Someone else can sleuth that sticky question - I'm beat!
By "building in question" for the photo of Dorothy Fanning and
I presume you're referring to the "new" telephone exchange building
House Picollo now is. (It certainly isn't the inside of the original building
as I remember it).
The Kangaroo Court has flattened me.
Bob, could you describe the Inside Job sufficiently distinctly for me
to make a sketch of it, so I can still win?
(I'll give you the Free Ticket)
Bob you newcomers are all the same! Sorry to take so long in responding
to the telephone
17 messages but in closing down the Fair & then the conference in Vernonetc
to say nothing
about harvesting etc .The 1st telephone exchange was opened on the afternoon
( I remember it well cool, a light mizzle) Miss Hughes was the 1st "central;'
there were about
a dozen telephones .This data comes from my late sisters scrapbook taken
from the Saanich pennisula
Review June 24, 1636 fron a column 'News Notes of Ganges-over 20 years before'
In the late 40's our fone# was 2longs & a short if you got to the fone
quickly you would hear click, click etc
as all the party members picked up to listen in .....My mother would sometimes
say Mrs so-& so
please hang up!!
Hope I have not duplicated well known data