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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Oral Histories

Information, Please! – Ms. Frieda Lauchrey
While Information operators were intended by telephone companies to be sources of telephone related information, such as particular telephone numbers, they were the answer to all questions in the eyes (and ears) of the public. From cooking to travel, the Information Operator was supposed to know it all, which made for some very interesting phone conversations. Former Operator Frieda Lauchrey explains. Listen!


Child’s Call to Santa Claus – Ms. Isobel Peters
The Information Operator was often expected to give more information than just correct phone numbers. At Christmas, children would call in with various questions about Santa Claus. Former operator Isobel Peters recounts one such call. Listen!


Becoming a Switchman – Mr. Alf Want
In 1919, Alf Want started his training as a switchman for the telephone exchange. He recounts some of his experiences in this clip. Listen!


Knowing the Score – Mr. Alf Want
In the days when the famous Edmonton Grads challenged the world for basketball supremacy, the switchmen were kept hopping on game nights. On such nights, the information operator boards were overloaded with calls from people seeking the latest score, as radio was not available to make such information available to those who couldn’t attend the games. Mr. Want recalls the days when the telephone exchange workers knew the score.  Listen!


Duties of a Switchman – Mr. Alf Want
Keeping telephone exchanges running smoothly, without signal interference or power loss, was the duty of the telephone switchman. Alf Want, a former switchman, describes some of the responsibilities of his trade. Listen!


The Life of an Apprentice – Mr. Tom Wiley
Tom Wiley describes the many duties of the young men who apprenticed as switchmen for the telephone exchange. There was a lot to learn under close scrutiny, but practice made perfect as the apprentice gained time and experience. Listen!


Climbing Down Poles – Mr. Gord Gerdes
Climbing telephone poles whose lines needed servicing was not so bad with a little practice, but descending the poles was tougher than it looked. Gord Gerdes remembers his first time trying to descend a telephone pole after working on the raised lines. Listen!


Working On Poles In Rainy Weather – Mr. Gord Gerdes
Mr. Gerdes discusses how linemen found themselves up on the poles regardless of the weather conditions. This could sometimes prove to be a physical challenge.  Listen!


Climbing Poles In Cold Weather – Mr. George Chilton
Climbing a telephone pole in fair weather was challenging enough, but add ice and snow into the mix and one has a problem that only experience can solve. Mr. Chilton discusses. Listen!


Stubborn Workers Refusing to Climb Down for Materials – Mr. George Chilton
When working on the telephone lines, linemen had to be sure to bring all the necessary tools along, because it was a hassle to climb all the way down the pole again to retrieve them. Mr. Chilton remembers a comical incident in which two workers contended over who was going to be the one to descend. Listen!


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