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Telephone Services (Part 2)

Premier Rutherford’s government Telephones as a crown corporation to extend phone lines into rural Albert.

As historian Don Wetherell points out, the network expanded rapidly after 1908 because farmers saw the telephone as a means to overcome their isolation.

And I think those were very real fears. At least, it’s certainly a common apprehension that’s expressed in the farm press, and in people’s diaries and letters and recollections about farm life. That there they were, isolated out there on this farm, roads were bad, they couldn’t get out and get help if they needed to. Of if someone got sick, they couldn’t get a doctor in or get to a hospital.

An advertisement run by the Northern Electric Company in the Canadian Farm Yearbook of 1916 plays on the fears of farmers.

The ad is surrounded by a series of six images depicting vulnerability felt by farm families.

The first one shows a woman lying in bed and its labeled "sickness. And beside the bed is a table with a pitcher and a bowl, and uhm, the most arresting part of the image is the little child crying beside the bed. The second image is of a fire and of course shows a house in flames. The third image is labeled "thugs" and it shows a guy in soft cap with a gun at a window.

The fourth image is labeled "shrewd buyers". Here we’ve got some big city types in Hats and ties and vests, and they’ve obviously plotting gip the farmer out of his hard earned cash.

The fifth one is labeled "dissatisfied help". Here we’ve got the farmer….uh standing with his hands, in his….in his suspenders….and he’s faced by two guys who look like, sort of like, um, uh big city….criminals of a sort. They’ve got brimmed hats on, they’ve got striped shirts, and one’s carrying a jacket, and there’s obviously some altercation going on.

And the sixth one, and the last one is labeled "wife’s loneliness". And here we come back to the image of the woman as being particularly vulnerable on the farm. She’s sitting in an armchair beside a window looking very despondent/


A bold black headline impress upon the farmer he’s a the mercy of these dark forces….unless, of course, he has a telephone.

And then below that is further text saying "Sickness, fire or tramps have no pity on the unprotected farm home. Isolation is their great ally, for always and everywhere they work against time."

So the notion is that the telephone will create connections, it will build community in a way, and as it the ad says, you can protect yourself against these troubles if you have a telephone.

And then below that is a clipout portion on the ad where you can write off and get a pamphlet form the Northern Electric Company about their telephones and how valuable they're going to be.

The telephone provided the link farmers needed to the world at large. And by 1920, the rural service of AGT had expanded so much, the telephone was new common place throughout the province.

On the Heritage trail, I’m Cheryl Croucher.

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