Telephone Services (Part 2)
Premier Rutherfords 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
And I think those were very real fears. At least, its certainly a
common apprehension thats expressed in the farm press, and in peoples
diaries and letters and recollections about farm life. That there they
were, isolated out there on this farm, roads were bad, they couldnt get
out and get help if they needed to. Of if someone got sick, they couldnt
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
The fourth image is labeled "shrewd buyers". Here weve got some big city
types in Hats and ties and vests, and theyve obviously plotting gip the
farmer out of his hard earned cash.
The fifth one is labeled "dissatisfied help". Here weve got the
.uh standing with his hands, in his
.in his suspenders
faced by two guys who look like, sort of like, um, uh big city
of a sort. Theyve got brimmed hats on, theyve got striped shirts, and
ones carrying a jacket, and theres obviously some altercation going on.
And the sixth one, and the last one is labeled "wifes loneliness". And
here we come back to the image of the woman as being particularly
vulnerable on the farm. Shes sitting in an armchair beside a window
looking very despondent/
A bold black headline impress upon the farmer hes a the mercy of these
.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, Im Cheryl Croucher.