Con­nect­ing to SE Al­berta to the out­side world

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - CITY NEWS - By Craig Baird

There was a time that when you wanted to com­mu­ni­cate with any­one out­side your com­mu­nity, you used let­ters, and then tele­grams. To talk to some­one, you needed to be within earshot but that all changed with the in­ven­tion of the tele­phone.

As the tele­phone be­came more wide­spread, more and more res­i­dents of ru­ral ar­eas saw the ad­van­tages of us­ing it. In the Medicine Hat area, the use of the tele­phone be­gan in the 1920s and quickly spread from there.

It was in 1928 that the Nor­ton Mu­tual Tele­phone Com­pany was cre­ated and be­fore long there were tele­phone poles and wires go­ing up as the Al­berta gov­ern­ment in­stalled tele­phone lines on a route to­wards Elk­wa­ter. One lo­cal res­i­dent, Fred Scott, noted that the tele­phone ar­rived at his farm on Oct. 5, 1928.

The Rancher’s Mu­tual Tele­phone Com­pany was or­ga­nized in the 1930s with Eugene Bur­ton serv­ing as the first pres­i­dent. Each mem­ber of the com­pany would get tele­phone ser­vice to their home at a cost of 50 cents per month. Dur­ing those early years, lines would of­ten fail in the cold of win­ter and the prob­lem had to be lo­cated on horse­back.

In the 1940s, more farm­ers were sign­ing up for the tele­phone ser­vice and the line had to be re­built to pro­vide for them.

By 1955, the ru­ral com­pany was hum­ming along nicely and pro­vid­ing ser­vice to many res­i­dents through­out the area. In 1971, Al­berta Gov­ern­ment Tele­phones took over and put in a buried ca­ble. This al­lowed res­i­dents to be on a four-party line rather than the 15 to 20 on a line that it was be­fore.

The spread of the tele­phone con­tin­ued through­out south­east­ern Al­berta in the com­ing decades. IN 1949, a line was rerouted by Cypress Mu­tual Tele­phone sub­scribers. One decade later, a new tele­phone line was be­ing built along High­way 41 by the Cypress Mu­tual Tele­phone Com­pany and the Al­berta Mu­tual Tele­phone Com­pany.

In the 1950s, the State Mu­tual Tele­phone Com­pany was or­ga­nized and dur­ing its ex­is­tence, typ­i­cally had about 15 homes along its lines. Even­tu­ally, as with most places, Al­berta Gov­ern­ment Tele­phones took over the lines and the era of the ru­ral tele­phone com­pa­nies ended.

Sug­ges­tions for columns or ques­tions? E-mail Craig at cr­w­[email protected] Lis­ten to his pod­cast by search­ing for “Cana­dian His­tory Ehx” on your pod­cast plat­form. Find his show on YouTube by search­ing for “Cana­dian His­tory Ehx”.

In­for­ma­tion for this col­umn comes from Plains, Trains and Wagon Wheels.

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