Connecting to SE Alberta to the outside world
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.
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Information for this column comes from Plains, Trains and Wagon Wheels.