for today's topic was twofold: documents
donated by the Sheila and John Petrie
family relating to telephone services in
the Onoway area, and from that, the fact
that a person or business phone number
changed numerous times over the years.
phone service (anyone living outside the
village of Onoway) was via party lines
linked to a central switchboard for long
distance calls. Each member had a unique
"ring" on the hand-cranked phone.
Subscriber of Onoway-Heatherdown Mutual
Telephone Co. Andrew Truckey, phone number
R509, listened for 4 short 1 long to know
that someone was calling.
phone number consisted simply of digits,
no letter prefix, in about 1951.
dial installation in 1964 and the number
changed to 932 +four digits. Later that
changed to 967 + four digits.
As the number
of subscribers increased through the
province, an area code was added. Onoway
area residents now had numbers beginning
with (403) 967–xxxx. Later this changed to
today's version of (780) 967-xxxx.
importance of having a business telephone
number became obvious. Before 1950,
business documents such as invoices,
receipts, calendars usually showed the
business name and postal address. Then the
phone number was added; this number
changed as years went by. Stop by the
Onoway Museum; go down Main Street and
take a look at the business calendars -
watch the number change over time.
In December 1951 the
Association bought some
Camplin's (phone 14),
possibly for a
New Year's Eve Dance.
In 1960? 61?,
customers at Sid Mills
Solo Store received a free poster/directory of local
Of the 300 names listed,
about ⅔ were rural
with numbers beginning
with R or X.
Examples: Len Hickman's
number was R608 (rural)
whereas John Demchuk's
number was 39 (village).
This free poster must have
been great for business!
A notice sent
to Onoway-Heatherdown Mutual Telephone Co.
to subscribers (about 1964) gave
instructions on how to use a dial phone
party line. It began with "Lift the
receiver. If the line is free, press the
"Call" button". Further along were some
rules re party lines:
Subscribers must not "listen in" to
telephone conversations that are not
intended for them.
3. The use
of obscene, profane, or abusive language
over the Department's lines is
4. Do not
use the telephone during a thunderstorm.
conversations should not exceed five
the 97th and 98th
editions (1963-64 and 1964-65),
the phone number changed totally.
ad in January 1969 in the Stony Plain Reporter
shows Onoway Locker Plant with
seven-digit 932- phone number.
By 1971 the
number had changed to from
932-xxxx to 967-xxxx
In 1984 this
business shows the street
address, postal address
and 403 area code.
Can you spot
the error in this
tales – there must be many of them out
there! During this time of social
distancing and many digital means of
communicating, think back to the time
when party lines were the source of
gossip and help!