Today’s communication devices often come with advanced forms of interfaces, allowing the user to take more than one call at the same time, and in many cases send photos and videos while on a call.  This might come as an absolute shock to some, but this wasn’t always the case.  In today’s world you could go an entire lifetime without talking to an operator, but 100 years ago they were the foundation and cornerstone of our communication infrastructure.

We’re heading back to the Metchosin Schoolhouse today where we are continuing our photoblog series “Olde School” which features a terrific set of photos we took one day in the museum.  It was such a delight and honor to have a chance to spend an entire afternoon exploring the wonderful artifacts and antiques that were on display, and as a result to have a chance to share some of these images and stories with you.

Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

We don’t have a touch-sensitive screen here with panels of icons to choose from, all brightly and colorfully lit up.  We don’t have a push-button interface to pound the numbers on.  We don’t even have a rotary dial to use to dial a number.  So how exactly would you order pizza through one of these?  On the right of this antique phone is a crank that used to connect you with an operator who used to manually connect lines together to facilitate phone calls.  I’ll bet many of the younger generation have never spoken directly to an operator before; there really is no need.  Imagine a time, though, when every call required one!

One of the best parts about our visit this afternoon at the museum was the almost immediate immersion into a time long past.  Even we are too young to remember phones like this.  At the risk of dating ourselves (well, me anyways, Mrs. Toad is in her early twenties) when I was getting introduced to the telephone, we had the rotary ones and even they didn’t last that long before the push-button variety had hit the scene.  Even still, one look from across the room at this great antique and I was drawn to it.

I tend to believe that items hold a bit of the energy and spirit of those who used them.  This has left me wondering what kinds of calls were placed here?  Excited calls of new additions to the family?  Invitations for Christmas dinner?  Did someone spend hours nervously huddled in the corner of the kitchen, excitedly talking to a newly budded love?  We can never be sure, and isn’t that some of the best magic behind discoveries like this?

Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

I just love natural wear and weathering on things like this.  Each mark tells its own story; who used this phone, and what kind of messages were they sharing?  Even though some of the weathering from years of use is evident, the overall condition of this phone is still excellent.  Can we say the same about our cell phones 100 years from now?  How about even next year?

Progress is inevitable and an important part of moving society forward to make life better and easier for all, but there are some aspects of the older times that I miss.  Things were constructed back then to last, and to do a job.  Today, many of our modern conveniences have obsolescence built right into them as part of the design plan.  I’ll just bet you the folks who designed this phone originally would have a real hard time getting their heads around that.

We really appreciate you taking the time to come by and pay us a visit here today!  As always, we encourage everyone to leave us any comments that you may have as we really do love hearing from all our visitors!

  1. As always Toad, great food for thought. I wonder what we will be saying about today’s modern gadgets in fifty or more year’s time. Just think back to the original mobile phones that were the size and weight of a house brick – and that was less than twenty years ago!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Good point, Mark, that’s for sure! I was talking to someone the other day who didn’t know what a “music cassette” was, either. Man, suddenly I feel old. 🙂 Thanks so much for your visit and comments, we really appreciate it my friend!

  2. avatar dragonflydreams88 says:

    . . . ahhh, these are coool captures – and yes, times they are a changin’ . . . I wonder how many of the younger generation would even recognize what these are without being told . . . and I wonder what they would think of “party-lines” (if we had to revert to them), given the number of times you see them on their phones talkin’ or textin’ . . . lol!!!!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      LOL! No kidding, my friend, great points!! It’s funny to think about how much everything has changed, and in such a short period of time, too! Thank you so much for all your support here, we sure do appreciate it!

  3. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Oh I love this series Toad. Excellent post and images as usual. You know as I was reading memories came flooding back…the phone ringing, it’s for me, struggling to get from the living room to my room and stretching the cord as much as possible so that I can close the door and have privacy. Seriously I don’t think my kids have seen a phone attached to a cord 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I remember doing just this! Exactly as you said! Ha!! Thanks so much for your wonderful visit and comments here, Edith, that really means a lot to us!

  4. avatar Rachel Cohen says:

    Really wonderful post Toad! The thoughts and images are magical! I love the mention of how people back then would view our throw away society! Things sure were built to last back then! Thanks so much for sharing this lovely series my friend! 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I can’t even begin to tell you how much we appreciate your kindness and support here, Rachel! We cannot thank you enough, my friend!

  5. avatar Richard Taylor says:

    I used to fix phones similar to that when I first started working in 1960.

    Our phone service at our farm, which was a moden version of that where the dial was replaced by a handle you turned (generator), and the manual telephone telephone service (with an operator) was upgraded to automatic in mid 1980’s.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you, Richard, what terrific comments you have shared here with us and all our visitors! That must have really been a fun job. I work in the computer software engineering field and find that all the latest technology is really great and fun to use, but in many cases it’s overly complicated, sometimes for no real good reason. At any rate, it sure was great to see you pop by and for reading your comments, thank you so much!

  6. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    I don’t think there is an operator at the other end…just my guess though 😉

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Probably hasn’t been one, either, for quite a few years!! LOL 🙂 Thanks a ton for your wonderful visit and comments here today, Chris!

  7. I’m really enjoying this series of yours Toad! You always find such interesting subjects and your tell great stories to go along with the beautiful images.

  8. Nice vintage shots Toad, hard to believe people used to communicate with those

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I’ve seen people in the same room, sitting on the same couch.. texting to each other. It’s a different landscape we find ourselves in these days, my friend! Thanks for your kind visit and comments today, we sure do appreciate it Mike!

  9. avatar Richard Taylor says:

    Thanks for the feedback.

    There were some good and bad things with that technology.

    The bad:
    Very labour intensive because of the need for lots of operators (for the bigger exchanges), and the batteries in the phones (dry cells) needed to replaced every 2-3 years.

    Customers in smaller (country) areas did not have 24 hour service (only an hour on two on sundays).

    The good.
    Jobs for the operators.
    A lot more reliiable than automatic phones (when aerial wiring was used).

    Customers didn’t always have to know phone numbers, just ask for the person you wanted to be connected to.
    When my dad collapsed (from a massive heart attack), mum just contacted the operator and said my husband has just collapsed and is not moving.
    The operator contacted the ambulance, the nearest neigbour, a couple of relatives that lived in the area, and myself at work, I worked for the same telco (and lived) about 2 hours drive away.

    However the general consesus from customers (and family & friends), after the are was automated (and undergound cables replaced the aerial wiring), that it was better than the old ways.


    I worked for 37 years in the telecommunications industry, mostly as a tech/specialist and latter as a manager it was a great job.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What awesome comments, Richard, it’s like being able to take a step back in time with you! We really appreciate that. There is truly something to be said for tightly knit communities like used to exist when these communication devices were prolific. We really enjoyed reading your comments and feedback here and hope to see you around The Hollow again!

  10. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    What a lovely old device that was once, modern. LOL
    Just think, folks were once so proud (and privilege) to be the owner of one of these. In many small towns, everyone knew “Jennie” (the operator) personally. How times have changed.

    Really digging this “Old School” series, Toad. As always, you provide such great write ups and images.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You know it, Jimi, fabulous comments here my good friend! Thank you so kindly, my friend, for all your support and encouragement.

  11. avatar LensScaper says:

    The memories come flooding back. I remember as a small boy visiting my father’s office in the city of London and watching the lady manning the switchboard connecting calls by plugging cables into holes in a panel to connect outside calls into the relevant internal extension

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Oh wow, Andy, how awesome is that? I just love it when a connection (if you’ll pardon the rather obvious pun) is made like this through our work! 🙂 Many thanks for your visit and comments here today, good sir!

  12. avatar Jim Nix says:

    nice work Toad!

  13. avatar Rob says:

    But how do you text or skype? LOL Would be fun to have an old working phone like this on the wall. A bit of nostalgia.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I’m certainly not going to lie to you, Rob, I had the same exact thought! Both on the Skyping and texting, and of course on the whole having one on your wall because it’s cool! Many thanks for your visit today, my friend, we sure do appreciate it!

  14. avatar Renee Besta says:

    Wonderful article and images, Toad, rich with emotion and history. My parents and grandparents were part of this generation. The American term “crank call” originated from the so-called ‘crank’ on the phone you mentioned, which was used to rouse a real live operator. I remember speaking to operators when I was a small child. And using a rotary phone while growing up. We even had so-called shared party phone lines. A bit embarrassing to date myself though. I am a bit (heh-heh) older than you and the Mrs.

    But those were the days when personal service and communication mattered, not rush rush rush. Operators were our friends. Hey, were there even pizza parlors to order from in those days? And having to physically dial someone’s phone number forced you to memorize it. Unlike today when we push a button. Kids today have never seen a real vinyl record. Or even know what a record is, let alone a cassette or VHS tape.

    It is so important to remember our heritage and you have done an outstanding job here with your words and images. What a great museum too.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Many, many heartfelt thanks Renee! I cannot tell you how much we appreciate you coming by like this and spending so much time crafting these terrific comments. It means way more than we can properly express, my dear friend!! From both Mrs. Toad and I, we send you our best wishes and deepest thanks!!