Port Perry's First Telephones
Perry's interest in the telephone developed shorty
after Alexander Graham Bell had invented his "talking
box", as it was often called in its infancy.
first working mode of the telephone was produced
in 1876 and records indicate that the next year,
a Port Perry resident, P.S. Jenkins, applied for
the local agency. However it had already been granted
to a Bowmanville man, W. McSpadden, for the entire
Port Perry man, J.S. Hoitt, seems to have been intrigued
by the early telephone and he too applied for the
job of handling the leasing of telephones in this
the early interest shown, it apparently was not
until 1884 that telephone service was started here.
That year, long distance lines were built from Port
Perry to Toronto and from Port Perry to Whitby through
Uxbridge, Goodwood, Stouffville, Markham and Brooklin.
Allison was the telephone agent in Port Perry at
this time and he set up the only Port Perry telephone
in his drug store on Queen St. It was more than
a year before other telephones were installed and
a switchboard was put in to provide for the inter-connection
of these sets.
the end of 1885, residents of Port Perry who less
than two years before didnŐt even have a telephone
in the community, could talk via the telephone to
people as far west as Windsor and as far east as
Quebec City. By this time, nine people had telephones
in their homes or offices.
years later, another long distance line was constructed
linking Uxbridge with Lindsay and giving Port Perry
a more direct route to Lindsay, Peterborough, Belleville
and other points. The first telephone directory
including Port Perry subscribers was published in
1885 and showed the following listings: Allison,
S.E. Druggist, Queen St., Ontario Bank, Queen St.,
Ross, A. & Sons, General Store, Trounce, W.J., &
Co. Flour Mills.
Another interesting aspect of early telephone service
in Port Perry was that the first subscribers could
only use their telephones when the exchange was
open with an operator on duty to complete their
calls. Following are the hours of the Port Perry
exchange in 1887: Office Hours Weekdays 8 a.m. to
8 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Holidays 10 a.m.
to 12 noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
the year 1891, Port Perry's population had reached
2,000 and the entire community was being served
by only 13 telephones. The directory for 1897, for
the first time showed, that local telephone customers
had numbers assigned to them. Until that time, the
operator completed calls by using names, rather
years after the turn of the century, the Bell Telephone
Co. purchased some 87 miles of line and 54 telephones
from three local doctors; David Archer, Edgar L.
Proctor and Samuel J. Mellow, who each owned a small
telephone business. The purchases increased substantially
the the company's presence in the community and
the number of Bell subscribers in Port Perry increased
expansion continued in the area and by 1911, new
and larger quarters were needed to house the switchboards
and telephone offices. Accommodation was supplied
by Wm. H. McCaw who had been Port Perry's telephone
agent since 1887 when he succeeded Mr. Allison.
In the next few years, the increase in the number
of telephones in Port Perry was nothing short of
phenomenal - leaping ahead by about 100 sets per
year. In 1910, there were 113 phones. By 1916 this
number had reach 637.
slowed following these years of rapid grow and by
1929 the number of sets stood at 856. The depression
made its presence felt on the telephone business
here and by 1933 the number of telephones in service
in Port Perry had fallen to 592. The long awaited
announcement of the coming dial service was made
in 1957 and the necessary construct-ion and installation
work to prepare for the cut-over was carried out
in the community by Northern Electric and Bell Telephone
first operators employed by the telephone companies
were boys. However, it didn't take very long to
discover that their general rudeness and complete
lack of tact and patience virtually ruled out their
suitability as operators. Subsequently the job became
one for girls.
Independent Phone System
Drs. David and Robert Archer, two
well-respected Port Perry physicians were instrumental
in having the first telephone system installed in
the village and district.Telephone service through
Bell Telephone was not readily available in the
village until about 1896, and during the first few
years there were few subscribers.
It was at this time, the public-spirited
Drs. Archer installed their own telephone system
so they could be reached more quickly for medical
emergencies. The wires were strung on small poles,
on fences and in trees, and were in constant need
of repair. As a teenager, Dr. Robt. Archer's son,
Harold, was the busy linesman.
The switchboard was in the doctors'
clinic, and relay stations were, for the most part
located in the general stores of the communities
the telephone serviced.
One telephone line went from Port
Perry to the Scugog Island store and back. Another
went to Seagrave, then on to Saintfield, Greenbank,
Epsom, Utica, Ashburn, Myrtle, Raglan, Purple Hill,
Cadmus, Blackstock and back to Port Perry.
For several years, this private telephone
system provided a great service in the township,
not only for medical emergencies, but also for the
quick transmission of important family messages.
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