Trouble With Your Phone, Things Could Be Worse!
(Maureen Alexander, Mill Bay/Malahat Historical Society)
In the early 1900s there were only two telephones in the whole area. In 1913 Cobble Hill got its own telephone office and even to this day if you live in Mill Bay you are still listed in the phone book under Cobble Hill.
In the early days you couldn’t make a telephone call yourself, telephones had a handle which was cranked in order to reach the operator who would then say ‘number please’. Telephone operators played a vital role in the community. There was no 911 service so if someone got hurt, the operator would phone for help otherwise it meant saddling a horse and riding miles to Duncan. When a fire occurred, there being no fire department, the operator would phone neighbors so they could form a ‘bucket brigade’. Telephone operators even provided ‘wake up’ calls and help with finding child care.
In 1916 the number of telephone subscribers had risen to 60 and Bessie Trinder was hired as the first telephone agent. The office closed at 10pm but later Miss Trinder lived in the building and emergency calls were allowed after 10:00. Shortly after the service began Bessie was shot in the hand by 15 year old Harry Gardler. Harry was later acquitted and no reason was given for the incident. The first dissatisfied customer perhaps!
In 1962 the office became automated and was moved and the rest as they say is history.
(‘Along Mill Bay Rd.’ by Adelaide Ellis, ‘The Hamlet with an Attitude’ by Virginia Bonner)