The Nor'West Farmer, April 1922 (source)
Starting today it's mandatory ten digit dialing for Manitoba ! Personally, I am going to miss the numerous mild scoldings that I received each day before my number was connected.
Though much was made about the conversion when it was announced last year, it's certainly not the first time that we've had to change our dialing habits and, compared to some of those changes, this is a piece of cake.
Winnipeg Telephone Book 1920
The greatest change came to Manitoba in 1918 with the introduction of the first automatic telephone exchange in Brandon. After years of simply picking up and jiggling the receiver to get an operator to connect you to the three digit number you wanted, you now needed a whole new telephone machine and had to do the work yourself !
Automatic exchanges came to Winnipeg in 1920 but it took six years to convert the entire city, which must have made calling thoroughly confusing during the transition. Some rural areas, such as Oak Bank, did not get automatic dialing until the late 1960s.
The length of numbers grew from three digits to five, then to two letters + four digits then two letters + five digits. These letter prefixes became official in the mid 1950s and included WH (for Whitehall) which covered the downtown and GR (for Grosvenor) that covered much of River Heights. (You can see a list of all prefixes here by entering Winnipeg in the search box.)
As the number of telephone exchanges grew and direct long distance dialing was introduced, North American phone companies found it difficult to find unused letter combinations that could be made into a word - what could you do with YQ, for instance ?!
Winnipeg Free Press, February 1, 1962
In 1960 MTS announced that it would follow suit with other North American phone companies and phase out the two letter prefix in favour of seven digit "all number" dialing. The conversion happened in reverse, with rural exchanges converting first and in 1962 Winnipeg's WH became 94 and GR became 47.
For those frustrated with ten digit dialing, hey, it could be worse !
For a history of telephony in the City of Brandon, check out my West End Dumplings post.