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Dateline Cowichan: Direct-dial phones come to Cowichan

Several cast members of one of the many plays performed by the Lake Cowichan Drama Club, (which operated from 1952-1983) shown in costume, for this group photo taken sometime after 1956. Seen in the photo are Len Plater No.1, Adrian Pecknold No.2, Addie Pecknold No.3. A few others who may be recognized by readers of this column include Trevor Green, Eva and Fred Wilson, Goldie Money, Elsie Kirby and Trudie Allan.  - courtesy Kaatza Station Museum
Several cast members of one of the many plays performed by the Lake Cowichan Drama Club, (which operated from 1952-1983) shown in costume, for this group photo taken sometime after 1956. Seen in the photo are Len Plater No.1, Adrian Pecknold No.2, Addie Pecknold No.3. A few others who may be recognized by readers of this column include Trevor Green, Eva and Fred Wilson, Goldie Money, Elsie Kirby and Trudie Allan.
— image credit: courtesy Kaatza Station Museum

We’re so used to phones that require a simple touch to reach practically anyone across the globe that the notion of lifting a phone, waiting for the operator and then asking her to connect us to a number while we wait has been lost in the mists of time.

In 1901 there were only two phones in the district, both routed long-distance through Victoria after Elias Castley directed construction of a line up-island to Duncan.

In February 1962, the Leader’s lead story proclaimed the news that dial telephone service would replace manual service at 12:01 a.m. Sunday May 6 in Duncan, Cobble Hill and Lake Cowichan. B.C. Telephone Company district manager Frank McGee said approximately 6,200 phones would be involved, and total cost of the three conversions was estimated at $1.7 million.

Construction for the conversions had begun in late 1960 after contracts were awarded for new telephone buildings in the three exchanges. Heart of the new system was inside the new, two-storey $198,500 telephone exchange building on Duncan’s Ingram Street where crews had almost completed installation of automatic switching machinery and direct distance dialing equipment.

As well, calling charges would be dropped on calls between Cobble Hill, Chemainus and Duncan.

1962: fashion

At the annual Cowichan High School spring fashion show, Grade 11 student Janice Modin wore a plum coloured, fully lined wool crepe dress for afternoon wear that she’d made herself.

1962: lumber

Lumber exports from the ports of Chemainus and Crofton totalled more than 25 million board feet in January, almost five million better than the best month the previous year and nearly nine million feet above the December total.

1962: agriculture

Cowichan Agricultural Society’s annual report included construction of a large sign with the help of Cow High students; purchase of a large safe to house essential records; and the acquisition of four-tenths of an acre of land for $3,300.

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