The excerpt below, “Number Please” is from Doris Stensland’s historical novel, The Music Man From Norway. This information was gleaned from a 1905 Canton newspaper, reflecting actual people and life from early 1900s.
In 1905 telephone lines had been set up in the rural areas surrounding Canton and most farms were getting hooked into it. Now it was so convenient for those having telephones to ring the telephone operator and have her contact the person to whom they wished to speak, instead of harnessing up the horses and driving to their house. This operator was supposed to have the answers for everything – the time of all the trains, and if a train was late, and how many minutes behind. Often she was asked the time of day, and was supposed to know where the fire was. The entertainment of many farm families that cold snowy winter, was to rubber, or to listen in, on their neighbor’s phone calls. But when spring came, one farm woman sadly stated, “Now we are so busy with the spring work, we don’t have time to listen.”
By Doris Stensland