Huronia Museum declines donation of SS Keewatin.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (Date: August, 18, 2016)

Huronia Museum declines donation of SS Keewatin.

Huronia Museum will not be able to accept the donation of the SS Keewatin from Skyline Investments.  Huronia Museum reviewed this generous offer as to whether this donation fits the mandate under which the museum collects and whether or not this donation was a sustainable artifact that Huronia Museum, as a Category A museum, could hold for future generations.

It is without question that the SS Keewatin, her contents and her story fit well within the mandate under which Huronia Museum actively collects, conserves, educates and exhibits Huronia’s heritage.

At this time, however, the Huronia Museum is not able to responsibly accept this donation into its permanent collection with the information that is available on the future conservation and operational needs of this unique artifact.  It should be understood that Huronia Museum’s Collections Policy only allows artifacts to be accepted into the museum’s permanent collection when the longevity of the artifact is ensured and the museum is certain that it can sustain the artifact in perpetuity for the community.

The museum is hopeful that a solution can be found to preserve her, her story and her presence in Port McNicoll for future generations of Canadians whether that be found in the process of donation to a museum or by other means.  Huronia Museum looks forward to working closely with the SS Keewatin volunteers and management in future and will support all of her endeavours to promote and conserve marine heritage in North Simcoe.

For further information on Huronia Museum please contact the museum at 705-526-2844

Huronia Museum is a not-for-profit charity, which collects, preserves, exhibits and educates on the history of Huronia.

Contact information:
Huronia Museum
549 Little Lake Park Road,
Midland, ON
L4R 4P4


Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years ago in North Simcoe – Sunday July 16th to 30th 1956

Click on photos to enlarge

2006 0020 2543The end of a long ride for Debbie Currie of Wyebridge and Glenda Edwards of Vasey who rode in the Orangeman’s Parade in Midland, Thursday. They are both five years old and their mothers belong to the Waverly LOBA (Ladies Orange Benevolent Association).

2006 0020 2523

2006 0020 2552Portraying “King Billy” upon his spirited charger is Cecil Wood of Waverly, county Marshall of the East Simcoe Orange Lodge. Mr. Wood led the July 12th parade in Midland and has been with the lodge for forty years.

2006 0020 2525Seven and seventy-seven. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to a parade, everyone turns out. Herman Trew, 77, of Waverly LOL 589, or seven-year olds like William L. Black of the Midland lodge juveniles.

2006 0020 2515Pictured with their banner, previous to the July 12th Orangemen’s parade in Midland, are these laughing members of Waverly LOBA 781, all past mistresses of the lodge, Mrs. John Miller, Mrs. Herman Trew and Mrs. Wallace Wood.

[Not to diminish the injustices done over the decades on both sides, but the sentiment of many Canadians about the Twelfth is summed up by Stan Rogers in his song the “House of Orange”, Google the “House of Orange Stan Rogers” ]

2006 0020 2553Parade on King Street, band being led by majorettes in conjunction with the Canadian Bandmasters Association convention being held in Midland. 

2006 0020 2551Looking quite confident that she can master the French Horn with one lesson from Sgt. F. Reidstra of the Royal Canadian Dragoons band is Debra Waiman, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Ronald Wainman of 380 (now 496) King Street. Debra went to Little Lake Park Saturday to hear a band concert arranged in conjunction with the Canadian Bandmasters Association’s convention.

2006 0020 2554Allan Rees, 9, of Brantford, doesn’t think he will take up the tuba right away. He is helped by Al Reid who plays for the Orillia Kiltie Band and is here for the concert in the park in connection to the Canadian Bandmasters Association convention being held at the Parkside Inn.

2006 0020 2557Carrying flowers for the decoration of graves of departed members, representatives of the Oddfellows, Rebekah, Orange Lodges, LOBA and the Canadian Legion march to Lakeview Cemetery  for the united memorial and decoration service.

2006 0020 2544Photo related to the one above but not used in the newspaper, no description.

2006 0020 2499Freak twister on Sunday, July 8th, wrecked this 30 by 90 foot frame building on the Green farm in Tiny Township, uprooted trees in the nearby orchard, whirled over the top of Thunder Bay Beach and finally blew itself out over Georgian Bay.

2006 0020 1850Passing tourists stop and stare at the new ultra modern Roman Catholic church, St. John the Baptist,  just outside of Port Severn on the road to Honey Harbour. The one storey structure is situated near the Trans Canada Highway now under construction in that area. [Before the Trans Canada the route to Honey Harbour from Midland passed through Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour, Waubaushene, Coldwater, North River and Port Severn.]

2006 0020 2531Members of the summer school of archaeology working at the Forget Site were lunch guests of Mr. & Mrs. Fred Cook at the Grange in Wyebridge on July 4th. Front row; Leonard Laurin, Penetang; Thelma Sovey, Midland; Ross Channen, Barrie; Bea Ivey, Port Dover; second row, Elizabeth Cook, Wyebridge; Miss Josephine Phelan, Toronto; D. A. MacKenzie, Woodbridge; David Darker, a student at Upper Canada College Toronto; Eleanor Thompson, Cobourg; Lois Jackson, Sarnia; Miss Elizabeth Loosely, Oakville; back row, Wilfred Jury University of Western Ontario archaeologist; Cindy Reid, Toronto; Mrs. Fred Cook, Mr. Cook, Wyebridge; Mrs. Jury; F. C. Jennings and Harry Williams, London.

2006 0020 2509Free Press staff member Barbara Allsopp dons a giant puff-ball as a hat. Fifty inches in circumference it was found at the rear of A. W. Bath’s plumbing shop by Eddie Doyle of Dominion Ave. He found a second one that measured 46 inches in circumference.

2006 0020 2513

2006 0020 2511Demonstration of the sanitary land fill method of garbage disposal on a vacant Vindin Street lot, Midland. Process was being demonstrated by W. L. Ballentine Company Ltd. with a specially fitted bulldozer designed for the job. System is being used in many towns including Orillia.

2006 0020 2519Midland Boat Works president T. M. McCullough signs the navy acceptance form during commissioning ceremonies for the HMCS Cormorant at Midland town dock Monday. The ship’s sponsor Mrs. Murray Wagg can be seen to the left of the microphone stand. Commander Henning, representing naval headquarters, and Lt. Cmd. C. R. Manfield, commanding officer, watch the signing. At right is S/Lt. Don C. Young.

2006 0020 2521Old soldier, George Finley Walmsley, 85, of Port McNicoll shows his World War 1 medals to his 10-year-old grandson Bobby Duncan.

2006 0020 2646 2006 0020 2647At the Downer family reunion in Tiny Township on July 21st, Rev. A. W. Downer of Duntroon, MLA for Dufferin – Simcoe is surrounded by children. Midland alderman Ossie Downer is also in the picture and is host of the event this year at his home on “The Mountain” west of Midland. All are descendants of two brothers, William and Henry Downer, who came to Canada from County Cavan, Ireland in 1842. The original Downer’s settled near Peterborough but most of Henry’s descendants were born in Tiny Twp.

2006 0020 2648Mrs. Ed Jeffery Sr. presents the trophy to the ladies champ at the Midland Golf & Country Club. L to R; Mrs. H. L. Wilson, Mrs. Jeffery, Mrs. Cecil English, winner of the event and also last year’s club champion; Miss Jean Wallace and Mrs. A. J. Preston.

2006 0020 2527Parkview Public School, graduating class of 1956. Note that this photo was taken in the multipurpose room at Regent School, I wonder why, construction perhaps at the newly acquired Parkview School?

2006 0020 2434Regent Public School graduating class of 1956. I have to point out my sister, Ellen Barber, third from the left, front row. I recognize several others.

2006 0020 2665Amateur archaeologist Gordon Baker of Hamilton puffs on an Indian pipe he found near the Maxwell farm at Port McNicoll. The large soapstone bowl was fitted with a reed stem, three budgie feathers and some modern tobacco. Mr. Baker’s best finds were a pair of French iron scissors and a copper arrow-head. The same paper writes that drivers delayed by bulldozers doing roadwork near the Dutton farm (OSPCA) were unearthing native artifacts that they were collecting as they waited. From the previous paper, Mr. Tushingham, the Huronia Museum curator, informed the paper that Beamish Construction had inadvertently dug up what he believes was a native ossuary on the nearby Maxwell Farm.

Beating the July heat in North Simcoe:

2006 0020 2559These ladies have solved the problem of beating the heat by moving their lawn chairs into the water at Little Lake Park Wednesday afternoon.

2006 0020 2548Within a few short years, Port McNicoll’s Paradise Point has become one of North Simcoe’s major beaches. Once known as Flat Point due to the flat limestone formations, the area had few cottages but a boom began when village council sold many acres to a Toronto developer.

2006 0020 2578Rugged shoreline of flat limestone rocks is preferred by many cottagers and visitors who come to Port McNicoll’s Paradise Point. The rock extends only a few feet into the water before giving way to a fine sand bottom. Enjoying the sun are Mrs. W. A. McLeod, Toronto, in the foreground, and Judy Parliament of Port McNicoll.

2006 0020 1731After a long swim these young campers at YMCA Camp Kitchikewana on Beausoliel Island enjoy some “Loafing’ In The Sun” time.

2006 0020 2582“Flyin Flivver” manufactured by Midland Reinforced Plastics Ltd. of Ellen Street is demonstrated in Midland Harbour by company official Bob Yates, accompanied by Karen Gracie of Toronto.

2006 0020 2560Shuffle board court at Little Lake Park provides some shaded activity for players and spectators.

2006 0020 4336

Moreland Lynn of Penetang, Wendy Large and Beverly Balmer of Toronto and Honey Harbour are riding in the new “Le Capitaine” model Grew boat with fiberglass reinforced hull by Midland Reinforced Plastics Limited. [Moreland told me that as a Grew employee he had the “job” of bringing this boat to a Midland boat show.]

  • Midland Parks Commission bans  motors of 5 HP or more on Little Lake to protect swimmers.
  • Midland Press Limited owner of the Midland Free Press and County Herald newspapers and associated printing and publishing business will now be known as Midland Printers Limited. The restructuring involves no changes to employees or operations except the addition of J. Robert Chittick as vice-president in charge of sales and the promotion of James Lennox to vice president in charge of production.
  • James Alan, minister of highways, announces an increase in speed on the 400 highway from 50 to 55 miles per hour for non commercial vehicles only.
  • Value of Midland building permits doubles in the first six months of 1956, $221,100 compared to $101,075 in 1955. But that is well below the first six months of 1954 when permits totalled $690,800 and ended the year at 1,334,725.00.
  • Mayor Charles Parker has moved his 18 hole miniature golf course, which until now had been located on the corner of Yonge and Eighth Streets, to the basement of his Parkside Pavilion.
  • Midland Parks Commission requested that park booth concessionaire John Deakos obtain a paper cup soft drink dispenser. The request was made in view of the number of swimmers who are suffering cut feet on broken soft drink bottles.
  • Members mark the 120th anniversary of the historic St. James on the Lines Church. Only modernization allowed has been the installation of electric lights. A faithful reproduction of the church was built by patients at the Ontario Hospital and is on display in the church.
  • Former Midlander Robert (Bert) Holt has let a contract to Midland construction firm Webster Smallwood for a 6,000 square foot plant on the south side of Centre Street (Bay East of William). The new plant will house Mr. Holt’s Pinecrest Products furniture company that has been operating in Toronto for the past seven years and will employ 20 staff.
  • One of the largest institutions of its kind in the Georgian Bay area, the Iron City Fishing Club, this week marks its 75th anniversary. The club is located in the Sans Souci area and a majority of the club members hail from Pittsburgh PA. Every summer for many years a big express car would arrive at Midland’s CNR dock siding from which personal effects of the members would be loaded onto the “City of Dover” or “Midland City” for transport by water to San Souci.
  • Midland’s telephone exchange conversion to a direct dial system also changes the way our public pay phones work. Previously a caller didn’t put their nickel in until the operator made the connection. Now you put in your nickel to acquire a dial tone and the ingenious device returns it to you if the line is not answered or is busy.
  • From the “Outdoor Column” by John Power, “Remember, snapping turtles destroy an enormous number of fish and should be trapped and killed whenever possible”. [This of course is incorrect as snapping turtles eat mostly vegetation, carrion and slow moving bottom feeding fish.]
  • “Notice” Ken Puddicombe has purchased the M.S. Waterbus and business.
  • At the Pen Theatre, “Rebel Without a Cause” James Dean.
  • House for sale –  Nine room brick home partially furnished, $3,500.00, early possession.
  • Superintendent of Midland’s Aberdeen Elevator, Murray Lattimore, received severe electrical burns while working in the plants sub-station Monday morning. Dr. I. T. Weldon said Mr. Lattimore received first, second and third degree burns to his face, neck, right arm and hand.
  • Guy and Bill Hebner advertising chartered boat trips for all occasions and fishing charters.

TEN YEARS AGO this week 1946;

  • Beatty Brothers (Spencer Division) Penetang was planning an expansion. Two new buildings were built and more than 50 new employees were to be hired.
  • Mr. & Mrs. James Lazonby of Coldwater celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary by taking a canoe trip, as they had done each year since their marriage. [The canoe is in the collection of Huronia Museum.]
  • Victoria Harbour’s newest citizen was Thorbjorn Pettersen of Drammen, Norway, who operates a taxi and service station. A skilful ski jumper, Mr. Pettersen had hopes of organizing a district ski club and training local jumpers.
  • Melville Wilkie, inmate at the Ontario Hospital, Penetang, made his first of several breakouts.
  • Midland’s town dock became a veritable “Times Square” when 200 sea cadets and all their kit struggled their way down the dock while 400 passengers from the S. S. North American were making their way toward the main street. The cadets were boarding the “City of Dover” and the “Midland City” on the last leg of their journey to the island camps. Interested spectators from Midland and many tourists jammed the docks with bicycles, baby carriages and cars, making the congestion worse.
  • St. James on the Lines, Anglican Church, celebrated the 110th anniversary of its founding. Organist for the occasion, Miss Laura Kemp had held the position of organist for 60 years.

25 YEARS AGO this week 1931;

  • Boat trips from Midland to Honey Harbour, Minnicog and return, had a fare of 75 cents. Moonlight excursions were 50 cents and a three-day cruise to Point Au Baril was $121 return fare.
  • For the first time since its purchase in 1921 the Georgian Bay Shipbuilding and Wrecking Company’s floating dry dock was moved from its position at the foot of the company’s yards. The occasion, to make room for the self-unloading coal freighter S. S. J. E. Savage which arrived with 2,000 tons of coal.
  • Simcoe County’s two largest towns, Midland and Orillia, were to be joined by a paved highway. The road was authorized as a King’s highway.
  • A new Gospel Hall building was opened at Midland and Dominion Avenues, to replace the smaller building on Dominion Ave. near First Street.
  • One of the top movie hits of 1931 , “A Connecticut Yankee” starring Will Rogers, was playing at the Bijou Theatre in Penetang.
  • Busiest day in the history of Little Lake Park was recorded when thousands thronged the park to escape the heat wave which had hit the district. Nearly 200 tents dotted the slopes of the camp site.


  • 25 year veteran of the Midland PUC, David Hurrie, 76,  died in St. Andrew’s Hospital July 19th.
  • Former Penetang mayor William Douglas Hunter dies in Barrie on July 19th. Mr. Hunter came to Penetang in 1926 and purchased the drug store that is now known as Hartt’s Drug Store. At one time he also owned a Midland drug store now operated by W. W. Struthers. In 1951 he moved to Barrie to operate a drug store in Allandale.
  • Norman Lyon Playfair an outstanding citizen of this community for 55 years died July 18th at his 338 King Street home (now 414, formerly owned by Clint & Bev Truax) at the age of 85. He was associated for many years with Milton Bray in the Midland Planing Mills and was a half-brother to Midland’s James Playfair. He is survived by two sons John and James of Midland and a brother Stuart B. Playfair of Toronto.
  • Mrs. Phil Blake, nee Marguerite Irene Sharlow, died at her home at 161 Yonge Street (now 389) on July 3rd. Born in Port Huron Michigan, August 4, 1893, she married Phillip Blake on September 17th, 1913 in Penetang. She had lived in Midland for 58 years.
  • Mrs. Wilfred Vaillancourt, nee Philomene Juneau, died on July 1st in Penetang General Hospital. She was born in Lafontaine in 1881, coming to Victoria Harbour at age 13 has resided there for 62 years. She married in Midland in 1901 and is survived by four sons and a daughter.
  • John Bruce Winfield in his 64th year, died July 13th of a coronary occlusion en route to Midland hospital. He was born and educated in Victoria Harbour and married Grace Malcolm there in 1916. He was well known as the superintendent of the CPR elevator on Port McNicoll.


  • Anne Louise Sweeting, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Gerald Sweeting formerly of Midland and Gordon Johnston, son of Mr. & Mrs. Wesley Johnston were married in St. Catherine’s July 7th.
  • Isabel Ellen Woodrow daughter of Mr. & Mrs. James Woodrow, Coulson, and James A. Reynolds, son of Mrs. Thomas Reynolds, Waverly, were married in the Hobart United Church July 7th.
  • Rita Dumais, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert Dumais, Penetang, and William Leclair, son of Mr. & Mrs. Willard Leclair of Midland were married at St. Ann’s RC Church.
  • Beatrice Bechard, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Andre Bechard, Penetang and John Dusome, son of Mr. & Mrs. Levi Dusome , Penetang, were married in St. Ann’s on July 2nd.
  • Cecile Beausoliel, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Andre Beausoleil, Penetang and Richard Desroches, son of Mr. & Mrs. Constant Desroches, Lafontaine, were married in St. Ann’s.
  • Anita Teresa Robitaille daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Clement Robitaille, RR 2 Midland and Arthur Joseph Beausoliel, son of Mr. & Mrs. Prosper Beausoliel, Penetang, were married at St. Patrick’s Church, July 2nd.
  • Eleanor Marchildon, daughter of Etienne Marchildon and Stan Therrien, son of Mr. & Mrs. Leonard Therrien, Penetang, were married at St. Patrick’s Church.
  • Bernice Lacroix, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Treffle Lacroix, Penetang, and Henry Hamelin Jr., son of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Hamelin, Penetang, were married at St. Ann’s Church, July 2nd.

Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years ago in North Simcoe – Sunday July 15th 1956 – 3:01 A.M. Bell Telephone Converts Midland to Direct Dial

[The information in this article was obtained from the Huronia Museum’s Free Press collection, the County Herald newspaper dated July 13, 1956 and the Midland Free Press Herald dated July 18, 1956.]  

   The first manufactured telephone to reach Midland was around 1880, shortly after the incorporation of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada in April of that year. Owner of the first pair of telephones, installed between his bakery and his retail outlet two blocks away, was Henry S. Ruby who had come to Midland in 1875 from Barrie to establish the bakery. Acoustic telephones like Mr. Ruby’s required a straight piece of iron wire stretched between the two stations, no bends. Bells rigged up over the phones were rung by simply shaking one of the units. Ruby’s “acoustic telephone” is in the collection of Huronia Museum and is displayed below by former curator A. D. Tushingham. Mr. Tushingham was telephone manager and later “wire chief” at Midland from 1930 until his retirement in 1949. 2006 0020 2540

   The phone systems that developed at that time were privately or municipally owned. Bell Telephone entered Midland in 1886 when a long distance line was constructed  between Midland and Penetang. John White became the initial Bell agent and the exchange was set up in his grocery store at 243 King Street (now 261). He had six telephone customers. Two years later a long distance telephone line was constructed linking Penetang and Barrie. The line took more than 28 miles of poles and 42 miles of copper wire and linked Midland to the expanding telephone network in other parts of Ontario, Quebec and the United States.

   The November 1889 Midland Telephone Directory  listed 17 customers, all of them businesses. The listings were: Anderson, Jas., Anderson Fish and Tacking Co.; Clarkson House, J. B. McNaughton prop; Coutermanche, N., merchant King Street; Free Press office, P. J. Ryan editor, King Street; Grand Trunk Rwy. elevator; Grand Trunk Rwy. station, Dominion Ave.; Lynett, Rev. John, residence, Hugel Avenue; Midland Manufacturing Co., Third Street; Miscampbell, A., lumberman, mill office; Ontario Lumber Company, mill office; Peters, C.M., hardware merchant, King Street; Queen’s Hotel, William Rogers prop., King Street; Raikes, Dr. R. M. Midland Ave.; Sneath, C. R., drug store, King Street; Steers and Ambrose, barristers, King Street; Western Bank, King Street; White, John, grocer, King Street.

  In January of 1890, Midland was incorporated as a town. The population was getting close to two thousand and the number of telephone customers had risen to 21. In 1892 a fire destroyed Mr. White’s store and the telephone exchange. The salvaged equipment and grocery business was re-established at 234 King (near the Free Press ffice). The exchange was moved twice more before 1920, first to 197 King (now 221) and later to its current (1956) location, 260 King (near Johnstones). Also in 1892 a long distance line connected Lafontaine to Penetang.

  A major changed occurred in May of 1900 when continuous 24 hour service was provided. A total of 70 listings appear in the Midland directory of December 1900. By July 1902 there were 86 subscribers and any remaining iron lines were replaced with copper wire resulting in a general improvement in transmission. In 1903 there were 100 phones in Midland and by 1910  there were 260 in use. A line from Elmvale to Penetang was constructed that year as well as a long distance line linking Midland and Orillia.

  John White was listed as agent for the last time in the April 1912 Midland directory. He had served the company for 26 years and his daughter Lilian, who had been Midland’s first operator, took over as agent. There was very little expansion during the war years. In 1919 the local staff consisted of Miss Lilian White, chief operator, Edward Robitaille, lineman, Frank Harbour, lineman, and operators Ada Smith, Mary Smith, Jean Ayres, Chilina Smith, Zada Molan and Ella Gillbanks.

  On May 5th, 1926, after years of “cranking” their telephones to get the operators attention, the system was updated to battery power and the switchboard enlarged to accommodate up to 1,200 customers. The chief operator was Helen L. McGrath.

   In 1931 there were 1,298 customers, but due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression, by 1935 there were only 984 customers. A. D. Tushingham became the local manager in 1931 and retired 19 years later.

  During the second world war resources were in short supply and the number of phones in Midland in December 1945 was 1,301, little changed from 1931. However by December 1949 the number had risen to 2,223. Bell employees in Midland numbered 26 and an average of 785 toll calls together with 9,698 local calls were being placed daily.

   In 1950 the Bell Telephone Co. purchased property on the corner of Hugel and Midland Avenues. In 1951 the business offices were moved to 276 King St. (now 296 Leisure Sports former Midland Beauty Parlour). Before the end of the year, three new switchboards were added to the exchange for a total of seven local positions and nine long distance positions. More than 30 operators were busy placing an average of 900 long distance and 11,500 local calls daily. At present (July 1956) there are 2,870 phones in service.

 2006 0020 1327

 August 1955. Sidewalk superintendents keep a close watch as the first piles are driven for the new Bell Telephone exchange and office building at Midland and Hugel Avenues. It was an added step when it was discovered that the ground was wet and unstable. The machine is placing large wooden timber mats upon which it traverses the wet ground. This was the site of the former Midland Woolen Mill. Bourgeois Motors can be seen in the background. 

2006 0020 1483

 November 1955. Pouring cement pillars on the upper floor of the new Bell Telephone Co. dial exchange building, southwest corner of Hugel and Midland Avenues. The building incorporates poured cement foundation, floors and roof, which is the reason for all the wooden forming and wooden support pillars. The general contractor for the project was the Emery Engineering and Contracting Company of Barrie.

 2006 0020 2096

 February 8, 1956. Despite the cold weather the brickwork is nearly complete on the new Bell Telephone exchange building on the corner of Hugel and Midland Avenues. The building is scheduled to open early next summer.

 2006 0020 1856

 The building will house the complex dial equipment on the first floor with the wire room and power supply equipment in the basement. The second floor will contain the new long distance exchange. The building is fireproof throughout with brick exterior and was designed to harmonize and add to the attractiveness of the neighbourhood. The 33 by 31 foot business office will be housed in the single storey area to the right.

 2006 0020 2487

  Business office staff were also busy prior to changeover obtaining and checking new listings, writing service orders and so on. Derys Stoodley, Rita Martin and Yvonne LeBlanc.

 2006 0020 2488

 As part of the companies program to make sure all customers are familiar with the equipment employees have been calling customers in recent weeks to demonstrate the various tones heard and asking them to place a test call. Karen Small, pictured here, also visited local schools to demonstrate the dial system to the children. Bell had been installing dial phones or phones that could be converted to dial for quite some time before the actual change over.

 2006 0020 2485

 Training on the new long distance switchboard  board was given to all permanent operators, the system will go into service with the conversion to dial. Operator Ruth Shaubel is seen putting through a test call as chief operator Helen L. McGrath observes. Miss Shaubel is using a set of keys, similar to those on an adding machine, to send out the number of a telephone in a distant city.

 2006 0020 2484

 This crew of installers was busy for many weeks preparing for the cut over by placing new dial phones and services in local homes and businesses. Seen behind the new building with their trucks are; Jim Adlam, Bob Taylor, Ross Smith, Paul Hetherington, installation foreman Gordon Scott, Manfred Leimgardt, Bob Dunlop and Joe Markle.

 2006 0020 2486

 Part of the change over was the splicing of every phone line in Midland to the huge cables leading into the new dial exchange building on Hugel Ave. Stan Gilchrist, Bell splicer, is seen in at work splicing wires in a man hole on King Street. 

2006 0020 2492

 A Bell tower, two and half miles west of Midland in Tiny Township, was also put on line and will bring public phone service to Cognashene Island, Gloucester Pool, Six Mile Lake and Mclean Lake. Later this summer Go Home Bay will be added to the system. Some 1,000 cottages and several large summer hotels and lodges will be within reach of the new public phones.

 2006 0020 2491

 A check of the dials and indicators on the main power control board in the basement of the new dial telephone exchange reveals all is in readiness for the cutover of the Midland system to dial operation. Sim Panfound, central office expert, makes sure the battery charging equipment is functioning properly as he inspects the voltage regulation controls.

 2006 0020 2495

 Eric Renkl, skilled Northern Electric employee is seen at work on the main distributing frame in the new Midland dial telephone exchange building. The frame provides the link between the cables serving the town and the dial switching equipment. Each pair of wires among the thousands leading from the cables must be matched with the corresponding pair  leading to the dial switches and soldered together.

2006 0020 2494

 Claude Kimball, Bell technician, checks the operation of some of the switches at the new Midland exchange. Normally the switches are covered with metal canisters to protect them from dust and dirt. The floors of this room are never swept, only wet mopped to prevent dust in the air and the room is air conditioned.

 2006 0020 2493

This is the last photo of the manual phone exchange. All permanent employees will still be needed to staff the new long distance, information and assistance switchboards. From the moment it was decided to convert Midland to automatic dialing provisions were made for staff. All permanent staff were guaranteed their employment, staff retiring or leaving were encouraged to stay until the switchover and new operators were hired on the understanding their jobs were only temporary. Standing left is Mrs. Laura Bacon supervisor and Miss Adilene Bell of Collingwood a chief operator who filled in for two weeks before the change.

    With the building complete and all preparations made the day arrived when the familiar “number, please” would be replaced by the hum of a dial tone.  Bell selected a day and time when there would be very little activity on the lines and few people would be inconvenienced for the few moments, less than two minutes, it would take to cutover the new system.

   It took just 35 seconds early Sunday morning for Bell Telephone technicians to take Midland’s manual system out of operation and put more than 3,000 telephones on dial service. When the exchange “went to dial” all telephone numbers were simultaneously changed to the new “LAkeside6”  (526) designation. Shortly before 3 A.M. Sunday morning operators asked customers using their phones to hang up and reconnect in two minutes using the dial. At the command “pull coils” a group of Bell employees standing behind the old main frame pulled on cords attached to hundreds of fuses, two for each line, littering the floor in seconds. With the fuses removed the old common battery switchboards were dead. Using a special phone line word was passed to the new exchange building to activate the dial equipment. Another group of men, stationed in front of the rows of switching equipment, pulled on cords attached to hundreds of blocking tools, little plastic insulators which were keeping the dial equipment from functioning. Direct dial had come to Midland.

2006 0020 1858Five staff  wait for the call to activate the dial system by pulling the cords and removing the blockers. Pictured are Warren Aikin, Grant Morrow and Claude Kimble.

    Practically all those waiting for telephones in Midland will get service with the switch to the new dial system, states H. A. Kilroy, Midland Bell manager. Twenty five additional telephones will be placed in service. Recent upgrades to rural lines will also improve service and reduce party lines to eight or less. The new long distance switchboard on the second floor is the most modern available and is almost noiseless in operation, no bells ring, no telephones jangle. The timing of long distance calls is done by electric calculagraphs at each switchboard position. Similar to punch clocks used in factories, the operator punches a card when the call begins and when it ends. Room lights in this room are connected to an emergency power supply in the event municipal power is interrupted.

  The new system is powered by large storage batteries located in the basement. DC power is supplied and the batteries are charged using AC power. If the AC supply from the local utility is interrupted the system will continue to work for at least eight hours on the storage batteries.

  The new Midland directory, the Blue Book, contains 9,817 new and changed listings, including Barrie, Collingwood, Alliston, Beeton, Bradford, Camp Borden, Cookstown, Penetanguishene, Port McNicoll, Thornbury, Tottenham and Waubaushene. Listing are now in three columns on pages much larger than the previous books. For the second year in a row the directory features a drawing of the county court house in Barrie on its cover.

   The  two editions of the newspaper that covered the conversion to direct dial were also full of advertisements from local merchants that highlighted their new phone numbers. Several that kept their number for many years, Hebners Taxi 526-2217, Midland Free Press  until  2013 when it closed 526-5431, Wagg’s Dry Cleaners number is now used by French’s Dry Cleaners 526-5436, Chalet Blue Motel now the Silverstar still has the same number 526-6571 as does the Midland Drive-In Theatre 526-2411.

  This amazing technical advance took only 80 years from the day in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell called Watson in the other room. It has been 60 years since direct dial came to Midland and technology has moved on, now we are switching to cell phones that not only let us see and talk to one another but give us access to a world of knowledge and information on the internet.