Nothing Unique

by Zbigniew

Directory of Member Businesses

In MacLeod’s I came across a “Visitor’s Guide to Metropolitan Vancouver, B.C.” There’s no publication date, but I figure the early 1960s, given a photo of the B.C. Hydro Building and -sandwiched between aderts for the Hawaiian lanai style accommodation of the Delport Inn and Yeoman’s, “The Oriental Store”- a business directory employing the “2L-5N” telephone exchange regime. Need a taxi? Call B.C. Radio Cabs Ltd. at MUtual3-6666.

This brought back memories of playing with my father’s telephone index, with its endlessly fascinating Star Trek-like movable tab, spring loaded cover, and curious contents: CY9-9030, TR2-9600 etc. Misdialing the code linked to my uncle, a recorded baritone highlighted my error on behalf of the “Alpine” exchange.

Each exchange took its name from the first two letters corresponding to a number on a telephone dial. Each exchange served a specific geographic area. I grew up in HEmlock, a wilderness compared to the action over in ALpine. REgent was another world altogether.

telephone-exchange-map

CYpress, LAkeview, and WOodland suggest something of the local ecology, but who were WEstmore, WAverly and WEbster? Local personages lost in the sands of time? CPR or BC Tel mandarins. Heroes? Villains?

Neither: in the mid-1950s AT&T produced a recommended list of exchange names for both U.S. and Canadian systems, carefully designed to avoid misunderstandings when voiced. All of Vancouver’s old exchanges, replaced by a seven digit system by the mid-1960s, adhere to the AT&T list. Nothing unique here.