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Local telephone company history topic at seniors Lunch and Learn

Museum presentation - Kyle Smith of the Wellington County Museum and Archives shared a presentation on Wightman’s, the First 110 Years on Jan. 18 at Knox United Church at a Seniors Centre for Excellence Lunch and Learn event. From left: Jean Field, Mary Cain, Victoria Remuga, Smith, Julie Duncan and Helen Edwards.  Photo by Bonnie Whitehead

Local telephone company history topic at seniors Lunch and Learn

by Bonnie Whitehead

CLIFFORD - Seniors Centre for Excellence program co-ordinator Helen Edwards welcomed over 50 people to the Lunch and Learn on Jan 18 at Knox United Church in Clifford.

Mary Cain offered the blessing before helping Victoria Remuga serve a luncheon prepared by Donna Gingrich.

Orange pecan chicken was served over a bed of rice pilaf with green beans, cauliflower salad, rolls and mocha cheesecake for dessert.

Kyle Smith from the Wellington County Museum and Archives researched the triumphs and tragedies of the four generations that built Wightman Telecom from climbing the first pole to installing fibre optics.

Robert Wightman was hailed a visionary who invested in his community in 1908 when Bell would not expand its telephone service to small communities.

After 110 years, Paul and Blair Wightman are continuing the legacy left by great grandfather Robert, grandfather Ben, grandmother Leila, and their father Ray. Ingenuity made it possible for neighbours to connect through party lines and listen to gramophone recordings on a Sunday evening.

The business offered discounts during the depression, built a new exchange in 1952, mobilized to install cable underground, and now offers worldwide communication through the internet.

Many had stories to tell of how the telephone offered a sense of security in times of medical troubles and humour in the form of overheard conversations on party lines. Jean Field recalled her party line ring was three longs, one short.

Smith brought along a book published by the Robert Wightman Telephone System outlining the rules and fines. The number one rule: never use during an electrical storm.

Other rules included answer promptly, talk no longer than five minutes, the phone “is not a toy,” no prank calls, business calls take precedence over casual calls, be courteous, and no quarrelling or risk paying a $10 fee.

Lunch and learn programs run the third Friday of each month at Knox Church in Clifford.

The noon meal cost is $12. The program that follows is free. Call 1-519-638-1000 to reserve a spot.

 

February 8, 2019

 
 

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