Manitoba Telephone System Building, 121 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Strolling along the main drag now we encounter a rare delight!

Reid Dickie

Before the days of dial telephones, which was long before the days of cell phones for anyone under 40, you turned a crank on your telephone and an actual human being asked what number you wanted to reach, dialed it for you and waited until you either got an answer or didn’t. Actual humans!! We called them “operators.” This happened daily in this building in Carberry and in others like it in most every little Manitoba town and village.

Plus, among the somber but elegant brick buildings along the street, this eye-catching pile served its purpose: to remind people to use the telephone because inside women you likely knew were waiting to connect you up. And, as they sat hunched over their switchboards, or switchboreds, listen in on your conversation as likely as not.

The Spanish Colonial Revival detail of the red adobe tile false roofs on three sides accentuates the compactness of the massing and the sweet roofline, one step, pilasters telling us when, all plain as plain can be. Yet it catches the eye and the ear, makes me want to call someone up, tell a few lies and see how quickly they get around town. Small town telephone roulette, let ‘er spin!!

Contrasting with the stucco cladding is the red soldier course of standing brick around the windows and door. The chunky wide brackets under each fake roof give the roofs principle.

MTS built lots of these little buildings all over Manitoba in the late 1930s and during the war years. Carberry’s was likely built in 1941, one of the few that I can think of remaining in southern Manitoba. Precious, spaced nicely between its neighbours to allow full access to all facades and a familiar landmark in downtown Carberry, the last telephone office before dial phones continues to be used as offices and still acts as a fanciful exclamation point along the street.

Pa Tuckett was twenty-three years old when he first talked on a telephone. He never owned a telephone until he was thirty-eight years old. His number in Carberry was 87.

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