Sooke’s telephone girls at a bridal tea. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Telephone Girls tea

The telephone operators actually carried a big role in the community

Not long ago, we ran a photo of the telephone office that served customers of Sooke, East Sooke, and as far west as Jordan River, right up till the advent of dial phones in 1960. The telephone office was built in 1932, at the north eastern end of Sooke River bridge.

Today’s photo was taken in 1955, an occasion that illustrated the happy bridal shower tea the operators of those years enjoyed in the garden of their longtime chief operator, Agnes Milne Robillard.

Agnes “Nan” Milne had many women working for her over the years that she served, and she herself had been married in 1948, to her longtime suitor, Andre Robillard, who had courted her daily with beautiful flowers brought from his greenhouses at the old Belvedere Hotel site across the river.

The two women feted on this afternoon are kneeling right, with corsages. Operator Lorraine Duncan, centre, celebrated her marriage that summer to Bob Helme, a volunteer with Sooke Fire Department, and who took on responsibility for house numbering in Sooke. Next to Lorraine, on the right, is Dawna McClimon, who married Eddy Zigay that same summer; Eddy was a mechanic in those days, a fellow everyone in Sooke knew. Kneeling at left is Marlene Levi, who became Mrs Billy Wilson.

Standing at left is operator Doreen Lowe, now Mrs Marvin Olson; from another old time Sooke family, she is the mother of Sooke Coun. Kevin Pearson. Irene Cains is next, and those who remember the Cains Garage (now West Shack Auto) will recall that her husband Bill Cains was a partner with his brother Ken in starting Sooke’s first auto garage.

Billie Davidson is next; Davidson Road in Otter Point is connected to her husband’s pioneer family. Standing at right is Ragna McClimon, mother to one of the brides, Dawna, as well as being mother also to that very well-known fellow, with the extreme sense of humour, Dave McClimon.

The telephone operators actually carried a big role in the community, often going well beyond the call of duty, a role that was much appreciated. Doreen Olson recalls that the manager of Canadian Puget Sound Lumber & Timber Company at Jordan River would stop by each Christmas with a large box of Rogers chocolates.

With the arrival of dial phones in 1960, this camaraderie, caring and helpfulness was gone from our communications system; we no longer had the friendly operators greeting residents with their cheery, “Number please?”


Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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