Sunday, March 6, 2016

Communication now and then

I was sitting in a busy waiting room recently and as I looked around,  it seemed everyone was connected to a phone with a screen and were typing or receiving messages, totally oblivious to anyone else in the room.   The receivers of the messages might be someone nearby or maybe they were across the world, because,  with the easy spread of thought and ideas, no one is ever out of touch. When you think about it, what is happening is absolutely amazing. This type of communication might seem ordinary, common place, whatever you want to call it in our modern world, but for me as a senior, it is mind boggling,  something  we never could have imagined.  In my childhood there was a Dick Tracy comic strip and the main characters had wrist radios, walkie talkies I suspect, that they used to communicate.  That was considered quite futuristic, certainly not something that would happen in our lifetime.
My grandparents worked together on the farm

As I watched the instant communication going on around me, I thought back to my grandparents' farm where we had spent a few months after the Second World War.  At that time, the only lifeline to the outside world was a party line telephone. You would lift up the receiver and turn a crank on the side to get the central operator or a specific number of crank turns to get a neighbour. There was no privacy, everyone listened in on each other's calls. That party line really was the lifeline for the early farmers, "Quick, we need a midwife," "Send help, there's been an accident," "Sad news, our son is missing in action," "Good news, our daughter is getting married."

When my grandparents got married on August 28, 1901 in Mascouche Rapids, Quebec, it was their intention to homestead in Saskatchewan.  That dream was finally fulfilled in May, 1905 when my grandfather first set foot on his own homestead land eight miles from the present town of Rosetown, Sask.  Grandpa had shipped his household effects, equipment and lumber for his house to Saskatoon as there was no railway to Rosetown at that time. Everything then had to be hauled about a hundred miles by horse and wagon to the future farm.

  His father also staked a homestead claim as did a cousin who settled nearby.  On June 30, 1905 my grandmother and young son  Norman reached Saskatoon by train and two days later arrived by horse and buggy at the homestead land where a tent awaited them as their temporary residence.

Communication, there was none.  No phones, letter writing meant dropping letters off at the post office when you went to town.  It was isolation.  Although my grandparents were not yet thirty, they only saw their family members twice more in their lifetimes when they took train trips east many years later.  My grandfather's father, who had accompanied them west, passed away less than a year later. Phone lines eventually went in but luxuries like running water and inside plumbing and electricity were not available until the 1950s.

No wonder I look at communication today with such astonishment.

My grandparents with nine grandchildren in 1946
Three more  Mary, Donna and Bob were born later
Back row: Eunice, Judy, Grandma, Alan, Grandpa, Earl
Front row: Diane, Shirley, Norma, Bill (standing), Jim (in front)