In 1905, when Alberta and Saskatchwan became provinces, thousands of people were flocking to the Prairies. In the first ten years of the century, Winnipeg‘s population grew from 42,000 to 136,000. Regina‘s from 2,250 to 30,000. Edmonton grew from 2,600 to 25,000. Calgary‘s from 4,400 to 44,000. Saskatchewan from 113 to 12,000!
Because of this rapid growth, the provincial governments and municipalities were under pressure to provide public services. On November 1, 1908, the government of Saskatchewan established a Department of Municipal Affairs. Saskatchewan and Manitoba were the first provinces to do so.
The majority of newcomers were taking up holdings on the land, and their huge wheat-growing areas meant that their homes were widely spread apart. Alexander Graham Bell‘s new-dangled telephone had been fully accepted after a long struggle, and was a blessing to the Western farmers. In fact it was so essential to their welfare that a Rural Telephone Act was passed, making it possible for groups of five people to construct, maintain, and operate a rural telephone system.
In his book ( http://www.amazon.ca/Saskatchewan-Province-J-F-Wright/dp/B002FD59ZQ) Saskatchewan: the History of a Province, J.F.C. Wright has an amusing story of how the rural telephone systems provided entertainment before radio. One prolonged ring on the line was a signal for all subscribers to lift the receivers and listen. There might Be an announcement of an auction sale, dance, or public meeting, or perhaps serious news about a fire or other tragedy.Telephone conversations were seldom private, and were made with the knowledge that probably most of the other subscribers were listening. Their clocks could be heard ticking, or perhaps the shout of a child at play, or a sudden snore from grandfather asleep in his chair However, no one ever “let on” that he or she was listening If someone heard that a neighbour was going to town, he or she would allow an interval to elapse, then phone the neighbour and say, “Do you happen to be going to town today? If so, I wonder if you would mind bringing back some groceries for us?”
Radio was a blessing in later years but it never provided the intimate entertainment of the country telephone system!