Many local residents still remember some unusual features in their local telephone service as recently as the 1980’s.
Calling neighbours only required dialing the last four digits of their telephone number, and some residents still had “party lines” where a special ring indicated the intended recipient of the incoming call.
Nexicom, originally the Turner Telephone Company, was one of 1100 independent phone companies established in the late 1800s by the determination of some visionaries. It is now one of only 24 independent telecommunication companies in existence today across Canada. Crow Hill portrays the early beginnings of telephone service in the area.
In Millbrook, the people’s relationship with the telephone all started with a local doctor who wanted to take advantage of the magic of the telephone to stay in touch with his patients. Dr. Turner founded the Turner Telephone Company in 1898, to serve the village of Millbrook and environs.
In 1916, under new owners, Turner Telephone changed its name to the Millbrook Rural Telephone Company. Through the 1920s and 30s, the Millbrook Rural Telephone Company continued to grow. In the years to follow, two men saw the potential of this developing technology and a partnership was formed. Mr. Ed Downs and lawyer Henry Coon purchased the telephone company and renamed it Docon Telephones Ltd. which would eventually become the Nexicom we all know today.
After the sudden passing of their father Ed in 1978, brothers John and Paul Downs left their careers to take the reins of the firm. Under their stewardship, this small family-owned telephone company has evolved into a diversified business in the telecommunications industry, with 80 employees and offering high speed Internet access, local and long distance Telephone service, and the latest Digital TV and Security technology. They have also supported the community through generous donations to local charities. Last summer, the firm was sold to Clayton Zekelman who owns and operates a high-speed internet and telephone business in Windsor.
Despite its new configuration, Nexicom retains its local perspective while clearly driving towards a future that Dr. Turner would have difficulty imagining, with connectivity allowing on-demand information and entertainment as well as home automation.
4th Line Theatre’s 2018 revival of Crow Hill: The Telephone Play gives audiences a unique glimpse into the past when the local telephone company played a pivotal role, interwoven with the very fabric of the community.
For more information about 4th Line Theatre or to book tickets, visit www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca or call 705-932-4445.