Frequently Asked Questions: Winnipeg Telephone Exchanges
Q: I am looking for information on the old named telephone exchanges used in Winnipeg. For example, the number 582-8264 was called Justice-2-8264.
By going through old Winnipeg telephone books at the Manitoba Legislative Library, we determined that named telephone exchanges were introduced in the city in 1954 and were phased in over a couple of years, replacing six-digit phone numbers consisting of a two-digit number followed by a four-digit number (e.g., 44-4625). These new numbers consisted of a two-character exchange name, followed by one digit, followed by four digits. In other words, it was, in effect, the same system as we have today except that letters substituted for the first two digits.
Names of telephone exchanges used in Winnipeg included: Alpine, Castle, Cedar, Chapel, Edison, Globe, Grover, Hudson, Justice, Lennox, Spruce, Sunset, Turner, Vernon, and Whitehall.
The use of named exchanges was relatively short-lived. They began to be phased out in 1963 and were completely gone by 1967, replaced by a system referred to as All Number Calling or ANC. The reason given for the change was that “The telephone industry’s continued rapid growth and the introduction of new services such as Direct Distance Dialing have led to a shortage of suitable exchange names. ANC will make available the necessary codes to meet the telephone needs of a growing population and future telephone development.” [1966 Winnipeg telephone directory]
In 2012, with the number of telephone lines increasing dramatically as a result of the widespread use of cellular telephones, Manitoba telephones began using a mandatory ten-digit number in which the former seven-digit number was preceded by the area code 204 for earlier lines or 431 for later ones.
We thank Colleen Armstrong for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 19 December 2020