Jill Lawrence, who worked for Bell Canada for 16 years, didn’t hesitate when she saw a Toronto phone book from the Bell Telephone Company from 1946 for sale on a Facebook Marketplace.
“This book came about because the Mission Thrift Shop in Belleville went to an online store and the director published the book,” Lawrence told blogTO. “I’ve had [to Belleville] about two days later and I really couldn’t help but open it as soon as I got in the car. “
The period telephone book in Lawrence’s possession was printed some 70 years after the very first one in 1879. What once found in almost every household in the city is now an interesting piece of history.
“This phonebook is so new to telephone technology that it even tells you how to make a phone call. It explains how to pick up the handset, put your finger in the hole, turn the dial clockwise and let go, ”says Lawrence.
“There were so many exciting discoveries, a lot of different little shops and businesses.”
Lawrence was able to find the address of the shared home of his grandparents and great-grandparents in the Beaches district.
“I had grandparents who took a very big risk and left the rental market and invested their money in real estate. And my great-grandparents lived above them so they could make ends meet, ”she says.
“I always assumed they bought it in the 1950s, but they’re already in this house in this book in ’46.”
She was also able to find information long forgotten from her husband’s side.
“My stepfather, who hasn’t heard his childhood phone number for about 70 years, got to hear it again for the first time.”
Lawrence also took to Facebook to help others find the homes of a former family member using the directory. She has now used the physical directory to help about 20 people who have contacted her directly.
“This woman reached out to me and said, ‘If you could, could you just check and see if my last name is there,’” Lawrence said.
“I did and there was a list. I sent [a photo of the page] towards her. She answered me about 10 minutes later and said, “Thanks to you, I googled this address. The house is currently for rent and I just took a virtual tour of my family home. ‘”
Lawrence says she enjoyed sharing the information with anyone she can in the hopes that they can connect with a piece of their family past.
“It’s a deeply personal thing and if it makes sense and makes them smile, it’s worth it,” she says.
“This type of experience really fills me with joy and I just think it could happen for others too, so that’s really the only motivation. That’s all there is to it.”