Tales of Technology: A Phone Booth Under an Apple Tree Deep in the British Columbia Interior

Image by Esa Riutta from Pixabay

On July 1, 1988, my mother, my sisters Kathleen and Mary, and Kathleen’s young daughters Tamara and Meghan, were enjoying a day of activity at the family camp of the Anglican Church’s retreat centre, Sorrento Centre, in a British Columbia valley. When evening came, and the exhausted little girls had been put to bed in the cabin they were all sharing, Mom, Mary, and Kathleen sat at the picnic table in front of the cabin to rest and enjoy the soft evening summer breeze. They chatted pleasantly with the mother-of-four-boys at the neighbouring cabin, who was also enjoying an evening post-bedtime respite at her picnic table.

At some point, somebody noticed a piece of paper flapping under a rock on the table. “What’s that?” they wondered. It was a note for Mom: “Call your daughter in Ottawa.”

Well. That daughter in Ottawa was 8 ½ months pregnant! The three tired women sprang to life and, asking the mother-of-four-boys to keep an ear open for the sleeping girls, they dashed over to Sorrento Centre’s phone booth under the apple tree.

They returned to the cabin beaming. “It’s a girl!” they announced.

“Figures,” replied the mother-of-four-boys amicably.

That pregnant daughter was me, and the baby girl was my first born, Grace Elizabeth Rath. When the baby arrived at 8 p.m. on June 30, I phoned my Dad who was holding the fort at the family home in St. Lambert, Quebec. Then I began the process of contacting Mom far far away across the country in a camp with one pay phone and one office phone, at a time in history when there were few options for instant communication.

When babies arrive now, of course, it’s immediate glee and celebration, smiles and photos, and all manner of instantaneous goodness. 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Which is how it went 32 ½ years later when Grace had her own first born. Christopher and I got a video WhatsApp call from the hospital, and there she was, four hours old, Marcy Jean Jukes, newly arrived on December 12, 2020.

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