Slave Lake’s last surviving pay phone to be removed

Leader staff

If you’re planning to make any pay phone calls, better do it soon! Because according to information sent to The Leader last week, Slave Lake’s last payphone is due to be removed next month. It’s at the Sawridge Travel Centre.
It could be called the end of an era. When that era actually began is hard to say, but now we know it’s going to end “on or after April 25, 2022,” according to a notice received by the Town of Slave Lake and passed on to us.

Maybe some oldtimer remembers when Slave Lake got its first payphone, but we haven’t talked to that person. In the 1950s, maybe? The first outdoor pay telephone in the U.S. dates all the way back to 1905.

Evidently, when a community’s last payphone is removed, the public must be notified, per a CRTC directive. This detail is in a letter the Town of Slave Lake received last week from a company on behalf of Telus. “Due to decline in usage,” it said.

That’s not exactly a surprise. Not everybody carries a cell phone with them, but Travel Centre manager Srini Jayaraman says when somebody without a phone needs a taxi, they generally ask the person at the checkout to call one, and they do. So even the phoneless few aren’t using the pay phone anymore.

However, somebody at the Travel Centre told us last week the phone isn’t working anyway. A notice has been posted just above the phone, advising that it will be taken out of service on May 16. The nearest other payphones, it says, are at Marten River Campground and Fawcett Lake Resort. Apparently that’s something else the CRTC requires; if you remove a payphone, you have to let customers know where they can find another one.

Similar ‘end of an era’ stories are popping up in other Alberta communities. Just last month Global TV did a story about St. Albert’s last pay phone being removed. It was in the Grandin Medical Centre, and had generated only $5 over the last couple of years. The story said Telus has about 700 pay phones still in Alberta.

Use it while it lasts. Slave Lake’s last pay phone is at the Sawridge Travel Centre, but not for much longer.