Hamilton, Ontario

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Alexander Graham Bell

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

“Take it!” my older brother handed me the empty tin can with a rope threaded through the sealed end. “Walk as far as you can.” He waved me towards the far end of the yard. “When you can’t go any further, put the open end of the tin against your ear and listen.” “For what?” I asked, not sure that I liked this game at all. But my brother wanted me to help him with his science experiment. It was school work, so who was I to argue. “Me, you silly. As soon as I see the tin against your ear, I’m going to speak into my end.” He held up another empty tin can with a rope threaded through the sealed end. The rope was connected to the tin I was holding. We were connected. Oh!” I scrunched my brow. “Why don’t you just speak to me now and save us all the bother?” I was sounding a bit like Gran. Very practical and to the point. “Because, silly. It’s all part of the experiment I’m doing for school. And talking to you while you’re standing in front of me will not demonstrate that my speaking device will work.” He waved me off. “Now go.” “I thought it was supposed to be a telephone,” I grumbled as I walked away. I reached the length of the rope and stopped, placing the open end of the tin against my ear. Nothing happened. I turned and looked at my brother. He was speaking into his tin can, his mouth covered by the can’s open end. “It doesn’t work,” I yelled, waving the silly tin in the air to get his attention. “Keep it over your ear,” he yelled back, not through the tin can, but away from it. I rolled my eyes. The things I had to suffer with my brother. I placed the tin over my ear and waited, listening. Nothing. Alexander Graham BellSuddenly, “Can you hear me now?” I jumped. “I heard that!” I squealed. “Yeh! It worked!” my brother did a little happy dance on the spot. “Well,” I admitted. “Not really. I just heard you yelling, which you’re so good at doing. I didn’t hear it through this telephone contraption. It doesn’t work.” I threw it on the ground, disgusted. “But it has to work,” my brother argued. “Alexander Graham Bell knew how to make things work and he invented the telephone. He worked on his invention at the family homestead, Melville House, in Brantford, not far from here. When he finally made his speaking telegraph work, that’s what he first called the telephone, he spoke to his assistant in the next room and said, “Mr. Watson. Come here. I want to see you.” That’s what he said and Mr. Watson heard him and came running into the room where Mr. Bell was working. It was amazing. This should be amazing, too.” “Well it’s not amazing! Mr. Bell may have known how to make his contraption work, but this is just two empty tin cans connected by a rope.” I shook my head. “It’s not a telephone. I’m going inside to call my friend. On a real telephone. One that actually works.”

March 7th is Alexander Graham Bell Day. It was on this day, in 1876, that Mr. Bell received the patent for his new invention, the telephone (what he initially called the speaking telegraph), an invention we take so much for granted in the twenty-first century. So, think about this man as you text or talk on this marvelous device. It may no longer be connected by a wire, but the evolution of what we use today began with Alexander Graham Bell.


Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca