9-6-6-Story: The Many Changes of New Canaan’s Exchanges

New Canaanites today see residents on cellphones everywhere, driving up Ponus Ridge (hopefully not doing this) or walking along the sidewalks of Elm and Main. For people such as Cookie King, née Van Beck—who lived in New Canaan from the 1930’s to the 1960’s and whose family lived in New Canaan until 1995—that’s about as impersonal as the way individual cell numbers are assigned: Between IP technology and mobile provider pool applications, there’s no rhyme or reason to a New Canaan “extension.” “We still have a landline and won’t give it up,” King told NewCanaanite.com “Have phone on the wall with a dial on it too.”

Many New Canaanites remember the days even before “966” was the town’s main designated exchange, and a look at our local telephone history tells the story of those three digits, long associated with the Next Station to Heaven. The first telephones in New Canaan were installed in 1881, as four businesses in the then-small town—Henry B. Rogers & Co., Hoyt’s Nurseries, Monroe’s drug store and Johnson’s carriage works—were part of the Norwalk exchange. After the turn of the century, New Canaan’s population began growing rapidly—as did the number of phones in town.