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Ottawa-Carleton Association for


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Yelly Telly

The "Yelly Telly" has all but disappeared from the public eye. An item that once came jangling to you in commercials and advertisements by "that old lady" who everyone seemed to know, can only be found in your grandma's attic (although pins have been sighted in Ottawa thrift stores). 

The yellow rotary phone with a huge red smile was used by Bell Canada as a marketing ploy for Canadians to keep using increased long distance and public telephone rates. With the public largely upset about the changes, the company needed to keep up their image of happy long distance customers. This proved to be a great venture for the then-called Ottawa and District Association for the Mentally Retarded.

ODAMR saw the opportunity to start a new program by entering the marketplace and pitched the creation of the stuffed telephone cushions to Bell Canada by creating prototypes for sale to Trans-Canada Telephone System employees. The program was run through ARC Industries, a non-profit business which allows people with development disabilities to work in the Ottawa community.

As the demand for the product increased, the TCTS allowed for the public sale of the long distance symbol (emblazoned with the words "A Long Distance Call") by ODAMR in March 1974. The inaugural ceremony was high profile and attended by the Minister of National Health and Welfare and the Minister of Community and Social Services of Ontario.

Production of the plush toys was "the most extensive manufacturing project ever undertaken by the retarded in Canada," according to Allan Roeher, the then-vice president of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded.

This program saw many benefits. Manufacturing the cushion was a creative activity that offered a sense of satisfaction, but it also supported the agency's hopes for self-supporting industrial work.



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