16 August 2017

Telephone Booths … Going, Going, Almost Gone!

Telephone Booths … Going, Going, Almost Gone!

Let me say up front that I “think” we always had a phone in our house, even when we lived in several rentals (starting when I was about 3).  I could be wrong.

That said, phone booths were so ever-present until recently.

·        In high school, they were by the cafeteria.
·        In town, you could always find one near a gas station, inside a diner, around hotels and related, malls, and elsewhere.
·        In Europe, I remember visiting places that were just phone booths and you signed up for a time slot to make your cross-Atlantic phone call back home.
·        In airports, train and bus stations, they seemed to be everywhere!

I cannot tell you when I last saw a working phone booth.  Every airport I’ve been in this year has banks where phonebooths used to be and now they sit as silent reminders of what was.

Basically, I remember that when traveling, you always made sure you had some change just in case you needed to make a call.  I have a vivid memory of being pregnant, tired, hungry, and frustrated (not necessarily in that order) in Jackson Hole, WY, and trying to remotely convey all of that to my husband as I inserted a continuous stream of quarters into a payphone!  Effective though not necessarily satisfying.

I also remember the frustration when the phone book was missing or missing so many pages that the number you needed was amongst the missing.  Thanks goodness for the operators!

The day I switched to a cellphone is also a vivid memory.  It was about 16 years ago and I was driving with my kids and the car broke down.  The nearest phone booth was easily over a mile away.  We were in a neighborhood and I decided to visit the nearby houses and ask to use their phone to call AAA.  I had to go to several houses before someone would let me in (actually brought a cordless phone to me outside) so that I could call AAA.  It made me realize how vulnerable I was.  Yet, I remember being on highways, in the middle of nowhere, with a flat tire, and before you knew it, someone would stop, help you change the tire and you’d be on your way again (though, I did make sure I knew how to change my tires!).

I was reminded of all this when I read Those Disappearing Telephone Booths (Preservation in Mississippi blog).

A Wikipedia article about telephone booths tells us that some countries no longer have “any” telephone booths in operation anywhere!

A few months ago, CBS posted Last call for the phone booth? Which talks about the rise and now fall of an institution that some people alive have never used (including my own 20 something children)!  The article talks about The Payphone Project which has an associated Facebook Page. Want to see what payphones are still in your community, check here.

Of course, there was also a time before payphones … and, I’m not that old!

Time does march on, and institutions very familiar to us aren’t familiar at all to our children.  Well, the same goes for our ancestors.  There are businesses and services that they used that are completely unknown to us. 

What are your favorite memories of telephone booths?

When was the last time you used one?

Are any still standing in your community?


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