The Late, Lamented Phone Booth


I’m late! I’m late! I spent all the weekend gardening instead of writing.

Pay telephone. Telephone booth. In UK, call box. They all have a definite ring (pardon the pun) of nostalgia, don’t they? When I was (much) younger there was a pay telephone every couple of blocks. Train stations, bus stations, and airports had banks of them. We likely didn’t think about them consciously as such, but they were a comfort, weren’t they?

American Phone Booth-Grant's Telephone Classics

Picture Credit: Grant’s Telephone Classics

Lost? Got a flat tire? Ran out of gas? Just walk a bit and you could be connected to help for the cost of a thin dime. They could serve as a lifeline, or even a romance line to call your current love interest and talk away from prying ears. Additionally, and this is important, Clark Kent always had a phone booth handy to shuck his nerdy reporter’s suit and emerge as Superman. Being the odd little kid I was, I couldn’t help wondering about the suit Clark came out of. What happened to it? Did someone come and discreetly move it to the cleaners?

Phone booths in the USA were cold, sterile, utilitarian things. They were constructed with aluminum and had lots of glass with red or blue skirting at the bottom. We relied on their presence and didn’t really give a tinker’s damn their aesthetics.

When I was in high school, there was a telephone booth in the main hallway, near the entrance. It looked a bit like this one. I always loved the idea that it had a place to sit whilst spinning the heavy metal dial to be connected with someone distant, but necessary, at that moment.

High School Jacksonville-Pintrest

Picture Credit: Pintrest

The 70s rolled around and many of our telephone booths were replaced with these monstrosities. There was no door to shut out the rest of the world, nor was there any protection from the elements. And, what about Superman? How in tarnation was Clark going to get changed in this abomination?

1970s monstrosity-Wikipedia

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

Ostensibly, the design was to allow handicapped people access to the phone. More likely, they cost less to make and so allowed the phone company to pocket more cash. Whatever the reason, I only ever used this one if it was an actual, verifiable emergency.

Nowadays, it’s damned difficult to find a telephone booth. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw one.

If we go across to Rightpondia and visit United Kingdom we’d see call boxes that are works of art by comparison. The iconic red call box (or kiosk in local parlance), representative of the power and glory of the British Empire, can still be seen pretty much every place that Britain made her mark.

Upper Slaughter NYTimes

Picture Credit: NY Times

Many of these old call boxes are being removed and replaced. However, thanks to a public outcry, the enduring symbols of London (and elsewhere) are making a comeback. They’re being repurposed as ATMs, free little libraries, tiny coffee shops, cell phone repair stands, and information booths to name a few. In some places in rural England they’ve been set up with defibrillators because medical help can take awhile to arrive. The refurbished kiosks can now be seen in such high-traffic areas as Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Olympic Park.

If you’d like a call box of your very own, you can have it from around £3750 and up. That will give you the base to create an ice cream stand, an espresso shack, or even a souvenir shop.

It’s really nice to know that the call boxes, or phone booths, or whatever you may prefer to call them, aren’t disappearing forever. I’ve found a similar phone booth on this side of the pond. It’s in Yellow Springs, Ohio and is now being used as a tiny art gallery. Other than that one, I haven’t found many in the US. I wonder if they’re all lined up like soldiers in some phone booth graveyard somewhere, waiting for a new lease on life?

Thank you a hundred thousand times for coming round today! I appreciate your visits, your likes, and your comments. This is the spot where I do my shameless plug for New Yesterdays. You know, and I know that you want a copy. Click the book’s title and be whisked away to Amazon where you can get yours. Got young teenagers, young adults, or other readers in your family? Why not pick up copies for them, too? Thank you so very, very much, and I’ll see you Wednesday.



About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. For seven years, he lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook. These days, you can find him back stateside, still filling notebooks.
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4 Responses to The Late, Lamented Phone Booth

  1. jaysquires says:

    Dang git, Jim, I love your posts. Is there anything that isn’t grist for the mill for you? When I saw your first picture of the phone booth along with it came a distinct memory-smell. I haven’t been in a phone booth for ages, but the remembered scent is still there. Along with the sweet smell of the outdoors when you finally open one. I love your post! BTW, just planted my 6 tomato plants yesterday. They have them for about a week every springtime in the 99 cent store. Yep, 99 cents and they produce lovely tomatoes. I was given a Nutrabullet soup maker for my last birthday. I can’t wait to dust it off and make some fresh tomato soup right out of my garden! Join me, won’t you?


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ol' Big Jim says:

      It’s strange, isn’t it? I never know what I’m going to write about. I strain and worry over my next post. Finally, I throw up my hands and leave the computer to work on something else. After a bit it comes to me and off I go! I imagine we’re all like that to an extent, aren’t we?
      Good luck with your tomatoes! I finished my raised beds Sunday. I’m giving them a few days for the sun to warm the soil and I’ll be popping some lovely tomatoes in the ground. I’m planning to not only make some soup, but to preserve it, as well! Nothing like tomato and vegetable soups canned during the summer to chase the blues away during winter!


  2. I ran across some of the same photos. I also found other stuff. However, you found stuff I never either found or saw. And I lived in England. I will say I did live in Hertfordshire County and most of it is hardly rural. I take my hat off to you for this very informative article!

    Liked by 1 person

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