Here’s something you never see any more. In fact, some readers might not have ever seen one.Embed from Getty Images
For those of you who haven’t seen one, this is a telephone booth. In the days before cellphones, if you were out somewhere and needed to call someone, you found one of these and made your call. When I was a kid, you had to put a dime or two nickels into the phone to make a local call. To make a toll call, which was a call outside the city or the towns immediately outside it, how much you paid depended on where you were calling and how long you talked. You had to put money into the phone before you even got a dial tone, then you could touch the number buttons for the person you were calling, if it was a Touch-Tone™ phone; otherwise you had to dial the number.Embed from Getty Images
Sometimes, instead of being in a booth, the payphone was attached to a post, or hanging on a wall, inside or outside. It worked the same way regardless.
The rule was, when you were out, you had to have a dime to call home, in case you got stuck somewhere and needed to let your parents know where you were, or to call a tow truck to come get your car which had died on the highway. Frank Sinatra always insisted that his kids do that. When he died, they put a roll of dimes in his pocket, remembering what he had told them.
Even before cellphones were everywhere, they started removing payphones. They’d often be destroyed by someone trying to get in and take the money, or destroyed by someone who liked destroying things. In some neighborhoods, they were being used by drug dealers or gang leaders as their “office phone.” After a while, the phone companies got tired of replacing damaged equipment and just removed the phone, or the police would ask them to take the phone away so it couldn’t be used for illegal purposes. The first trip I made out of town after Mom died, I didn’t have a cellphone, and I drove around for almost an hour looking for a phone to call them on. You can bet the first thing I did when I got home was to get one.