RT Cunningham


The Venerable Telephone Booth is Almost Obsolete

telephone booth In 2015, I chuckled at a cartoon with a telephone booth on Facebook and it brought back memories. I can’t say whether those memories were fond or otherwise. I didn’t take part in some of the telephone booth shenanigans I heard about.

With every other way of communicating these days, I would have thought by then that phone booths wouldn’t be found anywhere in the United States. I’ve never seen one at all in the Philippines, where I live now. I was here during the era when there should have been at least one.

My First Telephone Booth

I grew up in a small city, which barely has a population of 11,000 today. I can only remember one telephone booth in the entire city. It was on a corner on the side of the highway which ran through the center of the city.

I never used that phone booth. The only thing I ever did was check for change as I walked past, on my way home from school. I’m sure all the people who walked the same route did the same thing.

My Last Telephone Booth

The last phone booth I saw with my own eyes was on the Marine Corps base in Barstow, California. That was in 1996. I reason I remember it is because I used it when I was first stationed there. I didn’t have a phone in my room and I didn’t have a cell phone. It was the only way I could call my wife, who was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I was a geographical bachelor. Yes, that’s the correct term.

Back then, a lot of people didn’t have cell phones. I think I bought my first cell phone in 1998, after I retired from active service. Even though the industry now calls them mobile phones, a lot of people still call them cell phones. It’s easier to say.

Before that period in my life, I rarely used pay phones and it was usually while waiting for a flight at one airport or another. They weren’t phone booths either.

I know phone booths still exist in the United States because people take photographs of them from time to time, like some sort of curiosity item. The picture I chose for this article is from 2012.

Superman’s Telephone Booth

Like I said, I chuckled at that Facebook post. Someone else posted an image of Underdog racing to a phone booth in the comments, but it didn’t have the same impact. After all, Underdog is a merely a parody of Superman. Of course, that Facebook post wasn’t the first time phone booths amused me when related to Superman.

The first Superman movie (1978) included a very short scene where Clark Kent looked at a pay phone (that wasn’t in a phone booth) and then decided to use a revolving door instead to change into Superman.

Someday, telephone booths will be collectors’ items. Unfortunately, the only probable way to collect them will be to steal them from where they stand, ripping the wires out of the ground (or wall).

Photo Attribution: By N9LXI [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published in March of 2015. Updated for readability and minor corrections.

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By RT Cunningham
November 10, 2017