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Roadside “Phone Booth”
Always Carry a Dime!

 Telephone booth – A little one-person building with a pay phone inside.  Does anyone remember telephone booths?  Are there any still out there?

Rotary Dial – A round dial with round notches for your finger to “dial” around to the various phone numbers and letters.  Twirl the dial to the right spot.  Let it go and the dial goes back to the starting point.

Pocketbook – A handbag or “purse”, mostly carried by women and still used today.

When I was a young girl (not too long ago really), my parents warned, “Always carry a dime in your pocketbook in case you need to call home.”

Rotary Dial

The rationale for this admonition was the existence of telephone booths.  There were no cell phones, smart phones, or iphones then,  but you could always count on finding a “phone booth” with a phone book inside and all you had to do was put a dime in the slot of a mounted rotary dial telephone inside to make your call.

Telephone booths (affectionately called “phone booths”) were scattered around most towns and cities in America, and they had  rotary dialing instead of push buttons (and certainly did not allow for texting!).  Booths even lit up inside when you opened the doors.  Talk about cutting edge technology!

The phone booth, the pocketbook, and rotary dialing may all be archaic terms now because today’s parents simply advise, “Don’t forget your cell phone” and a dime will not get you far.

I hate losing words and phrases.  But the words I said daily all those many years ago are disappearing anyway. We took phone booths for granted when I was young.  They were just “there” and are still there deeply etched in my imagination. The American pay phone is disappearing if it is not already extinct.  But, my handbag is still a pocketbook, and I still carry change for emergencies.  This old habit reminds me of the odd phenomenon when a person loses a limb and can still feel it.  Having the change in my pocketbook is comforting because I still feel the phone booth will be there.  I carry money “to call home” and expect to find telephone booths whenever I need them.  Only now I carry four quarters.  The ridiculous part is in the assumption that $1.00 will be enough even if I do find a phone booth by the side of a road somewhere in America.

History of the payphone

 From pbs.org: “The pay phone has been a part of American culture since almost the creation of the telephone in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell.  The first pay phone, which was serviced by an attendant who took a customer’s money, was installed in 1878… Coin-operated machines, the ancestors of the modern pay phone, were first installed in Hartford, Conn., in 1889 in the Hartford Bank.  For many years the pay phone was the main way in which many Americans made reliable and inexpensive phone calls.  Phone booths have also been a big part of popular culture — from Clark Kent entering one to become Superman in the 1940s to the 2002 film, “Phone Booth” in which a man is trapped by a sniper in one of the ubiquitous boxes.”

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