Communication is the key!!!!

Red phone box

While driving home early on Sunday morning after a weekend away, I passed a red telephone box on the main street of my village.

My first thought was that it probably does not get much use in this day and age – with land lines in most homes and a mobile phone in most pockets.

But then my mind went winging back to my youth when a telephone box was a place where queues formed.

My parents moved to their brand new council home in 1954 when I was 6 months old and a telephone line was definitely not on their list of priorities. I don’t remember being bothered by this, we communicated with family and friends by post or by simply visiting the ones who lived close enough. I had a pen pal in America for years and used to love receiving her long and fascinating letters.

My best friend had a home telephone and as I grew up I began to see the value of this piece of equipment particularly when boys suddenly became interesting to speak to. My friend used to sit in the comfort of her well lit hall for hours chatting to her latest love but me? The nearest telephone box to my house was around a quarter of a mile away and I had to walk across a dark unmade track – formidably named ‘The Black Pad’ to get to it. The phone box stood at the end of Black Pad – its light shining dimly, the nearest streetlight being some thirty feet away. Behind it were the gates to the cemetery which was another dark eerie place.

And this is where I had to go if I wanted to speak to the boy of the moment and, if he didn’t have a telephone at home we used to exchange telephone box numbers and run the risk of somebody else answering the call when they were just passing the box or worse still somebody using the box at the exact time that I was supposed to be calling.

I have vivid memories of standing in the telephone box with the receiver to my ear pretending to be on a call but in reality holding down the receiver rest waiting for my boyfriend to call. While he was eight miles away queuing to get into his box I had my own queue forming outside. This went on for years, turning out in all weathers and conducting most of my relationships from a telephone box.

When I was nineteen years old I went to work for the Post Office as a telephonist. Oh what joy, we had a kiosk inside the exchange and all calls were free. Queues still formed but we were warm and dry at least. I remember when the engineers wanted to test the ‘new’ international direct dialling system to the United States, they were looking for telephonists who knew somebody over there and were prepared to allow half an hour international calls on Boxing Day that year to prove that the system worked. That year was the very first time I had spoken to my American pen friend Bonnie and her family. It was an amazing experience, they had ‘phones in every room and were all talking at once, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways! Sadly I have lost touch with Bonnie since then – I wonder what she’s doing now?

Maybe I can find her on the internet, and then maybe I can call her again for free on my Skype internet ‘phone as I have broadband at home. Or perhaps I could text her from my mobile once I have her mobile number or as a finale I could call her from my home telephone in the kitchen or from the bedroom extension. How my life has changed I still wonder if anyone uses that little red telephone box in my village?

Creative Commons License photo credit: ? Redvers

3 thoughts on “Communication is the key!!!!”

  1. That’s a really cool blog post. I recently had a similar experience looking at a phone booth–actually we have one that looks almost exactly like the one in your picture in our office. Just a small note in case you’re interested–jaxtr (www.jaxtr.com) gives you an easy way to call mobile or landlines without high international calling fees. Anyway, blog posts like this get my imagination going. I wonder what phones will be like in thirty years from now.

  2. That brought back memories for me too! We didn’t have a phone in the house until I was a teenager, and even then I wasn’t allowed to use it much.

    I remember going down to the phone box to call people with my Mum when I was very young. Those big shiny red phone boxes like the one in your picture. My best friend had a phone in her house, which I thought was very glamorous. My Mum would sometimes let me talk to her when she’d finished her own conversation, and we’d stand there, one on each end of the line, breathing hard down the phone and saying ‘hello?’ ‘are you there?’ and so on, because we were so awed by the thing we had no clue what to say!

    We have a phone box in the village here, sadly not red and shiny, one of the new grey metal and glass boxes. It regularly gets vandalised, and there are no phone directories. I have no idea if anyone uses it, but I guess they must or it wouldn’t still be there.

  3. Our phone boxes were green. We were one of the fortunate few to have a phone at home. Our neighbours often came to use it rather than stand in the cold outside the coinbox at the corner of the street waiting for their turn.

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