Telephone article

Like me, I expect many OAPSchat readers can remember the problems using the old red public telephone boxes.

The first problem was hunting down the right change.

If I didn't have any two pence or five pence coins, it meant asking a shopkeeper to change a pound note – which they were often reluctant to do. (This was probably because I wasn't buying anything!)

Clutching a neat stack of coins, when I arrived at the phone box, it was usually occupied, plus there was a long queue of people waiting to use it.

So I'd race to another phone box – only to find another queue there! And so on.

It was no picnic waiting to make a call in the rain, sleet, snow, gales and hail either.

If there was no queue, it'd be just my luck that I'd get behind a caller who spent thirty minutes chatting – and if they'd asked the person to ring them back, I'd be stuck there forever!

The second problem was the smokers that had previously used the kiosk.

As I pulled open the heavy door, I'd be forced to take a deep breath. Then I'd cough my way through the call and try to make it as short as possible.

Being in an enclosed small cube with no ventilation, the horrible stink of stale cigarettes clung to my hair, skin and clothes for hours afterwards. I'd also be shuffling my feet to find an empty space on the floor, as it was covered in dog ends.

But in those days, if you didn't have a landline, using a public phone was the only, instant way of communication - apart from sending telegrams, which we all know were classed as urgent.

As time passed, it became harder to find a public telephone that actually worked.

Vandalism prevailed and the thick paper Yellow pages and telephone directories eventually disappeared from the shelves in the kiosks.

Telephone kiosks now are used as garden ornaments and even tiny community libraries.

Yet, despite all their setbacks, I miss seeing their bright red presence, tucked away in our corners and displayed proudly on our high streets.

There was something uniquely special about our public telephone boxes. I'm glad that I've grown up with lasting memories of this unique British icon.

By Sharon Boothroyd.

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