Friday Flashback #328

As we hunker down in winter with the final Friday Flashback of 2022, what better choice than a photo from mid-summer, 1983.

(Photo/Arthur Nager)

For anyone born 20 years after this photo was taken: It shows a “pay phone.” This primitive pre-cellphone technology operated with “coins.” You put a “dime” in a slot at the top. You lifted the receiver, punched in a phone number (no area code required, if local), and hoped someone would answer.

Want to know more? You could dial 411 for “Directory Assistance” (an “operator” would give you someone’s number). You could place calls “collect” (the person at the other end would be charged for the call). You could even get your dime back (and collect those of previous callers), if you knew certain tricks and were juvenile delinquently inclined.

There’s no telling how often this phone was used by young kids calling to be picked up, teenagers calling friends to find out where the party was, and anyone else needing to communicate from Compo Beach.

BONUS FACTOID: Look at those 4 poles surrounding the pay phone. They’re the remnants of a “phone booth” — indicating that at one point, it was enclosed, for privacy and to guard against the weather.

And no one worried about Wi-Fi or a low battery.

16 responses to “Friday Flashback #328

  1. Another factoid is that this mythical “phone booth” is where Clark Kent regularly changed into Superman.

  2. Hysterical! Loved your instructions on how to use a pay phone for all of those too young to have ever experienced it.

  3. The phone that thru my younger child into total confusion was a rotary dial at the life guard station at Longshore. He had no idea how to do that. It was good for a laugh

  4. I few years ago having dinner with astronaut Wendy Lawrence the night before she was to give a talk for the girl scouts. I was surprised she was concerned and a bit nervous because she wasn’t sure what to talk about.(who could guess an astronaut could get nervous on the ground) I suggested she give each generation; the scouts, their mothers, and grandmothers a pencil & paper to draw a phone. Boy was there a lot to explain. LoL

  5. A Millennial neighbor stopped by our house and asked to use our landline phone as his cell had died. We said sure, there’s a wall phone in the kitchen. He went in. Time went by. He came back out. It seems that the operation of our 1958 Western Electric rotary phone was beyond him. Hilarious.

  6. Back in the day, when pay phones had three coin slots — for a quarter, dime, and nickel — and calls cost $.25, I mastered the art of making calls for $.05. You’d put the nickel in the nickel slot, but hold it with one finger. Then, as you let it go, you’d push fast and hard on the coin return button. If it didn’t work, the nickel would drop down into the coin return slot and you’d try again. But if your timing was perfect, you’d hear that magic sound: a dial tone! (My older brother passed down that important tip.)

  7. I’ll turn myself in on Monday.

  8. patrick kennedy

    DAN, it looks like you walking out of the locker room carrying a bag? HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  9. Luisa Francoeur

    This reminds me of the video of a monk needing help to read a book. Here is the link:

  10. Eric Buchroeder

    Looks like it might have been taken at Compo beach.

  11. There was a pay phone in front of Staples HS My kids used to make a collect call to joe Staples. I never accepted the charges, just got in my car and went to pick up the kid at Staples

  12. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    OK. How about the cheapo way to let friends or parents you had arrived alive. You would call reverse charges, prearranged, and the person called would say no to the charge knowing their friend or kid was ok.

  13. Eric Buchroeder

    The four poles in the picture are simply to protect the phone from out of control automobiles that were (and still are) typically driven by Westport teenagers. So that means they went to Staples High School and flunked driver’s Ed.