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Got Change?

April 22, 2016

Susan Marg

I’m so glad that my post on pay phones stirred up some old memories. Here’s a comment, another post, really, from my friend Brian G. Be sure to check out his links, especially the YouTube video on the last visitors to the Mojave phone booth. Once located off the beaten track and miles from any building, Pacific Bell removed it in 2000.

Photo by: Thomas

Photo by: Thomas

Hello, Susan:

When I was a junior and senior in HS, I worked at Al’s French Fries in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was started by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz immediately after WWII. They converted the lower part of their house into a burger joint. Until McDonald’s came to town in the late 60s, they were the only local fast food place outside of Burlington.

Well, we had a phone booth nearby – the type that had the nickel, dime, and quarter coin slots on top. Earlier I learned from a friend that you could get a dime call for a penny dropped in the nickel slot. Immediately after dropping the penny, the trick was to slam the coin return plunger with the palm of your hand. Sometimes it took 3 or 4 tries to get the familiar “Ding-Ding,” but it worked!

That came in handy one night after I closed at 10:00 pm and cashed up. Unfortunately my Dad had fallen asleep and neglected to pick me up and it was now midnight. As I walked across the RR tracks, I found a penny. Shortly thereafter, I made that call and the rest is history.

Thanks for the memory! For a western twist, check out:

Brian G.

PS – The original Coke tabs were a bang-up substitute for dimes in the parking meters. The raw inventory was everywhere. Simply separate the ring from the tab, quick file the corners, and you were good to go for hours and hours…

Can You Spare a Dime?

April 21, 2016

Susan Marg

We all pay for our phones. And, boy, do we pay. But in the not so distant past, there was a special type of phone called a pay phone. These phones were coin-operated: you put your dime or quarter or dimes and quarters in the appropriate slot, and dialed. A telephone card or a credit or debit card worked, too.

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

These phones were everywhere – airports, train stations, and bus stops. On street corners they were housed in phone booths, making them the perfect place for Clark Kent to change into Superman.

Well, their time has passed. Yes, they’re still around, but their number is not even close to their peak when there were over two million in service as recently as the turn of the century, that’s this century, sixteen years ago. Today, the number is just a quarter of a million.

An article in the San Diego Union Tribune this past Sunday brought on this nostalgia. When I was at AT&T, a colleague of mine was responsible for creating awareness of pay phones, and I think of her often. Billboards in airports across the country announced their availability. AT&T got out of the business in 2009, canceling their pay phone contracts and disconnecting service.

Thank goodness for cell phones, no matter how much they cost.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Only You Can Tell Your Story

April 8, 2016

Susan Marg


Charles de Lint writes novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, and lyrics. He has a distinctive style, incorporating American and European folklore into his urban fantasies. I want to thank Chris White at Routine Matters for inspiring us with this great quote.