What follows are public telephones created in a time when phones did not roam freely and in pockets.
To make a call, one would either enter a specially-created booth (or box), or simply stand close by as the receivers were tethered to the phone unit by a short cord, then insert a variety of coins depending on the location called (local, domestic or international) or in some cases, use a purpose-made phone card, or even a credit card (though doing so often exposed one to fraudulent actors).
Perhaps you have already imagined the unsanitary nature of sharing a phone handset (placed next/close to ear and mouth of course) with strangers – though perhaps this increased “herd immunity” despite being rather unpleasant. Note that oftentimes the coin return slots were checked for forgotten change but the miner was surprised to find discarded chewing gum, or even-less-savoury items, instead.
This gallery is simply random examples, captured “in the wild” in various locations globally. Additional volumes of similar collections provide additional examples – both international and domestic (to Canada / USA), as well as hotel house phones.
Story: Sometime around 1994, I ended up working as a mushroom farmhand (enokitake and shiitake) in a small mountain village called Saji in Tottori-ken (prefecture), Yazu-gun (county) .
A sorta friend of friend of my brother was seeking a foreign worker (at the time, Japan’s economy was in a “bubble” with abundant wealth and no one wanted to do the crappy jobs it turns out). They would pay my airfare and so on, I had just finished a stint hitching and drifting around Europe and before the Grateful Dead tour and thought this would be an interesting adventure.
This scrapjournal is an “accordion-style” book (think that’s what you’d call it… though doesn’t create the dulcet tones of the musical instrument) anyhow the paper unfolds in one long swath in Japanese style. Appropriately, the book is laden with artifacts collected in Japan whilst traveling by ship and stopping in a various ports of call from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
Japan is the champion country for interesting paper-y bits so filling this one up with origami cranes to hot spring brochures postage stamps and oddments from the ship was ummm no problem, fulfilling and infinitely tactile. What follows are a few sample pages, along with the covers, for archival amusement.
To remind and inspire myself, i often photograph envelopes before they embark on their journey. The fronts contain folks’ personal address (which i shoot to keep a record i never actually look back upon to recall who i’ve mailed) so i shan’t share that bit, but i will gallery up the backs – really for no purpose, just for amusement and artsy funtimes.
This batch is vaguely Japanese-inspired – meaning Japanese stationery or decoration.
This leather-bound beauty was a gift, long waiting for the right time to come into service. Finally, after lingering for too long, this mighty handmade (just not by me, obv) was pressed into purpose to gather and curate travel annotations and ephemera (tickets, snippets, stickers, postcards, brochure clipping, bits of maps and the like) on a long ramble from Gabriola Island BC, to Adelaide Australia, to Japan (Kyoto, Okayama, Sakura), and then into a suitcase in storage in Victoria, Canada, awaiting another chance to share secrets.
In the meanwhile, a few sample pages for your perusal… my lil nieces helped me snap the pics.