You see them at the airport and in shopping malls, but not on street corners very often these days. They used to cost a dime, then a quarter and I believe it’s fifty cents to use a payphone these days, although it’s been quite a while since I last used one.
And they used to be in a booth, a private space where you could close the door behind you and have a private conversation.
Not anymore, if you are lucky enough to find an outdoor payphone these days it’s nothing more than a phone on a pole with a small hooded canopy sheltering it, but not the user from the elements.
There’s one on Wolseley Avenue by Maryland Street just outside the Misericordia Hospital which looks quite forlorn, no doubt from lack of use. If you plan to use it you’d better know the number you want, there’s no phone books attached anymore.
Chelsea Ross, Public Affairs Manager for MTS says there are currently 4,300 payphones in Manitoba, although she doesn’t know how many of those are streetside phone booths. Not many I would imagine.
A few of those payphones are actually inside the Misericordia Hospital so why someone would stand outside on the street to use one is beyond me.
Although not quite as iconic as the old British Post Office red boxes, our MTS payphone booths will soon by destined for the Manitoba Museum for future generations to gaze on with wonder.
I remember as a wolf cub scout I was taught how to use one. Akela led a group of us nine-year-old boys down the street to a payphone where one by one we had to call a woman who was expecting our calls. Given only her name and address we had to look her up in the phone book, insert the coins and dial her number. And when I say dial, I mean dial, there were no push buttons back then.
It seems archaic to think of that now. Today’s nine-year-olds not only have their own smartphones but probably know how to hack into them and re-program them as well.
Apparently there are still over 5,000 public payphones in Manhattan but only four of them are in booths, and I hear that one of those has been vandalized.
Look closely as you drive around town, you’ll not see many phone boxes anymore.
There’s the big one on Portage Avenue of course, the MTS Centre, nicknamed the “Phone Booth”, home of our Winnipeg Jets.
Like vinyl records and VHS tapes, their days are numbered. I just wonder where Clark Kent will change into his Superman costume ?