When Did Interior Phone Booths Disappear?

I can still remember these-they were in locations like the bathroom areas of bars and restaurants-they had solding glass doors, and when you shut the door, a dome light and blower came on.
This enabled yo to make a phone call in quiet and peace, and also insured that everybody else in the place didn’t have to listen to yo argeing with an ex-wife, broker, car salesman, etc.
Outdoor phone booths seemed to have disappeared in the 1980’s, as low cost cell service became available.
But are the indoor variety still around?
This is something I like-I don’t really like having to listen to somebodie’s conversations while eating dinner.

No way. What percentage of the population do you think had a cellphone in the 1980s? For most of the 1990s, the payphone was a staple of cop shows like NYPD Blue and Law & Order.

It seems to me that the death of the payphone is very much a 21st-century phenomenon, perhaps beginning in the very late 1990s. According to this article:

And this article notes:

The precipitous decline continued, according to this piece:

I have to agree with mhendo, and add that, if you’d seen a cellphone in the early-mid 1990s you’d have wondered why anyone outside of a few, limited groups would want one. The classic Miami Vice Brick was on the small end of the scale; I personally recall ‘car phones’, which were little satchels that contained electronics, a keypad, a power converter (plugged right into the cigarette lighter!), an antenna, and a telephone handset on a cord. Assuming you had a bench front seat, the thing took up the entire middle seat. If not, it went on the passenger seat and, sometimes, on the passenger’s lap.

Beepers (pagers) might have gotten really big in the 1980s, but they’re one-way only and very often limited to only being able to display a phone number. Having a conversation using one is very much dependent on finding a pay phone or going out to your car to use your car phone.

Anyway, in summary, pay phones were still easy to find throughout the 1990s and didn’t die off until sometime in the first decade of the succeeding century. Precisely when is, as always, dependent upon precisely where in the country you’re looking at.

They’re not gone yet. My place of work still has several (albeit minus the phone).

I often see people sitting in them, talking on their cell phones. :slight_smile:

I’ve never seen one. I was born in 1985. I’ve only seen those mini booths that are open to the air or room. The full phone booth started to fade well before cell phones were ubiquitous around here, which I would say was, at the longest, the last five years. And that’s why the minibooths are finally fading, only being left until they broke.

There were a few in the Johnson Center at George Mason University in Virginia as late as 2003. They had closing doors, but no light or blower. They are gone now.

The first Superman with Chris Reeves came out in 1978 and they had a great joke where Clark Kent goes to a phone booth to change into Superman and it is one of those ‘new’ ones that are only one fourth of a booth.

I don’t think that had anything to do with cell phones. Probably the phone company didn’t want to provide shelters for homeless or junkies or perverts.

Here’s one for sale:


ISTR these still being in use in downtown hotels here until recently. It’s possible that some are in use still.

At the festival grounds in Milwaukee, they now have cell phone booths. They look similar to a (modernized) phone booth without the phone, but it gives you a sound proof area to make a call without trying to hear over the crowd.

The little punk club, The What’s Up Lounge, in Mankato, MN has one, sans phone. It never occurred to me that it would be useful for cells, and the place can get really loud. Mostly it’s used for a quick snog, or to flirtatiously pack four people in and close the door. If I ever get back up that way, I’ll have to stop in if only to make a call.

According to the Wikipedia article, the trend to non-enclosed pay phones took off during the 1970s, with the intent of making the phones more accessible to the disabled. I was at UCSD from 1975 to 1980 and I’m not sure I remember ever seeing a glass phone booth there. (If Biffy The Elephant Shrew or another of my fellow Tritons does remember one, please let us know.)

A few enclosed booths remain in older buildings at UCLA, like this one in the Math Sciences building at UCLA. Interestingly, this one is actually recessed into the wall, which is probably why it was never removed or replaced. On the second floor of Kerckhoff Hall, there are two booths which were evidently designed into the original interior. They’re about twice the size of the traditional “Superman” style booth, and entirely finished in wood paneling. As in other booths, when you close the door the light comes on, but here you have a comfortable seat and room to write. Kerckhoff was built around 1930 and I’m pretty sure the booths haven’t been changed, except for upgrades to the equipment.

I wish I could get some pictures of the Kerckhoff phone cabinets, but it’s tricky. They’re just outside a very heavily trafficked women’s bathroom. It would be hard to get a good exterior shot of the booths without giving the impression of trying to photograph the women as they enter and exit the restroom. I’ll have to make a point of going there on a weekend during the next intersession, when the Coffee House will be closed. I can probably get it then, since there’ll likely be nobody around.

See my comment above about making the phones accessible.

I was considerably reassured when I learned this, for accessibility is a worthy goal. Previously, I’d thought that the relentless drive towards cheapness and making do, which has pared away so many of life’s niceties, was alone responsible.

And they call me cynical…:smiley:

The student center at my university had 2-3 indoor wooden phone booths at least as late as the early '90s, and probably much later than that (but I was no longer there). I remember using them all the time.

I didn’t get my first cell phone until 2001. (When my wife was pregnant in the mid '90s, and I wanted to be accessible 24/7 in case she went into labor, I got a pager.) Anyway, I could still commonly find indoor pay phones in airports and hotels at least until I got my first cell phone in 2001.

In the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, there are little rooms (with wood-panelled walls!) next to the bathrooms which were obviously intended as phone booths, but the phones are gone.

I came of age in the 1990s. I remember outside pay phones being all over the place and very much a part of my life. But I don’t remember the closed door style ones being anywhere. I can’t recall ever using one.

I wonder if they still have them at the White House, they had this long row of them with wood doors.

I’ve been to a club that had a couple of those. Vintage (or at least of good reproduction) British red phone booths.

My college had two indoor wooden phone booths. I graduated in May, so I’m fairly certain they’re still there. I used to use them when wrong number calls came in to the pay phones.

They have a few of them at IU, too, in Jordan Hall, the biology department’s building. They’re in an older wing of the building. At least they were the last time I was there, which was 2009. They may be completely filled in now. They’re made of wood. They looked really nice except for the hole in the wall where the phone was. I never could figure out why they didn’t do something with the space. Peep show? Mini smoking chamber?

Daley Center, the civil courthouse in downtown Chicago, was built in the very early '60s with fully-enclosed phone booths built into the walls in the corridors. They’re still there, although most no longer have a payphone in them.

People do use them for cell-phone calls, as some judges are sensitive about loud conversations in the halls carrying into their courtroom and will occasionally send a bailiff out into the hall to tell people to keep it down.

There are also some built into the walls outside the ballrooms/meeting rooms in the '70s-built Ritz-Carlton hotel on top of the Water Tower Place mall. I don’t recall if they all still have hotel phones in them – I doubt they ever had payphones.