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Column: In memoriam: New York phone booths and handwritten thank-you's
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

A few days ago, they removed the last public telephone booth in New York City. There were two phones on a pedestal and now they are going to a museum.

I haven’t used a pay phone in several years, but it is still sad to see them go. When I was a kid, it was a long distance call from Social Circle, Ga., to anywhere. I knew where the nearest pay phones to the nearby towns were located. In those days, it might be worth it to drive to one and make a call for a dime.

Superman, alias Clark Kent, would change from his suit and tie into his Superman suit in a phone booth. Now, occasionally in the series where Superman was played by George Reeves, he would duck into a janitor’s closet and fly out of the Daily Planet building.

I miss old hard-wired phones. We had a Bakelite phone that would injure or kill someone if you struck them with it. By the early 60s, the phones were made of a heavy plastic. I think I liked them because you could support the receiver with your neck and take down a phone number of other information. Today, if you have a smartphone, you might call someone in Walla Walla, Wash., or Timbuktu if you squeeze the receiver with your neck.

I miss old TVs, the kind that had a knob for changing the channel. I was staying in a hotel recently and was trying to figure out how to get a channel to appear. I never did.

I found one channel that had 24 hours a day of “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker. I watched so much that I went out looking for a dog or cat to spay or neuter.

I miss conversation and real handwritten notes. They have been replaced by emails. Young people don’t seem to understand if someone buys you some cookware or a place setting of your dishes, you should write them a real thank-you note on real paper and put a real stamp on it.

I am glad that modern medicine has resulted in more of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines surviving the wounds of battle. I miss the men and women who made it home alive after our major wars and understood what it was like to send a comrade from the service home in a casket.

I miss my daddy’s pound cakes. He did something special to them that made them unbelievably good.

He would get up at 4 a.m. on the day of his appointment at the VA hospital and make one fresh and hot. He took it with him for his friends on the VA staff. Maybe more pound cake would solve some of the problems at the VA hospitals.

I miss my daddy, especially on Memorial Day. I thank God for a young doctor who discovered that Dad had a rare form of anemia. He patched up Dad’s bullet-riddled body and, on two of the three occasions, he went right back to the battlefield. He could have easily been one of those we honor on Memorial Day.

Of course, I wouldn’t be here to write these thoughts.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.