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Give me a home where pay phones still roam
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I keep adding to a long list of things that I will one day have to explain to my grandchildren. They are the things that were important parts of our culture that are now becoming extinct.

Things like pay phones and long distance. From Social Circle, anywhere was long distance. I had friends in Monroe, just 10 miles away, but to call them represented spending 10 to 15 cents per minute on my parent's phone bill.

There was once a girl who I was quite fond of and in a moment of infatuation spent an hour on the phone with her.

I remember the conversation.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "Nothing, what are you doing?" she replied. It went on that way for the next 59 minutes and 30 seconds.

After the bill arrived, I soon learned about the use of pay phones. I knew where the good ones were located, such as a comfortable indoor setting.

We also had a few choice phone booths. Some even had little fans to circulate the air. If somebody had not vandalized it, there was a little triangular metal seat where you could plop down for a little while.

Just 10 miles the other side of Monroe was a pay phone on the Loganville exchange. I don't know why, but Loganville was in the Atlanta calling area and I could call friends in the metro region for a dime. Gas was less than a buck a gallon and it was worth the drive.

You still see an occasional pay phone, but they are not like the ones of my era. I saw a pay phone the other day that commanded 75 cents for a call. When I was growing up, a phone call was a dime. The ones in Monroe used a system where you dialed the number and then deposited the dime after the party answered.

If someone was trying to decide where everyone was going to meet up, your buddy would answer the phone and just announce the destination. "Hello ... hey, we're going to the Brazier." It saved a dime, which actually meant something in that day.

The Brazier, by the way, was the name we called the Dairy Queen. They had a flame-broiled burger called a Brazier.

Another place that is nearing extinction is the drug store soda fountain. The place to be seen after school was the Monroe Drug Co., which had a great old marble soda fountain and stainless steel equipment.

There were no stools or sitting areas. Everyone just gathered outside under a front awning and shared space with an older gentleman who stood there handing out copies of "The Watchtower," the magazine of Jehovah's Witnesses. It was an odd mix, but it seemed to work.

The real star of a drug store soda fountain was the attendant, often referred to as the soda jerk. A good one could spin a milk shake, dip an ice cream cone, draw a fountain Coke and make change without looking at the cash register.

What makes these memories great is they were fun. I hope the next generation's fun memories aren't about days when cars only had one video screen. But that's a column for another day.

Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column runs every week in Sunday Life.