It started with a San Francisco Chronicle story by Kevin Fagan in April revealing there are only 200 working phones left in San Francisco. It continued with Tuesday’s moving tribute in the Chronicle to some of our favorite surviving Bay Area phone booths. And it ends (or is this just the beginning?) with this reader-submitted gallery of the greatest phone booths of the Bay Area.
We’re pre-empting our weekly Let’s Go to the Morgue! archive gallery to present this collection of phone booths.
We started with a call for photos of operational phone booths, then added non-working booths and ultimately the rules went out the window. You will see multiple photos from outside the Bay Area, accompanied by lame reasons for including them. (Thought process: “A phone at Morro Bay? That has the word ‘Bay’ in it! A phone near Pinecrest Lake? I went to Pinecrest once when I was a kid!”)
The important thing is you exceeded the highest expectations and sent in a wonderful variety of images.
A few more thoughts below the life-affirming phone booth garden from Alameda …
Photo: Courtesy Sue Greenspan
(Courtesy Mark Dawson) Mark Dawson argues that his photo qualifies: ”Well, it is from the bay. Morro Bay to be exact if you need to get all into the details … For some unknown reason the call didn’t go through?!?!”
(Courtesy Brian Collett) Brian Collett says this Vallejo phone was photographed in the Mare Island Industrial Core area – part of a National Historic Landmark District. Brian writes: ”The photo was taken at the courtyard entry for what was once the Navy’s operational headquarters. The photo was taken about a year ago. ”
(Courtesy Mike Schuller) Mike Schuller writes: ”How can you beat the town of Honey Dew?” We know that was a rhetorical question, but we’ll answer any way: You can’t. That said, this looks like a fire hazard …
(Courtesy Heath Day) Heath writes that this booth is located at 10446 Cabrillo Highway past Bean Hollow Road in Pescadero. You can’t make a call, but be sure to say ”hello” to the family of opossum living inside.
(Photos: Joe Monroe courtesy St. Mary’s, and Alison Wiley) St. Mary’s media relations director Michael McAlpin writes: ”I enjoyed your ‘Hail to the phone booth story on phone booths and wanted to remind you of Saint Mary’s history with phone booths.” St. Mary’s was featured in Life magazine in 1959, and students re-created the scene in 2009.
(Courtesy Julie Gebhardt) One of two photos sent by Julie Gebhardt. She has a wonderful Instagram feed. Check it out here: web.stagram.com/n/juliegeb/
(Courtesy Charles Goss) Charles Goss writes: ”This isn’t in the Bay Area, but I thought I’d share. It’s in Santa Barbara.” This goes so nicely with Julie Gebhardt’s phones – I’m going to pretend you said ”Santa Rosa.
(Courtesy Mike Adamick) One more from Mike Adamick, showing the exterior of the St. Francis Fountain phone, which is in excellent shape.
(Courtesy Kim Kay) BART still has a lot of pay phones still working. Kim Kay writes: ”Hi Peter, I took this photo at Fruitvale BART about a year ago but it looks about the same today – minus the phone book.”
(Courtesy Jim Cassedy) From Jim Cassedy, who contributed to our Coronet Theatre project: ”This phone booth is located near the dock-masters’ house down at the Marina marina. What’s interesting about this booth is that it STILL has the old PacBell signage, more than a decade after they were dissolved by SBC.”
(Courtesy Elliott Kolker) Elliott Kolker says this is the last phone booth along HIghway 1, at Stinson Beach: ”Amazing how many visitors take a photo of themselves in the phone booth, as if it were the Taj Mahal. I’ve overheard some teenagers marvel that they have never seen a phone booth before.”
(Courtesy Kevin Fagan) Chronicle colleagues Kevin Fagan and Justin Berton took photos of these relics at Camp Mather in the High Sierra — technically SF property. Poor cell phone reception keeps the phones relevant.
(Courtesy Raymond Holbert) The first in our Phone Booth in the Woods series comes from Raymond Holbert of Berkeley, who took this in Muir Woods. We’ll forgive the jersey, because the kid is cute.
(Courtesy Sara Vellve) Phones thrive where cell phone coverage is spotty. Sara Vellve writes: ”We just came upon this one on the far side of Pinecrest Lake off of Hwy 108. It is located in an area of secluded and rustic vacation homes with access via boat only. We didn’t have any coinage to give it a try with.”
(Courtesy Stefan Gruenwedel) Stefan Gruenwedel writes: ”I love these old phone booths in the historic US Postal Service building on Mission and Spear. Unfortunately, they’re locked now so they’re not even useful for cell phone talkers.”
(Courtesy Michael Rancer) Sent to us by the esteemed Michael Rancer, retired chief administrative officer of the U.C. Berkeley library system. These are from Doe Library at U.C. Berkeley. Rancer adds: ”When we renovated Doe around the turn of this century, we opted to save the booths for historic reasons, although the phones are long gone.”
(Picasa / Courtesy Maureen Sullivan) Maureen Sullivan found this beauty: ”I took these photos last fall at the Marin County Courthouse on the
main floor. There are beautifully maintained.” I visited the building two weeks ago – sadly, the phones have been ripped out since these were taken, but the booths remain.
(Courtesy Cynthia Goldstein) Cynthia Goldstein took this last year on Market Street, somewhere between 5th and 7th. ”It was in the pre-crazy hours of the day, before the energy of that stretch of Market got switched on. The street was empty and the phones struck me as lonely – receivers all unhooked … no calls to make.”
(Courtesy Derk and Robin Richardson) Derk and Robin Richardson photographed this phone at Packer Lake Lodge in Sierra County.
”At 6,500 feet elevation, in a basin below the Sierra Buttes, cell phone reception is nonexistent, so this classic phone booth remains in action, even though it gets buried in snow every winter and emerges slightly worse for the wear each spring.”
* Thanks to everyone who sent in photos. Apologies if your photos didn’t get in. I received many more than expected, and had to trim the list. But I’ll be adding a few more throughout the day, so check back often.
* I was pleased to see so many buildings keep the booths looking nice, even though there hasn’t been an actual phone inside since maybe the 20th Century. If nothing else it makes a nice place for people to quietly make a cell phone call.
Thanks again for the photos. This was a lot of fun for me, and I know Kevin has been enjoying it as well. I was hoping for a dozen or so hastily taken iPhone photos of phone booths. I received more than 50, and the entries included some artfully executed photos, a couple of history lessons and a lot of humor.
PETER HARTLAUB is the pop culture critic at the San Francisco Chronicle and founder/editor of The Big Event. He takes requests. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peterhartlaub. Follow The Big Event on Facebook.
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