Monday, December 16, 2013

The Phone Booths of Lincoln, Nebraska

Two phone booths occupy the streetcorners of Lincoln, Nebraska, three blocks apart, one at the intersection of 11th Street and N, the other at 14th and N.  Their appearance surprised me, since they're the only ones I can recall seeing in America (though Canada has their fair share).

Phone Booth at 11th St and N, Lincoln, Nebraska

Both are near parking lots where one might conceivably need to phone for help in the event of a dead car battery or leaking brake line, and both are in neighborhoods just outside of Lincoln's college-friendly, restaurant-filled downtown.  Both stand in close proximity to staples of an older community: a library, a bus station, an electric shaver repair shop, a travel agency.  I like to think that phone booths symbolize sections of a developing city too old to be of practical use, yet too new to be preserved as historical areas.

Phone Booth at 14th St and N, Lincoln, Nebraska

I wonder what will happen to these and other relics of the mid-twentieth century, especially those that occupy public spaces.  I think how this story has played out a million times with cobblestone streets, outhouses, and downtown railroad crossings, most gone, but some remaining as curiosities.  Unlike art, which can serve an aesthetic purpose in any time period, when objects designed for practical use become outdated, we perceive their uselessness and they become garbage.

11th St and N Booth, Interior

Though they may serve a purpose for those caught without a cell phone, these phone booths have value as history and as landmarks of individuality, objects that help us imagine an earlier time more vividly than reading about it in a novel or seeing it on film.  Places, like any other form of art, can show us another form of experience.

Seek them out.

Interested in phone booths?  This guy's collected pictures of pay phones from every continent.


Stu said...

They could make a movie using one of those phone booths.

Ian said...

Update: Both of these phone booths have now been removed, the 11th and N booth to make room for new campus apartments, and the 14th and N booth for no apparent reason.