This entry marks the 150th article posted on Shad the Cat’s blog since John and I started it way back in 2012. To honour the occasion, I decided to give you a little insight into one of John’s pastimes. It’s a fascination with phone boxes. Large or small, red or tiger print, he loves phone boxes. When I’ve asked him why, he tells me that they are a cherished feature of his childhood and a reminder of a lost time, when he had to go out to make a phone call from the phone box just as you went out to post a letter. People must have moved much more in those days because John says there was no remote control for the television and eating cakes involved baking them first. If I had opposable thumbs I reckon I’d enjoy baking. I’ve watched John tackle enough flat blueberry muffins and one ton loaf cake to know what not to do! Although since he treated himself to the electronic bread maker, the standard of cakes in the household has taken a definite turn for the better.
The first telephone kiosks were introduced after the First World War when the telephone network was nationalised and owned by the General Post Office (a government department until 1969). However, other services such as the Police and the Automobile Association had also been developing a network of sentry boxes to enable patrolmen to communicate with each other. Since those humble beginnings, phone boxes have undergone a series of transformations, no doubt influenced by the privatisation of the telecommunications side of the Post Office business in the early 1980’s. As the design of personal radio equipment improved and telephone equipment became modernised, new British Telecom branded kiosks sprang up marking the decline of the red telephone box.
This historical icon has now been made obsolete by the rise in mobile communications and many red telephone boxes have disappeared from our streets. There are a few that remain standing, some unused and dilapidated, others declared listed buildings, or metamorphosed into cash machines, wildlife centres and even a miniature café in Brighton. It seems that the old-fashioned red telephone box is quintessentially British and holds a place in the affections of the nation which is why I have no doubt that John will continue to take me with him on his quest to photograph as many of them as possible. Next time you pass a telephone box, give a little smile to one of the lost symbols of our national heritage.