How crooks called their lawyers in the 1970s: Brooklyn police precinct pay phone is a holdover from the ‘Serpico’ era
This NYPD blue pay phone is all shades of awesome.
I spotted it from the sidewalk outside the 76th Precinct in Cobble
Hill, Brooklyn, and quickly ducked into the foyer to snap a quick
photo, successfully avoiding any scrutiny from the fuzz.
I knew I had to stop because I quickly surmised the phone was packing
a lot of history and adding some old-school cinematic grit to the
What’s most special about it is its futuristic blue
casing, which includes a cubbyhole for the phone book. This phone is
pure 1970s Bell System, and features the 1969 Saul Bass-designed Bell
symbol next to the word “Phone.”
The phone also preserves a throwback of the 1990s; note the presence
of the NYNEX logo on the top left. The rate cards are from the Verizon
era, but even that is vintage, as Verizon pulled out of the pay phone
Think about how long this phone had been there. It’s witnessed some of
New York scariest, crime-ridden days.
If only we could hear the conversations it has been privy to over the years. But this phone will take its secrets to the grave, and given the state of the pay phone
biz, that day is not too far off.
— Rolando Pujol
I’ve written extensively on The Retrologist about the pay phone’s long goodbye. I submit another example of this communication platform on its deathbed.
I snapped this photo a few days ago in the 66th Street Lincoln Center subway station. As you can tell, the pay phone is long gone, pulled out with no replacement presumably on its way.
Until recently, the subway was the scene of the pay phone’s last stand. Recall that you could rarely get a signal down there, and so you’d have no choice but to slip a quarter into the coin slot if you had to tell someone you were running late.
But that survival advantage didn’t last long. Cell phone service and even WiFi are increasingly available on underground subway platforms.
And then there was the change in consumer habits. Even though I knew I could use a pay phone in the subway, I simply wouldn’t. It made more sense to simply run upstairs if I truly needed to make a call.
Or it was even more sensical to wait — why touch that grimy device that might not even be working if I picked up the receiver. (Receiver! Not many people under, say, 35, even know the handset once had the quaint name.)
So, the pay phone died in the subway, too.
When I saw the phone I photographed here, I wasn’t immediately convinced I would turn it into a blog post. Empty phone kiosks are a common sight these days.
But then, I checked BEHIND the phone and struck gold. There survived a sticker for Bell Atlantic, and decades of dusk and grime piled up right beneath it.
Sort of fitting.
— Rolando Pujol
Lumber Boys is in Murray Hill, and here’s a cool way to figure that out. Look at the old-fashioned phone number just above the door. It conceals the neighborhood name in a code of sorts: MUrray-0410. You’d dial M and U on your phone, or 68, and the rest of the number. #nyc #history #phone #urbanarchaeology
A Bell Atlantic-branded pay phone survives at Pete’s Tavern, appropriate given that this bar, dating to 1864, is among NYC’s most historic. Bell Atlantic was founded in 1984, merged with NYNEX in New York in 1997, and operated under the Bell brand in NYC for three short years until becoming Verizon in 2000. Oh, and guess what? The phone doesn’t work. #phone #payphone #payphoneography
This fantastic vintage sticker survives outside an auto-repair shop in Tarrytown, N.Y. There’s a lot going on here for the “retrologically” inclined.
First, it harkens to the days when New York’s phone company was called NYNEX, which dates this to 1984-97. (NOTE: It was marketed as New York Telephone, a NYNEX company, from 1984 to 94, then just as NYNEX for three more years, but the Yellow Pages business was known as NYNEX during all those years.)
Second, it promotes the Yellow Pages! Who uses those anymore, even as booster seats?
Thirdly, it features the iconic “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking” logo.
And, my, that is one intense shade of yellow. (No filter needed.)
Text and photo: Rolando Pujol
#phones #phone #yellowpages #nynex #verizon #telephones #history #branding #tarrytown (Taken with Instagram)