“Somebody Loan Me a Dime. I Need to Call My Old-time, Used to Be.”
When Fenton Robinson coined the lyrics to that blues classic in 1974, you didn’t have to wander very far to find a payphone, and a local call did indeed only cost a dime.
While Telus doesn’t have plans to remove the one at the Pharmasave in Sooke — the area’s last payphone — at this point, the payphones of choice from bygone days are not the lifeline or matter of convenience they used to be.
“The use of payphones has dramatically declined over the past several years given the popularity and availability of mobile phones,” said Lena Chen, a spokesperson for Telus.
“On average, most payphones go days at a time without being used, and when we consider removing a payphone, it’s usually because the landlord doesn’t want it anymore because it’s not being used, it’s being vandalized, or they’d prefer the space for another purpose, like a coffee bar or extra shelf space.”
There are currently about 5,000 payphones in service across B.C., Alberta, and Quebec, where users can place calls using cash or credit, or by placing collect calls.
The first outdoor payphone was installed on a street in Cincinnati in 1905. The Bell system in the U.S. installed its one-millionth payphone in Chicago in 1960.
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