Not long ago I was out for a walk in the beautiful Westwood Village neighborhood of Los Angeles when I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a telephone booth. With a working pay phone! What was such a familiar necessity during my teenage and young adult years now seemed like an antique. But there it was, mounted on a wall next to the sidewalk.
My first reaction was to take photos of it…with my cell phone.
Then I started remembering…all the times I stayed out too late as a teenager while driving Mom’s car up and down the main drag between the Little Chief Drive-In and the Dairy Queen. A call home to Mother bought me an extra 30 minutes. A phone booth on the drag became my private office if I needed a phone to gossip with my best friend.
Later, when I was dating Larry Hull, phone booths at the dorm were our salvation even when there was a line of residents rudely demanding that you “hurry up.”
Airport phone booths were lifesavers once Larry joined the Air Force and traveled. He’d always call to let me know he’d arrived at his destination safely.
When I called Mother from Menninger Clinic the day Larry was killed in Vietnam, I used the phone booth on the ward. As I describe in my book, Where the Water Meets the Sand:
“I was at Menninger. Larry was dead. Laura had just lost her daddy. With that, reality set in, along with a powerful longing. I would have given anything to talk to my husband right then. I walked down the hall to the pay phone. I couldn’t speak with Larry, but I could call my mother.”
There in Westwood Village, I took several photos of the telephone booth that conjured up happy and sad memories, as if I had met up with an old family friend.
I woke up in the early hours of the next morning with a string of words set to a tune humming in my head. I couldn’t place it except for ‘call me, call me…”
Frustrated with trying to wrap my brain around the rest of it I googled “Song-call me” and found it. Call Me recorded by Petula Clark (1965), Chris Montez (1966) and Shirley Bassey (1968). I listened to all three and when Shirley Bassey’s rendition started to play, I felt like an old friend had come home.