by Katie Drake
This story starts and ends with a phone booth. This is no ordinary phone booth. It may be the understatement of the decade to say this particular phone booth has seen A LOT of interesting things in its day. Do you remember when phone booths were a thing?
The simple days. Back when you had to rely on making a plan and sticking to it, carefully watching the time.
Before you could just reach in your pocket or your purse and communicate in just seconds with a text or call. You had to make sure you always had a quarter or two in your pocket. There were pay phones on almost every corner, and just about everywhere you looked.
A side note
On a side note, Stewart’s may have the last public working payphone in town. I know this because I have a friend (who shall remain nameless), that occasionally still finds it hilarious to prank call her friends from this phone late at night after a “few” beverages – she’s quite the character.
Recently, we bought our son the iconic Fisher Price colorful toy rotary dial phone that you pull around on a string. I was so excited to give it to him and he just stared at it wondering what it was. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized he has never even seen a telephone that isn’t a cell phone, much less a rotary dial phone. (For that matter, he is a COVID baby, so he thinks all calls are FaceTime video calls).
Remember how frustrating it was to misdial on the last number of a call on a rotary dial phone and have to start all over? Oy vey.
I grew up in rural Millers Mills and am old enough to remember having a “party line.” My sister and I thought it was great fun as kids to eavesdrop on the neighbor’s calls… which we were always catching hell for.
We’ve come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first working phone in 1876. Car phones, beepers, Blackberrys. Texting. Then came iPhones, Galaxy, and video calls. The progression of technology really is an amazing thing, which is what makes the story of this particular phone booth so special.
A conversation piece
This beautiful, weathered, antique phone booth sits adjacent to the bar in our garage and is a great conversation piece. The slightly crooked red sign that reads ‘Telephone’ on the top gives it even more character.
The inspiration for this story arose one very cold and windy day earlier this February. In the afternoons, regardless of the weather, I would go out for a brisk winter walk to get some exercise with my retired friends, Judy and Vickie. Often, after we finished our walk, we would come back to my house to the garage to warm up and chat some more. One day they noticed the phone booth. After telling them where the phone booth came from, they both laughed and started telling me stories of the things that they had seen happen in the phone booth over the years.
After many conversations with an assortment of different people on the subject, I quickly realized the content of many of the phone booth’s stories are not My Little Falls appropriate but decided this was still a story worth sharing.
Origins of the phone booth
The most I could learn of its origin was that this phone booth came from a hotel in Dolgeville a long, long time ago. Can you imagine the things it must have seen and the conversations it must have heard way back in the day?
After the hotel, it ended up at the house of a man who was notorious for his wild parties. Friends would party all night- drinking, smoking, and listening to music that was always turned up too loud. Since it was difficult to carry on a conversation with all the background noise, he acquired this phone booth. Now, his friends could go inside, shut the door, and actually be able to hear and understand whatever they had to discuss.
The phone booth no doubt saw and heard many things before it was passed on to another friend, and then was given to a wonderfully interesting and iconic local character by the name of Craig Gregorka. Craig made the phone booth a bit famous when he created one of the best drinking establishments of all time in Little Falls, the Renaissance.
If you’ve lived here or visited sometime in the last 40 years, you probably have fond memories of spending time at the Renaissance. And while we, (and perhaps I), may have nights we can’t remember all that well at the Renaissance, the phone booth was there for it all. The laughter, the tears, the stories, the dancing, the music, the people and the memories… oh, the memories.
Not the end of the story
This isn’t the end of this story. It’s really the beginning.
This is part of a series on the history of the Renaissance and it begins and ends with this beautiful, tall, sleek, wooden phone booth that has quietly been there through it all.
Katie Drake moved to Little Falls in 2003 and fell in love with this city. She says she isn’t really a writer, but a storyteller.
The opportunity to highlight the great people of Little Falls, share her personal perspectives and some humor from time to time piqued her interest and here we are.
Just ask her, and she’ll tell you that after growing up in Millers Mills, population 25+ (according to the sign), Little Falls was just the right size. Katie is the oldest of her two brothers and five sisters.
In 2020 Katie and her best friend Chris began their greatest adventure yet in 2020, with the birth of their sweet and sassy son Nolan who makes them laugh every day.
In her free time, Katie loves to snowmobile, golf, hike, and travel.
If you have feedback on one of her articles or an idea for a story, please feel free to reach out to Katie at KatherineDrakeLF@gmail.com, she would love to hear from you.
If this article leaves you wanting more, or you are just bored out of your mind, feel free to check out other articles she has contributed by visiting Katie Drake Archives – My Little Falls.