Whatever happened to …

… free money?

So, writing a post about whatever happened to pay telephones would have been like shooting fish in a barrel.  But, there was more to it than that.

There were actually a couple of pay phones in our town, growing up.  After school, on our bikes, we would pass by them on the way to who knows where.  But, there would be an unexpected stop at the candy store if we were lucky.

You see, the ground around a pay phone on the street was often a place to find coins that might have dropped from someone’s hands as they were paying for a phone call.  And, of course, we would always stop and check the coin return to see if there was some change that hadn’t been picked up.

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Photo Credit: Lawrence Chard Flickr via Compfight cc

Silly, perhaps, but it was easier money than getting our allowance where we actually had to do some work to get.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to find bits and pieces of change here and there.  But, the phone booth was definitely the place to find things.  It’s something that today’s youth may not experience for a couple of reasons…

  • where are pay phones anyway?  My wife and I were doing a visual walk through of town and could only think of the one at the Walmart store
  • as pay phones were on their way out, they had modernized and started accepting plastic instead of the traditional coin

I think the biggest score that I ever found was at the Western Fair in London as a youth.  I found a two dollar bill on the ground.  (Does anyone remember the two dollar bill?)  Unlike finding a dime or a nickel in a phone booth, this was significant money at the time.  My parents convinced me that I should turn it in to the lost and found and so we did.  We did provide our name and address unless it wasn’t claimed.  That was the last I heard of it.

I like to think that I did benefit from that karma though.  A couple of years ago, we were touring the Canadian Museum of Civilization and I lost my wedding band.  I have no idea how but it was only later that I looked at my hand to see it was gone.  On a whim, I reached out to the Museum via email and someone had indeed turned it in to their lost and found.  After I gave a good description, they sent it back to me through the mail.  My marriage is still intact.

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • as a child, did you go looking through the change slot of a phone or perhaps a pop machine looking for change?
  • how about keeping your eyes on the ground.  Any luck there?
  • was there a lucky spot in town to find lost change?
  • have you ever lost something significant?  Did you get it back?
  • think now of your community.  How many pay telephone booths can you think of?

Let’s have some fond memories of money, lost and found.  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This is part of an ongoing series for Sunday mornings.  All of the past posts are here.

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9 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. We used to check the pay phone, vending machines and around the gumball machines when we got into town. As country kids that was pretty much just when mom went for groceries. The couch was better luck for us. Dad would generally fall asleep on it, so there was often a small windfall under the cushions. Collecting empty bottles along the ditches was a way better payoff, but that’s another topic….

  2. I think that bottles in the ditches is something that’s not so popular anymore. Bottle deposit is working?!

  3. I’ve never found money anywhere, but we had a child last year that always did. I think this helped him learn the name of coins and even how to add coin amounts. He could probably teach this unit in Grade 1. I wonder if more experience using coins made adding and subtracting with them easier. How much coin experience do many kids have nowadays? Your post kind of took me on a different tangent, but I had to say something.

    Aviva

  4. Growing up out in the country, there weren’t many opportunities to find change in phone booths. My dad used to hitch our pony to the pony cart and take my brother and I out for a ride. We would gather up all the pop bottles we could find and then use the money earned from the pop bottle exchange to buy penny candy at the local garage/restaurant. Mojos and pixie sticks were my favourite. Maybe that’s a topic for another day – whatever happened to penny candy?

  5. I can’t recall any specific lucky spots, but I do recall the thrill of finding a coin or a bill as a child. I guess it can still be a thrill as an adult… recently my husband spotted a 20 dollar bill in a puddle in a restaurant parking lot. It was worth texting our children about haha. It didn’t take too long to dry out.

    I have a box with saved discontinued money — a few 2 dollar bills and now 1 dollar bills… I should add a few pennies.

    I have gained the odd coin at those parking meters in parking lots… pressing the button when my coins get jammed sometimes kicks out a few extra coins.

    I can’t say for sure where a pay phone is in Thunder Bay now.

  6. Great story, Sheila. I would have thought that the new bills would just wipe off.

    And, surely, there has to be a pay phone somewhere. Keep looking.

  7. I think it was an older bill.

    I found T Bay in that directory you linked! Well, isn’t that interesting… so with the Greyhound shut down here now (bldg. for sale), that will leave 2 now possibly:

    Greyhound station………….815 Ft William Rd
    Greyhound station………….815 Ft William Rd
    Greyhound station………….815 Ft William Rd
    Lakehead University………..by computer labs
    Robin’s Donuts…………….Ft William Rd

    The Robin’s is across from where the Greyhound station was, but I never go that location. I work at LU now, so I will have to see if I can spot that pay phone!

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