ELKTON – An antique communication device dating from the last century was discovered in working condition on Wednesday. The device, known as a pay-telephone or “payphone,” was found behind some crates at the back of Dave’s General Store and Gas Station in the town of Elkton, TN. Dave, the owner, said the payphone was installed in the 1950’s when his father worked there. “I knew there’d been one of them payphone things at the shop,” Dave said, “but somebody moved these crates in front of it, and it just got lost. I assumed it was long gone.”
Dave was a kid when the payphone first came in, and he remembers how everybody stood around it, testing it out. “All the guys were making calls to impress their girlfriends,” Dave said. “It was useful for travelling folks. Used to be the only phone around for miles and miles.”
Most payphones were removed by telecommunications companies once mobile phones became common. Or, if the phone was vandalized, no one bothered to report it due to lack of demand for the service.
“I guess they forgot to take our payphone away,” Dave said. “We’re kind of a forgotten spot anyhow, easy to miss if you blink your eyes.”
Dave admits that he himself wasn’t the first to discover it. He had noticed local teenagers coming by and messing around the back of his shop. One of them, named Alexander, claimed how he and his friends found it first. “We’ve been coming here for months,” Alexander said. “At first people didn’t believe me when I told them about a primitive, coin-operated cell phone mounted to the wall. The receiver looks just like the phone symbol on my iPhone. We would call our friends. It’s pretty cool, although I can’t figure out how to text with it.”
Alexander’s friend Mike was impressed with the quality of the payphone. “Some of us think payphones will make a comeback, like vinyl did,” said Mike. “I mean, the sound quality is clearly better than digital.”
Now that word’s gotten out about this ancient find, the payphone is attracting attention. Elkton’s mayor is helping promote the payphone as a tourist attraction by having signs posted along the highway. “It’s just what this town needs,” the mayor said. “All we’ve had in Elkton is a statue of a giant chicken wearing a chef’s hat. Now, the chicken’s great and all, but this pay telephone contraption is an important piece of history.”
The original owners of the payphone are unknown, and have not come forward so Dave may have the lock changed so he can retrieve the coins. “As long as it keeps on working, this old-time novelty might become my main draw,” he said.