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Phone Centers … The Business of the ’80’s
I have mentioned my infatuation with novelty phones a few times on the site, but for those who have not read some of my past rantings on the subject, here is a quick summary. I wanted colorful, quirky plastic novelty phones, but I came from a family that made its living through the phone company. So we would not waste our money on the weird, but awesome phones. No, we always had the bare bones, sturdy models that would last for decades (and they did).
While it made fiscal sense, it was a constant struggle for my parents, who put up with me begging for a Mickey Mouse phone for the better part of a decade. You would think I would learn after the first couple of years that I was not going to get one, but these phones were so in my face all the time that it was hard for me to even try to switch tracks and consider a world where I would not be staring at Mickey while calling my Nana to thank her for the 5 dollars she included in my birthday card.
It wasn’t just that they were on TV. Oh, and they were on TV a lot in both commercials and in shows. It was the stores that were popping up in malls throughout the country. Stores like “Just Phones”, which the above ad is from showed up seemingly overnight and quickly became a “must visit” location on our shopping trip along with the arcade, toy store, pet store, etc. (no wonder our trips to the mall required a meal, we must have been there for about 18 hours each visit).
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What I did in the store each time still has me scratching my head because each time it was exactly the same and yet it never seemed to get old. I would run into the store. Find my favorite phone, and then I would pretend to make a call, appreciate the design and style, pretend to make another call, note the price and then run to the next phone. At the end of the process, I would go find my Mother, who was usually smoking a cigarette by a fountain, and explain to her which of these phones was the best and why we should buy one immediately. She would nod her head and then instead of dismissing me outright she would say, maybe for Christmas or your birthday. Which is a brilliant parenting move. Especially when your kid has the attention span of a gnat, which I did.
I would never get those phones of my dreams when I was a kid, but I always kept dreaming. By the time the last phone stores started to close up shop, I had moved onto my obsession with computers. My parents were smart to not buy me that phone. In the end, the classic phone models were good enough for me. Plus, they needed to save that money for when I put my begging and whining into overdrive to get my hands on a Commodore 64 (a much better use of money).