Martha's Memories ~ A passing of a communication era

Posted by Copper . on

Quite soon nobody will know what a pay phone was, nor how to use it properly, nor public etiquette around phone booth use. Public pay phones began to disappear in the 1980's, and with that disappearance went the frustration of searching for change when needed, and then often failing to even find a working phone booth. As for me, I say, “goodbye forever” to pay phones and “hello, my friend” to cell phones, Here are my reasons why.


When I started my business back in the 1960's, I decided to sell my college gifts to the best stores I could possibly find. Not only that, but if there were two terrific stores in a town that were appropriate, I would choose the best one based upon a personal visit. While there, I appraised the "look of the store," the location, and any other pertinent information. When I made my decision, I would try to approach the manager or owner, and introduce myself. I always hoped for the best.

As I recall how much work was involved to located that "best" store, I can hardly believe that I even had the courage, the stamina, and the persistence to repeat that process, year after year, month after month, summer or winter. It must have been sheer stubbornness but I did visit almost every store in the whole of America. I was determined to do so.

My research process, to find the "best store" in a city, began with a visit to the main branch of the Boston Public Library. When I picked a state to cover, I would begin to review the yellow pages of every telephone book for that particular state. Sometimes, there were dozens, and I doggedly searched through them all. I would flip to "Gift Shops” and then to “Jewelry Shops," and look for the specialty ads, larger paid advertisements that provided more information about their products. There were certain key words or phrases that a better store would use repeatedly, and it took just seconds to select from the group, the several I wanted to specifically pursue.

If I decided to visit Dayton, Ohio, I would arrive there with a notebook listing every better store selected in Dayton and the small surrounding towns. It would take a week of follow through to find the stores, study them and arrange appointments. Now let us “fast forward” to 2015.

If I wanted to select the best retail stores Dayton, Ohio and vicinity I would begin with my computer or laptop and ask for a Google search, of course. There would be no need for telephone books, no visit to a library, just the words "gift shops” and “jewelry shops.” The Internet would now, not only show the location of the store selected, but also send a photo of the store itself, and even pop up with reviews from their satisfied customers.

I'm sure this antiquated method of salesmanship sounds positively nuts to present day on-the-road representatives. However, as difficult as it was at the time, there were upsides. . . many of them. One spectacular benefit - I was able to tour the whole of America, discovering in the process, how huge Texas really is, and spotting my very first cardinal in Virginia, etc. The best and most incredible upside of all, was finding my husband while I was looking for a pay phone in Evanston, IL. It was the best discovery I ever made. But that's another story. . .


Copper's note:  Martha can be extremely humble at times.  When she mentions the goal of being in the best stores Eglomise Products were carried in the Brooks Brothers Catalog beginning in 1968 or 1969.  Her standards are high, for product quality and elegance as well as the places her products were sold.

 Brooks Brothers Catalog from 1968 with Eglomise Designs Mirror listed

Brooks Brothers catalog 1968 with Eglomise Designs product listing

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