Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mail chutes and phone booths

Diane Schirf has two more posts about “relics”: mail chutes and phone booths. Previously: letters and mailboxes.

comments: 8

Adair said...

Thanks for the link to this blog. Schirf has written several interesting, haunting entries. Mail chutes were so fascinating to me as a kid: I use to beg my dad to let me drop his mail down the chute in the building where he had his office. I'm sure I dropped other things, like a paper football, or a toy soldier, just to see what would happen. (I probably clogged the system! I wonder how those clogs were repaired? Could the glass covers of the chutes be removed at various floors?) And the old phone booths that had little stools in them were so cozy, but at the same time potentially claustrophobia-inducing: I used to keep the tip of my shoe between the folding door and the booth's frame, just in case...

Pete said...

Last spring we vacationed in Seattle, and stayed at a Marriott hotel in Pioneer Square, in the renovated Alaska Building, an old office building whose first floor was once a bank. The lobby is beautifully restored, including the brass mail chute. I loved explaining to my 11-year-old daughter exactly what it was - letters are already enough of an anachronism to someone her age, let alone mail chutes!

Michael Leddy said...

I remember using a mail chute back in grad school and wondering whether what I mailed would make it to the bottom of the chute (five stories below), much less to the addressee.

Geo-B said...

Three relics that I run into in Chicago apartments and apartment buildings: coal chutes, high on the wall fixtures for old gaslights, and low on the baseboard outlets for central vacuuming. I remember as a small boy jumping a mile high when standing in a basement and the coal came crashing down. Even I have trouble trusting my memory about central vacuuming, seems impractical. As these things fade from our experience, I imagine most people see these things and don't even wonder what they are.

Diane Schirf said...

A lot of people look but never see. I'm probably one of them. My apartment has quarter doors sealed on the outside that I've always wondered about.

Thanks for the mention. I"m sorry I've never gotten around to reciprocating. :(

Pete said...

My 1927 house (now heated by a gas-heated boiler) still has its coal chute door, a relic I just love. The only way I'll ever get rid of it is if it rusts and falls off. And I once had an apartment in Chicago that had a door off the back landing that was once used for delivery of ice blocks - loved that too.

Diane Schirf said...

Coincidentally, Chris Burdick just posted this on facebook:

I thought I was the last non-cell phone person, but a woman just used the pay phone near where I'm sitting. The woman dialed a number, the phone gave off a loud fax machine shriek, and the woman backed away in terror.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing all these details of the gone world here, everyone. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a coal chute or an outlet for central vacuuming. I do remember though the shaft for the dumbwaiter in my grandparents’ apartment building, which my grandmother sometimes used for conversations with her neighbor. I also remember a large hump in my grandparents’ kitchen wall, close to the floor, a door of some sort that had been painted over, always a mystery to me.

Diane, don’t worry about linking — there’s no need to link back.