The unofficial history of the public payphone

Telstra had bought in these pre paid paper cards for pay phones, and it punched holes as you used the value. We worked out that if you put sticky tape …

Cheating the payphone system was a common theme! Meaghan remembers this: “Ring a few times then it would hang up (without a coin) and mum knew that was the code to come and pick us up from the station.”

And Jessica describes the sound perfectly: “Say your name after the beep *BEEP* “Mum-it’s-Jess-come-pick-me-up, haha!”

Linda: “When I was a teen, living in USA, I used to file down a penny till it was equal to a dime, and use them in the payphone, way back then it cost 10 cents for a call.”

Many of you mined them for a profit!

Tracey: “I was a Payphones Area Manager for Telstra in Western Australia…people tried to frequently vandalise the old green metal phones which were like a safe. If they did get in, they only held a maximum of $200 in coin – and that was rare. They even dynamited one without success! The new ones were much easier to break in to – but usage was on the decline. It was a great department with a lot of blokey jokes.”

Mostly they provided connection.

Damien: “I remember being on a school trip to NT (from Pakenham) and placing a reverse charge call home from the big blue chunky payphone at Yulara. Before connecting us the Telecom operator congratulated my dad on raising such a polite and well mannered boy.”

Ryan from Yarraville: “Had to use 1800reverse at a pay phone to call my mum in Bendigo to wake up my fiancee after being locked out of my house at 4.00am (my bucks party in the city). Lucky I was a 90s kid!”

Bryan in South Melbourne has a long overdue apology:

“Raph I look back at this with a bit of shame, but I had moved to Melbourne to go to uni and was a poor student. Telstra had bought in these pre paid paper cards for pay phones, and it punched holes as you used the value. We worked out that if you put sticky tape over the holes, the payphone gave you unlimited calls. I had many a good conversation with Mum on the back of that and would like to apologise to Telstra.”