Tag Archives: Police Call Box

Everyday Objects Portraits

Yet more in my series of everyday objects. This time, it’s a lamppost, a safety cone (I’m not calling it a traffic cone because in this context, it’s being used to warn pedestrians of an uneven paver), parking meters again, and a police call box. You may have wondered at seeing some of my images with a black border and others without. I generally try to compose full-frame, and I like including the black border to show that. I also feel that in some cases, the black border helps define the image especially if the background is predominantly bright. I don’t ever add one to make it look as if what you see is full frame if in fact it is cropped, or to make you think it was made in a different format than presented. The images I post online for the most part are scanned from the negative, and given the nature of film, sometimes the backing paper leaks light along the edge, or other things happen during processing that require me to crop a little. Sometimes, I have to crop a lot because the composition just wasn’t right in the full square of the 120 image size. In those cases, I leave the edges alone and don’t put a black border on.

Twin Meters
Twin Meters
Safety Cone
Safety Cone
Police Call Box
Police Call Box
Lamppost, Kennedy Center
Lamppost, Kennedy Center

Police Call Boxes

Police Call Box
Police Call Box

I was just doing a little research on these, as I’ve seen them here in DC for years but didn’t know much about them. Washington DC was one of the first cities in the US, and perhaps even in the world, to get them. They were first implemented in Albany, New York in 1877, and in Washington DC in 1883. The most famous ones, of course, are the blue kiosks from the UK, made so by the Dr. Who tv series. In the UK, they phased them out in the 1970s, but they remained in use in Washington DC until the early 1980s, so they had a run of almost a full century. Surprisingly enough, their physical remains have outlasted the pay phone – it is easier to find a (gutted, non-functioning) police call box here than it is to find a functioning pay phone now, despite the fact that public phones are still in use.

I found a video online from a DC Police Department historian who talked about the police call boxes, and he had a very funny story to relate – back in the day before police radios were implemented, if a patrolman had to arrest someone, the only way he had to contact central dispatch to get a wagon to come pick up the perpetrator was to physically bring the perp to the call box, call for the wagon, and wait at the call box. So that would explain why patrolmen in the past were a bit rougher and meaner during the arrest process, as they often had to subdue a perp for not just long enough to get them in his vehicle, but for a several block walk and then an additional 10-15 minutes waiting for the van!