Book… When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes

When Phones Were Immobile
Lived In

Gladys Hobson

A pick and mix assortment of childhood memories

When Phones Were Immobile
Lived In

Gladys Hobson


Chapter One School-days: sewage, sex, sport and school dinners

Chapter Two No NHS

Chapter Three Of God and bananas

Chapter Four Of war and play

Chapter Five Innocent youth or just plain daft?

Chapter Six Family affairs

Chapter Seven I want to be a designer

Chapter Eight Moving on to where I started!

Chapter Nine Boys!

Chapter Ten You shall go to the ball

Conclusion The beginning of the new


I was waiting in the bank a few days ago when someone’s mobile started ringing. A young woman took the phone from her pocket and said to me, “What would we do without them?”
I had to smile. I remember the days before mobiles; when outer space was the realm of Flash Gordon fantasy, and only doctors, businesses and posh people had a telephone installed – the rest of us had to queue at the red box down the road. I was well into my teens before I actually used one. But then, whom could I possibly ring?
It isn’t difficult to remember when I first handled a phone. At the time, I was working on the cutting bench in the outerwear department of an old factory in Nottingham. No one in that building could have been more sensitive or naive than I was – nor as incredibly stupid!
One morning the overlooker called me over to his desk.
“A call for you, Gladys,” he said.
It was with great fear and trepidation that I took the receiver from him.
“I’ve never used a phone,” I said, my hands shaking. “What do I do?”
“Put that end to your ear and speak in there,” he instructed with considerable clarity.
What could be easier?
But my imagination was already working at full speed. My father had been ill for some time; he must be dead! Worse, he’d lost his temper and had done something dastardly! No, it must be my poor mother rushed off to hospital! The house has caught fire, the Trent has flooded, the dog has been run over!
“Yes?” I said into the mouthpiece, fearful of what was to come.
“Gladys?” the voice queried.
“Yes,” I said, my mouth dry with anxiety.
“Bring the sheets,” the voice demanded.
“The sheets, bring the sheets!”
Who was this person demanding sheets? Why should I have sheets, except on my bed? I must have got it wrong.
“The sheets?” I queried, my brain in a whirl and my wet palm gripping the receiver to stop it shaking.
“The sheets!” the voice bellowed. “Bring the bloody sheets. Now!”
Tears were about to run down my face. I turned to the overlooker and handed him the receiver.
“I can’t hear what he’s saying,” I lied.
He took the instrument of torture from my shaking hand. He spoke a few words into the mouthpiece, grinned, and turned to me.
“The wrong Gladys,” he said, with an apologetic shrug of his shoulders.
He called to the machinists’ overlooker, “Gladys, take the production sheets into the office, please. Mr Raymond wants them.”
I had been speaking on the phone to the deputy manager. I hurried to the toilet!
For ages afterwards, I dreaded the phone ringing. But of course, need and ambition force us to adapt and accommodate to modern gadgets.

This little book is a trip down memory lane. Just dip into its pages. If you think it quite unbelievable what we thought and did in those days, believe me, we would have laughed at the very idea of men on the moon and a handy phone in your pocket! As for sex, that was as hush-hush as State secrets. But, delve into these pages and all will be revealed.

To be continued…
When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes
ISBN 0-9548885-0-2
Published by Magpies Nest Publishing

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