Published Date Written by Gail OberGILFORD — When selectmen voted on Wednesday to ask FairPoint Communications to remove its payphone at the Glendale docks, they did it because it was costing the town $83 month and officials felt it was no longer needed.
But once the Glendale payphone is gone, will Gilford join the ever-growing ranks of American towns that no longer have a payphone?
The Daily Sun went looking for payphones in Gilford, starting in the places one could expect to find one — the movie theater, gas stations and shopping areas.
The WalMart plaza has some holes in a wall outside the vestibule that look like, at one point in time, there was a payphone. The Gilford Cinemas have the vestiges of what was once a pay phone right down to the kiosk and an empty black phone book holder handing from its chain.
There is an empty blue phone booth protected by two yellow concrete pillars at the Airport Country Store and Deli but the booth is gutted. Even the old payphone outside in the woods outside the Big Apple on the corner of County Club Road is gone.
Norman Soucy of the Gilford Village Store has a story behind the demise of his payphone. Initially, Soucy began, the Pepsi truck hit it. He said the phone belonged to a private company, he didn't remember the name, and they came to fix it.
Just after it was fixed, said Soucy, "a plow truck hit it. Took it clean of the building."
He said he picked it up, put it in his back room and called the company. Soucy said he called a number of times and after a few weeks gave up on them. He said it was about two years later when "some guy" came into the store and was looking for his pay phone.
Soucy said he told him it was in the back and asked him why his company never returned his phone calls. He said the guy looked at him and said, "Well we're not very good at answering the phone."
"He left and I never saw him or the payphone again," Soucy said.
He said he didn't pay for the phone and wasn't getting any revenue from it. "It was really a pain," he said. "The kids would throw gum on it, really trash it."
Ray Lakeman knows a lot about payphones. A Belknap County Sheriff Departmant deputy who works security at the Superior Courthouse, Lakeman retired from Verizon and was once the security manager for the three northern New England states' payphones.
He said there were about 15,000 payphones in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont when he retired in 1992.
"Just last week they came and took the one out of this building," he said, noting it was a private company because FairPoint sold its payphone business.
In May of 2012, Fairpoint sold it Northern New England payphones to Pacific Telemanagement Services. In their media release, FairPoint said at the time it had about 4,000 phones in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
At one point, Lakeman said it was a major source of income for the phone companies and he managed the crews that collected the coins. He said each box could hold up to $200 and part of his job was timing the collections so the money was picked up at the right time.
"If it got full it went out of service. If there wasn't enough money, it wasn't profitable to collect it," he said.
The collections were taken daily by armored cars to Boston where it was processed by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. He said every day, he reported the projected income to Verizon whose accountants factored the income into daily cash management.
"It was a good business for the phone companies before cell phones.
Wakeman has a payphone at this home. He was given a chrome-plated one by the company for his retirement. He said it is hooked up and his grandchildren "get a real kick" out of using it.
But is the Glendale payphone the last one in Gilford?
It is not. There is a payphone at Gunstock Mountain Resort in the main lodge just across from the Powder Keg.
Sales and Marketing Director Bill Quigley said it's in a blue box with a bright yellow handle and "must be very important."
When told he just may have the last payphone in Gilford, Quigley laughed aloud. "Maybe we'll use it in an advertising brochure or something," he said.