Telephone-Booth Stuffing

Joe Munroe, [Twenty-two students cramming into a telephone booth to try and establish a stacking record, St. Mary's College, Moraga, California], 1959

“In a Rapidly Growing Fad, Varied Cramming Methods,” Life, March 30, 1959, p. 18

College students who wedged their ways into telephone booths across the land were taking up the challenge from campuses far away. When a school in South Africa boasted of a world’s record of 25 in a booth, students at London University set out to beat it. Although they had broad-style British booths to wedge into, the best they could do was 19.

The competitive squeeze started to sweep the U.S., with each college playing by its own rules. Some used roomy phone cubicles in fraternity houses. Others upended booths and piled into them like boats. Conscientious student stuffers used the sardine, or limbs-in, method [above]. Others took the easier approach that permits legs to dangle on the outside. Competitors agree that the best phone-boothing technique is to round up undersize undergraduates, preferably freshmen, and put them under the supervision of a tough master crammer. One M.I.T. student boasted, “Here we think and calculate about the job. The mathematics of it are challenging.”

College heads remained unworried by the fad, which they recognize as healthier than swallowing goldfish. But the Toronto Globe and Mail deplored the wastefulness of phone-boothing. “This research into togetherness is misguided,” an editorial said. “The world’s telephone problem is to get just one occupant out when you are waiting to make a call.”

What other great past times have been lost due to the cell phone?

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About erinbarnett

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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One Response to Telephone-Booth Stuffing

  1. Pingback: Telephone-Booth Stuffing (via Fans in a Flashbulb) « Tropical Peter Pan

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