Phonebooths & Memories

Today we have a post from a local mom who has written about an experience she had on Mother’s Day at the DMA. Pressley Peters is a wife and mother who enjoys bringing her family to DMA. Pressley is a marketing and fund-raising writer for leading not-for-profit organizations and Fortune 500 companies. She makes her home in University Park.

My family and I recently ventured to the Dallas Museum of Art on Mother’s Day (my choice).

We happened by the beaches exhibit entitled Coastlines as I my husband and I corralled our four children toward the family studio so that they could create some art of their own. We could not help but stop, lured in by a tranquil ocean scene. We escorted them through the gallery with a “no touch” warning and promises of this and that afterwards. If even one of them had a meaningful encounter with a piece of art, learned about Picasso or pointillism or when World War II started, I would be satisfied.

Oak Bluff, Martha's Vineyard; David Avison, 1978

 My husband and I were reminiscing in front of David Avison’s 1970’s panoramic photograph of a wharf scene on Martha’s Vineyard. The photo was taken in summertime. It was an active shot, people walking, taxi cabs waiting, birds in flight, a sailboat gliding on the Atlantic. The museum found a clever way to interest people in it: if you stand just so on a fuzzy gray circle of carpet in front of the photo, you can hear birds, water and boats from an unseen source of sound. You feel like you are there.

Our interest was rooted in the fact that we once stood in that very spot years before. Standing on the wharf in 1996, near the public restrooms, phones and ferry ticket office, we discussed my career, ready to make a decision so that we could relax on vacation. With a quick phone call, I turned down a promising job offer with a top-notch PR firm. It is a choice I am still satisfied with today, having marched down a different career path.

 Our eight-year-old son walked up behind us and said, “What’s that?” I began explaining the vacation, the amazing flight from Cape Cod and how we had ridden mopeds all over the island. He interrupted my fun with, “No, what are those?”

 After a moment, I realized he was asking about the telephone booths centered in the shot. Three empty glass rooms stood in the bright sunlight, each with its bi-fold door slanted inward waiting for a customer to slide it open. Now reconsidered, it appeared to me as if the photo was about the phone booths, not the wharf or the people or the beach. I realized how curious it must seem to a child born in the age of cell phones that we would enclose ourselves in a glass box for privacy while having a phone conversation.

 “That’s a phone booth,” I explained. “Just years before you were born, people had to find a phone booth like that one if they needed to make a call. You put coins in it for the service – more for long distance. All phones – pay phones, home phones, office phones — were connected by wires. In big cities like Dallas and Atlanta and New York, there were pay phones on every corner.” I went on to explain in more detail, but he lost interest and moved on.

As we later made our way out of downtown, I searched with no luck for a pay phone. The phone booth has become for my son what the mimeograph machine was to me and the Model T was to my parents. A part of history. A learning experience. A gift on Mother’s Day.

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1 Comment

Filed under In the galleries, Just for Fun, Parents

One response to “Phonebooths & Memories

  1. Hello Pressley, Your father in law forwarded this to me. What a wonderful piece you have written about your special Mother’s Day visit to the DMA! I am particularly touched that your children, while still young, are able to share in the wonders that can be discovered inside a wooden frame. We miss you guys. I hope to visit some day, and I hope that you will share this special museum with me. Love, Your cousin, Amy

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