Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mojave Phone Booth

I watched a movie last night. I did not think it was a great, great movie, but I thought it was good, and interesting, and when I did a little research, I found it even more interesting. This movie was on my Netflix list for awhile - you can watch it instantly on line. I was intrigued by the name because of my husband's history with and love of the Mojave Desert, and also by the Director. The movie is Mojave Phone Booth

"In the middle of the Mojave desert rests an abandoned phone booth, riddled with bullet holes, graffiti, its windows broken, but otherwise functioning. Its identity was born on the Internet and for years, travelers would make the trek down a lonely dirt road and camp next to the booth, in the hopes that it might suddenly ring, and they could connect with a stranger (often from another country) on the other end of the line. This is the story of four disparate people whose lives intersect with this mystical outpost, and the comfort they seek from a stranger's voice." 

The interesting thing about the film is that the Mojave Phone Booth was a real phone booth out in a remote area of the Mojave desert. It was set up in the 1960s for use by local volcanic cinder miners and the few locals in the area, but rarely used. In 1997 news about the phone spread on the internet and became a cultural phenomenon. People would call the phone from all over the world to see if someone would answer. People would make a pilgrimage to the phone booth to see it. Sadly the phone booth was removed in 2000 and the phone number, (714, later 619 and finally 760) 733-9969, was retired. It probably had to happen. Too many people heading out there where they don't belong and impacting the environment. Disturbing those few people who choose to live out there because there aren't a lot of people around. Still, I wish I had known about this before it was gone. I would have liked to have been one of those Byway travelers who visited that phone booth. I would have liked to make a call from the middle of the Mojave. It's just so America. So the West. It makes me kind of melancholy over the death of the pay phone. People my age grew up with pay phones, and now they have become this relic of our pasts. The intrigue of calling a random phone booth and wondering who will pick up? Or answering a random phone ringing in a booth? Don't you remember doing that at some point in your life? I do. I did both. Anyway...check out the history. Also check out The Deuce of Clubs who started The Original Mojave Phone Booth Site.

I am also interested in the Director, John Putch. He was born in my hometown, Chambersburg, PA, and he is the son of Jean Stapleton of All in the Family fame. She and her husband late producer/director William H. Putch ran the Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, PA right next to Chambersburg. I grew up not far from that Playhouse - it is up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. My mother told me we would see Jean Stapleton up at the little country store there when I was a toddler. My sister worked at that Playhouse a few summers and knew John Putch. I recently saw his movie that is about and filmed in an area near my hometown called Route 30. Route 30 runs east-west right through Chambersburg and Fayetteville. The whole film is made in areas that I know so well. It captures places, characters and accents from my home area. Again, not a fabulous film, but fun and funny for someone who grew up around Route 30 in Fayetteville. I would recommend it. And I am very happy that John Putch is making these films. Next up - a sequel to Route 30...and I can't wait.


  1. OMG I can't wait to see Route 30! Never heard of that before, but looking forward to it!

  2. what constitutes a 'fabulous film'? I think these movies are singularly unique and rich with art.

  3. Anonymous - yes, you are correct - what really constitutes a fabulous film? it varies and it is an individual accounting. I agree that these movies are unique. I love that he did a film about Route 30. Who does that? Watching that movie I knew everything - the kinds of people, the situations, the accents - because I grew up around there. It was beautiful for me because of that connection, but might not be so for others. I like that he chose to make these films about weird little places. I want more little films about little places.