PRAIRIE GROVE, AR -- Saturday, a SUV veered off U.S. 62, wiping out a phone booth that has become a sentimental relic in Prairie Grove.
The drowsy driver stated that she had been up all night preparing for a garage sale when she ran into the phone booth stood across from the entrance to Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
Guy Matthews, owner of the Colonial Motel, was present when the accident occurred.
"I was talking on the phone, I heard a noise out in the street before I could hang up and I thought, well I will go see what happened," said Matthews. "Before I could hang up, she came through and you know, I watched the telephone booth go down and the gas light go down. I hung up on the man I was talking to and dialed 911. I didn't know how bad... you know she could have been hurt real bad, I thought."
Matthews has seen the community's response to the phone booth over the last four decades. "Well I've been here about 40 years and it was there when I came," expressed Matthews. "A lot of people come by and they stop and put their kids in there and take their pictures. And like the school kids. They come to the park and sometimes they try to see how many they can get in there."
For some, the booth is a reminder of simpler times. "It's like a dial tone phone, you know, kids today haven't even seen one," stated Matthews. "Very few people have even seen a phone booth."
When the city posted about the accident on its Facebook page, the response from the community was shocking. "Before we even knew that it happened, it was all over Facebook that the phone booth had been wiped out and oh my goodness," said Rick Reed, General Manager of PGTelco. "And there's even been comments, you know 'Hope nothing bad happens in the next few days until we get that back up because Superman won't have a place to change his clothes.'"
The Prairie Grove Telephone Company owns the booth, and the two dollars in change collected from it every six months doesn't even begin to cover its expenses. The company has an internal expense for the phone line, as well as an additional five dollars each month for the electricity to light the sign in the top of the fixture.
Despite the lack of income, the company sees intrinsic value in restoring the city icon to its former glory. "You know, it's just kind of neat and part of the past that fits well there between Colonial Courts and Battlefield Park," said Reed.
After the wreck, the booth was dragged behind the motel where it was held until it could be transported. Now the beaten up booth is in the PGTelco Warehouse, where the company is doing what it can to restore the landmark. This process mainly includes straightening out the aluminum frame and replacing the shattered plexiglass.
"We will put new plexiglass put in it, we'll hook the phone back up, probably even put a new phone book in there. That one's looking kind of ratty," said Reed. "I'm not sure how long it will take to get back out there, but you know, we will get it put back up and the phone working."
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