By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Who still uses a phone booth? Better question yet – where can you even find a phone booth?

The answer lies in the town of Lanesboro, where an old form of communication combines history with humor.

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There aren’t many places in Minnesota where biking, business and natural beauty flow together quite so well as 150-year-old Lanesboro. The town also has plenty of stories to share. And would you believe that the historian who tells those stories is about seven feet tall and made out steel and plastic?

The phone booth on Parkway Avenue has been around town since the 1950s but a few years ago it was forced into retirement and moved next door to the museum.

“We used to have to call home and get a ride. We didn’t have phones in our pockets then,” said Sheila Dicke, who was visiting the phone booth.

“They decided to decommission it, and they called me and said, ‘Hey, would you like the telephone booth?’” said Sandy Webb, former Lanesboro Historical Museum director. “And I said, ‘Hmm, give me a minute — yes.'”

It was an easy decision because Webb and others had a new job for the old contraption. Instead of putting in coins and making calls, visitors pick up the phone, hit a number, and listen to Lanesboro lore.

(credit: CBS)

“A lot of the stories are told by the people to whom they happened,” said Webb. “There sometimes will be a line of people waiting to go in and listen to stories.”

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What they are listening to are true accounts ranging from dramatic to humorous. There’s a story about a dog that stole a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Another about a man who used to ride his horse down the middle of the Root River.

While visitors learn about the city, observers are learning just how out of touch people are with phone booths.

“People would try and fit as many people as they could in there. I don’t know what the record is. I’d say five,” said Webb.

The hands-on social experiment is just part of the fun. Here, small town pride rings true, thanks to a telephone.

“People cherishing each other in the community and their history. People in this town really care about each other and about the history. It’s very interesting to watch,” said Webb.

You can’t make calls in the phone booth, but it doesn’t cost anything to listen.

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At any given time visitors can hear nine or 10 different stories – and they are rotated through frequently.

John Lauritsen