1950s Fads – Telephone Cramming

by Candace RichComment — Updated August 6, 2023

cramming1Oddly enough, this fad began in South Africa, spread to England and then in 1959 went straight to – California!

The idea was to cram as many people as possible into a telephone booth. A competition sport, cramming soon spread across college campuses as each one tried to set a new record.

Sometimes called Telephone Box Squash, there were very few rules except that it was widely accepted that the booth must still contain a phone. Under British rules, you had to be able to be able to either place or receive a call, but that did not apply anywhere else. The door was left open and only half of a person must be inside the booth to be counted. And the booth had to upright.

The South African record of 25 people withstood all challengers. The English only made it to19 and hey, they had wider booths. A Canadian group made it to 40 but the booth was on its side and so that figure was discounted.

As for the spirit that built the West – the most efficient bunch we had was a group at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.(Pictured above) In an effort to beat the South African record, they managed to cram 22 people in a booth. Well, you can’t win them all.

Cramming expanded into other venues and VW Beetle cramming enjoyed a brief popularity. But like all good fads, this one ended rather quickly.

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