Grass Valley, California — So you’re one of those people who still look for a public payphone? Well good for you. But hold on. As a local, you may not be aware that the Briar Patch Co-Op has a public payphone. And here’s why it’s a great marketing move for the local grocer.

First off, I bet you didn’t know there was a payphone there. Heck, did you even know what a payphone was? Chances are, if you’re below the age of 30, and you haven’t seen a film made before 1995, you might not know what it is.

Invented by William Gray in 1889, he began selling his payphones in 1891. The first payphones were open to the public, using attendants to collect the money and place the calls for you. The payphone went for almost ten years before it became a coin-operated model that was largely unattended.

Payphone technology didn’t change much until 1913. That is when the invention of the “three-slot” payphone came into existence. The next big change was in 1965 when modern single coin models debuted.  By that time, the payphone had become an American icon. For most of the 20th century, payphones were an essential part of a connected society. It was also a lifeline to communities that lacked phone service at home. Now if you can find one they kind of look ridiculous.

But not the Briar Patch payphone.

In a nutshell, this relic technology serves an important interest for anyone who is afraid of cell phones or the government, or perhaps someone interested in the retro-fetish that is popular these days. Whatever the reason, the payphone at the Briar Patch adds all kinds of oddities to an already odd grocery shop experience.

Editor’s Note: The folks at the Briar Patch have rigged the payphone to give free calls. All you have to do is pick up the phone and shout into the handset, “I think they’re following me because they don’t like the way I fondled the kale.” And just like that you can make a free phone call. Give it a try the next time you’re there.