Let's Bring Back the Telephone Table—and Yes, You Still Need One!

Some old-school accessories are worth revisiting.

Young woman holding telephone receiver, smiling
Photo: Tom Kelley Archive

When the telephone was first invented in 1876, the cumbersome communication tool was a far cry from the small, sleek smart phones of today. To make calls more comfortable, families would store the phone on a small shelf or side table. Longer conversations may require a chatty Cathy to pull up a chair, and eventually, a piece of furniture was devised to address this very need.

Most popular from the 1930s through the 1950s, the "gossip bench" was a seat or two attached to a small table, which often had a storage cubby or drawer to stash a phone book. These days, you'd be hard pressed to find a gossip bench or telephone table in most homes, as many people have done away with the landline altogether. (Besides, you'd never catch us gossiping; we're just sharing prayer requests.) But like house dresses and lawn chairs, some old-school traditions are worth revisiting, and we're all in favor of bringing back the telephone table.

A cell phone's greatest asset—its portability—is perhaps also its greatest downfall, especially for those of us who are more forgetful or scatterbrained. It's convenient to be able to walk all over the house while catching up with Aunt Edith, but it's also more likely you'll set the phone down after the call and forget where you left it. (Have you checked the laundry room?) A telephone table provides a designated place to leave the cell phone when you're not using it so you're never left digging under the couch cushions to find it when it rings next. Place the table next to an outlet, and you've got yourself a charging station to boot.

For households where a cell phone has replaced the landline, a telephone table is also helpful in having a set place to jot down notes about who's calling and why. Plus, it's a learning opportunity for the younger crowd: Knowing how to politely answer a phone and take a message is a skill every child should have.

But the reason we're most in favor of bringing back the telephone table is about as nostalgic for the analog days as it gets. If your cell phone is on the telephone table, it's not in your hand. Instead of being tethered to the endless scroll, you're free to hang up and hang out with loved ones instead. That's our kind of face time.

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