Pictured above: Ted Pratt and Tommy McCarty dedicate the antique phone booth at the Gila County Historical Society Museum on June 30.
Roland “Fuzzy” Pratt spent his professional career ensuring that residents of the Copper Corridor could communicate with each other, so it is fitting that the Gila County Historical Museum was the recipient of an old phone booth the Pratt family kept for 45 years.
Now, visitors to the museum can actually make phone calls on a modified pay phone in an antique phone booth in memory of Pratt.
In an emotional ceremony at the museum on June 30, the family made the donation and Fuzzy Pratt’s lifelong friend Tommy McCarty helped son Ted Pratt bring the phone to life, much like the elder Pratt did for 30 years.
“I thought about selling [the phone booth], but it made me sad,” Ted Pratt said. “The memories that it has, no amount of money could have made me happy.”
Fuzzy Pratt grew up in Valley Farms, between Florence and Coolidge, at a time when Arizona was still wild and woolly and there weren’t a lot of people, even in the population centers of Phoenix and Tucson.
He and McCarty spent days wandering in the desert between Winkelman, Hayden and Phoenix along the Gila River and its environs.
“We met when we were five or six years old in the big town of Florence,” McCarty said. “Phoenix wasn’t very big back then.”
Later on, they would follow the tracks of the Arizona Eastern Railroad into the desert with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
“We couldn’t carry enough water, so we drank out of the river,” McCarty said. “I don’t know why we didn’t die from it.”
Once they grew up, the two men joined the Army and served in Korea, although they served in different areas.
“I saw him one time,” McCarty said. “He was on a Quad 50 — a big gun on a half-track —and he was right on the line.”
Once they returned from the war, McCarty helped Pratt get on with Mountain Bell — back then it was Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph — but soon their lives took very different paths.
Pratt worked the lines in the Phoenix area around Coolidge and Casa Grande, but a health scare led him to take an inside job in Miami.
“He was working outside a lot,” his widow Joyce Pratt said. “One day, his doctor told him he had the early stages of cancer and he needed to get out of the sun, so he started working inside at night.”
Joyce and Roland Pratt knew each other in high school, but she said they were not “sweethearts.”
After the war, Pratt would use visits to Joyce’s father as an excuse to see her, although they were already in-laws, as Pratt’s brother married her sister previously.
When Joyce Pratt began attending business school in Phoenix, their romance began to bud.
Eventually, McCarty was best man at the couple’s wedding and, in 1958, the Pratts moved to Globe to start a family.
Several years later, Fuzzy Pratt was in the Miami office when the phone company was preparing to get rid of the old phone booth.
“He was always gathering things,” Joyce said. “We lived in a house in Six Shooter Canyon and it was around even after Fuzzy passed away.”
Pratt died on Christmas Eve, 1987, but the phone booth remained on the porch of the house. It was moved to the shed and about nine years ago moved to Mesa with Joyce.
About three years ago, Ted Pratt decided to do something with the phone booth and started talks with former Museum Director Linda Lopez, who was amenable to bringing it in for display.
“I knew once we had approval, it would take some time,” Ted Pratt said.
But finally, after a lot of work on both sides, the phone booth made it to the museum.
Ted Pratt credits Vernon Perry of the museum board for helping him get the unwieldy piece of furniture to Globe and for the finishing work to get it looking more or less like new.
McCarty spent a lot of time researching telephones and finally found a coin operated pay phone to fit in the booth. The museum even has it set up to make phone calls for visitors.
“I hope a lot of people come and see it,” Ted Pratt said. “I thought it would be in a back room, but to my excitement, it was in the front room.”
Ted Pratt and his three sisters, who have a close-knit relationship despite the physical distance between them, as well as several generations of Pratts and friends of the family were on hand to watch as Ted Pratt and McCarty put the finishing touches on the display and tried the phone for the first time.
So now when members of the public visit the Gila County Historical Society, they can make brief phone calls on a real pay phone with the memory of Fuzzy Pratt and his 30 years’ service to the community.
Pictured below: A photo of Roland “Fuzzy” Pratt and a plaque dedicated to his honor are part of the display at the Gila County Historical Society Museum in Globe.