(LONDON) — Never mind the queen, there’s another British icon that could use a little help from above: the famous red telephone booth. It seems like they’re on every corner, but don’t be fooled. Their days could be numbered.
“The problem with these red phone boxes is, they were first installed in the 1930s, so they’re quite old,” Richard Coltman, a phone box enthusiast, said. “They are endangered to an extent, especially in some of the more rural areas of the country.”
Thirty years ago, there were more than 80,000 telephone kiosks — the proper term, but everyone calls them boxes — across the United Kingdom. Now there are fewer than 11,000. Who needs a phone box when just about everyone has a cellphone?
“People were a bit shocked seeing these icons they grew up with being removed,” Coltman said. “So there’s been a bit of an outcry.”
To save their phone boxes, the Brits had to get creative. A few years ago the government began letting towns adopt them, for one pound each (about $1.50). Some have been turned into churches, a library, even a pub.
“Some people have converted them into shower cubicles,” Coltman said. “I’ve seen them converted into a fish tank.”
In honor of the queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, British Telecom started BT ArtBox, a project in which leading British artists transform the iconic box into new creations to be auctioned off, the proceeds going to ChildLine, a charity for children.
Watch the full story Friday night on Nightline at 11:35 ET.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Almasy, Ray Sanchez and Darran Simon, CNN
Holly Yan and Joe Sterling, CNN
Laura Smith-Spark, Erin McLaughlin and Nina dos Santos, CNN