In 1947, Albin Westberg became Police Chief and the only day policeman in Carrabelle. He and his night officers had to protect the citizens, answer calls, pump water for the tugboats at the City Dock, catch speeders on U.S. 98 (old 319) and tend to all prisoners in the jail at City Hall. They needed help. In 1953 the phone company installed a phone in a call box bolted to the wall of the building on the northeast corner of Tallahassee Street and the Highway. The officers could answer the calls while out walking their beat. Then they began to have problems with folks making unauthorized long distance calls on the police phone. The vandals loved to mess it up, too.
Johnnie Mirabella, St. Joe Telephone and Telegraph’s lone Carrabelle employee at the time, first tried moving the call box to another building, but the illegal calls continued. He also noticed the policeman would get drenched while answering phone calls in the rain. So when his company decided to replace a worn out phone booth with a new one, he realized he could solve both problems at once by putting the police phone in the old booth.
On March 10, 1963, Mirabella, with the help of Deputy Sherriff Wilburn “Curley” Messer, moved the phone booth to its current site on U.S. 98 under the chinaberry tree. The Chief hired a man to do the lettering—to mark it as the City of Carrabelle Police Station. It worked well and increased the efficiency of the two man police force. They could park the patrol car in the shade, do required paperwork, and listen for the phone while watching for speeders and other suspicious characters. The booth did protect the officers from the elements, but some people still snuck into it to make long distance calls. Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for folks to call out. It continued to serve the police of Carrabelle for decades.
Sarah Purcell, the host of the television show “Real People,” was visiting her father and discovered it. She had to feature it on the show in 1991, where they dubbed it as the “World’s Smallest Police Station.” Later that year, Johnny Carson had a lively interview with then Carrabelle Police Chief Jessie Gordon Smith on the “Tonight Show.” The phone booth has also been featured on other television shows; “That’s Amazing,” “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” “The Today Show,” and in the movie “Tate’s Hell.”
For more information, please see the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce website at www.carrabellechamber.org.