On Sunday I walked to the library, and as I returned I saw this fellow working on one of the combination newspaper boxes in downtown Columbus, at the corner of Gay and Fourth Streets. After wondering what the heck he was doing, kneeling with his head inside one of the boxes, I realized he was working with his power tools to remove the box. And I also realized that with the efforts of that kneeling guy, the story arc of downtown newspaper boxes in downtown Columbus comes to an end–not that most people will notice, or care.
Once the downtown areas of cities like Columbus were dotted with colorful newspaper boxes, where you could insert a coin to get that day’s edition. It wasn’t only the daily newpapers that used the boxes as delivery devices, though–weekly and monthly newspapers and other publications did, too. Many city streets featured multiple red, yellow, and blue boxes, often strategically located near coffee shops, bus stops, subway stations, barber shops, or other places where people might want some reading material.
In Columbus, the city planners must have decided that multiple boxes were a bit unsightly and cheap looking, because they put up these cumbersome black multi-unit boxes at certain street corners to concentrate the publications in one spot, and the bright stand-alone boxes vanished. At about the same time, the surge in use of the internet, laptops, and cell phones caused the number of print publications to plummet to near zero. As a result, rather than holding newspapers or other materials, the combination boxes were left empty and sad-looking–that is, when they weren’t filled with trash or a desolate beer bottle left by a downtown reveler. I imagine that some curious younger people who work downtown have idly wondered about the real intended purpose of those clunky, debris-filled boxes.
Now the combination boxes are gone, the corner at Gay and Fourth is freed of its burden, and perhaps people will put trash into actual trash cans again. Newspaper boxes, like phone booths and parking meters, are purely a thing of days gone by.