Telephone Booth Cramming
Jodi M. Webb
So, how many South African college students does it take to fill a
telephone booth? If you’re waiting for the punch line stop. In early
1959 someone asked this question and started a fad that swept several
After students in South Africa crammed 25 students into a
telephone booth (a record that still stands today) the craze spread to
England where students at London University managed a booth busting 19
By March, the telephone box squash—as it was known in England—had
jumped the Atlantic Ocean and coeds all over the United States and
Canada were skipping classes in favor of cramming themselves into
telephone booths. A junior college in Modesto,
California thought they
had broken the record with 34 people and were challenged by 40
That’s when the telephone booth cramming world started laying down
some ground rules.
First, although the door could remain open, a
person only counted if at least half of their body was within the
Second, the booth had to be standard size, not the
extra-large fraternity hall booth that those frat-boys had used.
Third, the booth had to be upright not lying on its side like the
England’s additional rule: the group had to be able
to either place or answer a phone call was abandoned by the rest of
The students of Fresno College may not have crammed the most students
into a booth but they secured a place in cramming history with their
unique spin on the fad.
Seven male students did a telephone booth cram
Female students met the challenge by cramming eight co-eds
into a booth dropped into the Fresno Hacienda Motel Pool.
Telephone booth cramming
evolved as more and more people became
involved. Although ‘cramming’ suggests a herd of people just squeezing
into a booth, for many groups the cram involved a lot of prior
Several different methods of cramming were developed.
Ryerson Tech in Toronto claims to have created the ‘sandwich style’
cram while schools such as MIT veered toward a more scientific
It was with the crosshatch stacking technique that 22 (or 23
according to different accounts) male students at St. Mary’s College
in Moraga, California set the record for United States cramming.
When students returned to campus in the fall of 1959 phone booth
cramming was a thing of the past. Students had moved on to crazier and
sillier stunts to amuse themselves and the world.
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Photo Courtesy of the Ohio