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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Payphone Project / Father’s Day / Ray Charles - 2004-06-18

Broadcast: June 18, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show this week, we remember Ray Charles and his music.

And we answer a question about Father’s Day.

But first, we connect you with something called the Payphone Project.

Payphone Project


The use of wireless telephones has reduced the demand for public pay phones. Yet these coin-operated phones have helped one man find a calling to serve other people. Faith Lapidus has more.


Mark Thomas has been interested in pay phones since he was a child. Now, he has created a site on the Internet that lists the telephone number and location of pay phones around the world. He calls it the Payphone Project.

Mister Thomas says he is far from having a list of all the public pay phones in the world. But he does have more than five-hundred-thousand numbers already. These include a pay phone at the Vatican and another in Vietnam, at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. There is even a number listed for a pay phone in Uganda powered by the sun.

Mark Thomas started his Web site in nineteen-ninety-five. He wanted to give strangers a way to talk to each other just by calling pay phones across the United States. But now most pay phones block incoming calls. In time, he recognized another purpose for his site.

Some people know the number of a pay phone, through caller identification devices, but they need to know the location. The Payphone Project once helped the parents of a teen-age girl who ran away from home. It has also helped people find where threatening calls came from.

Mark Thomas is an artist who lives in New York City. He plays piano in concerts. He does not have time anymore to call number after number, in the hope to connect with someone somewhere.

But he wants his pay phone list to continue to grow as a public service. Telephone companies are not required to provide this kind of information. But many other pay phone number collectors have sent in listings. Some people include pictures and comments about the phone.

So the next time you see a public pay phone, you might want to write down the number and location. Then, visit the Web site to see if the phone is listed. You might be able to add another number to the list.

The site is Again, that address is

Father’s Day


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Baltchik, Bulgaria. Boyan Mitev asks about Father’s Day in the United States.

In nineteen-oh-nine, a woman named Sonora Dodd was listening to a speech in church. The speech was about Mother's Day. Missus Dodd thought about her father, William Smart. He had fought in the American Civil War. Later, his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mister Smart raised the baby and his five other children. They lived on a farm in Washington state, in the Pacific Northwest.

Sonora Dodd wanted a special day to honor men like her father. He was born in June. So she decided to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington, in June of nineteen-ten.

Fourteen years later, in nineteen-twenty-four, President Calvin Coolidge gave his support to the idea of a national observance. In nineteen-seventy-two, finally, President Richard Nixon signed a law to establish Father's Day.

An old tradition on Father's Day was for people to wear a flower. Red roses honored fathers who were living. White flowers honored those who were dead.

Father's Day is observed on the third Sunday in June. This Sunday, some families will go out for a special meal or prepare one at home. Many dads will get clothes or maybe some electronic gift. Or they might simply get a card with a message of thanks.

Ray Charles


Ray Charles was one of America's most influential musicians. He died last week at the age of seventy-three. Jim Tedder looks at the life of this showman who crossed the lines of jazz, blues, country and rock.


Ray Charles Robinson was working as a musician by the age of fifteen. This was after he studied music at a school for the blind. Ray Charles developed glaucoma as a young child. The eye disease blinded him at age seven.

His first hit record was a song he wrote with a mix of black church music, blues and rock and roll. He sang it and played it on the electric piano. The song is called “What’d I Say.”


Ray Charles became one of the top singers of rhythm and blues. Then he decided to record an album of country songs. Record company officials did not think it would be very successful. They were wrong. This song earned a Grammy Award.


Over the years, Ray Charles won thirteen Grammy awards. He was one of the first artists honored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He made more than sixty albums.

Ray Charles was preparing to begin a new series of concerts this month. But he had health problems recently. We leave you with another of his best known recordings, ”America the Beautiful.”



This is Doug Johnson.

This program was written by Jill Moss and Nancy Steinbach. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Zenab Abdulrahman. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.