The Telephone Box War – 8th October 1988

On 8th October 1988, the Wizard publically announced from his column in the ‘Weekend Star’ that he was personally taking on Telecom over their ‘…poofy blue…’ repainting of Christchurch’s traditional red telephone boxes.

The corporate giant had just taken over from the New Zealand Post Office Service and planned to replace all the red phone boxes with modern glass booths but until then, the old boxes were to be repainted in the Telecom colour.

True to his word, the Wizard systemically began to repaint the boxes that Telecom had turned blue. It was his ‘…historical restoration by direct action… ’ as he sentimentally attempted to save one of the city’s historical traditions – his actions being for God, the Queen, Red Cross and St George.

The city was gripped as a non-violent war broke out on the streets – the city’s telephone boxes splashing between the colours of red and blue. In Riccarton, someone thought it would be funny to paint a few phone boxes purple. The Wizard soon took care of that.

With the Wizard showing no signs of backing off, even after the Police had warned him to do so, Telecom was forced to revisit the situation and 10,000 Cantabs were surveyed. 88% wanted the red boxes to remain. Telecom admitted defeat but refused to repaint the blue boxes that remained. The C.C.C. stepped in and supplied free red paint to the Wizard and his so-called army.

The victory wasn’t long-lived as the replacement with glass booths went ahead anyway. The Wizard did end up with the last word though in 1990 when he insisted on the return of a particular red phone box, dating back to the 1920’s, from “maintenance”. Today, it still remains in Victoria Square as the oldest surviving red telephone box in Christchurch (pictured).

*Image courtesy of Annette Bulovic*

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