Carrabelle is the home of the “World’s Smallest Police Station”. It was an actual Police Station for decades. In the early 60’s the officers used a call box mounted on a building for police calls. In inclement weather this left the officer drenched. This phone booth was installed in March 1963 to offer protection for the officers during their shift. The officer could sit in his police cruiser and observe most everything going on in town, while waiting for a call to come in from the phone in the booth. It was used for over 20 years.
The city had been having problems with tourists making unauthorized long distance phone calls on its police phone. The phone was located in a call box that was bolted to a building at the corner of U.S. 98 and Tallahassee Street. Johnnie Mirabella, St. Joe Telephone’s lone Carrabelle employee at the time, first tried moving the call box to another building, but the illegal calls continued.
Mirabella noticed that the policeman would get drenched while answering phone calls when it was raining. So when the telephone company decided to replace its worn out phone booth in front of Burda’s Pharmacy with a new one, he decided to solve both problems at once by putting the police phone in the old booth.
With the help of Curly Messer, who was a deputy sheriff at the time, Mirabella moved the phone booth to its current site on U.S. 98. The booth did protect the officers from the elements, but some people still sneaked into it to make long distance calls. Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for tourists to make calls.
Vandals have ripped phones out of the booth and shot holes through the glass. It has been knocked over by a pickup truck, a tourist once asked a gas station attendant to help him load it into his vehicle to take it back to Tennessee and it was knocked over and damaged by Hurricane Kate.
The tiny office has earned a fair amount of fame for its oddity, appearing on several television shows including “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
This is the full story, and is written inside the station.
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.”