I have lived in both small towns and urban places, and rural people and city people are about the same as far as ethics and scheming.
However, in many small places the principal users of payphones were out of town people, since generally any store or business would led you use their flat-rate telephone free for local calls.
When I lived in Konawa, Oklahoma, in the early 1950s, such payphones as existed were free for local calls and you just dialed the number. For toll calls (placed through the operator) the operator told you how much to put in and listened as it dropped directly into the box.
Of course, many small towns (and some pretty good sized ones) were manual, and there was a charge for local calls and the operator advised the called party to hold and listened as the caller deposited the coins.
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, a good-sized manual office, the payphones were prepay; you deposited the cost of a local call and the operator would answer; when you passed a local number she would connect the call and drop off, the ringing (or busy signal) being returned without her supervision. The coin(s) would return automatically if the line were busy or didn't answer; if the call was completed the coins would be collected automatically just as in dial prepay installations.
Wes Leatherock email@example.com