Off Topic Messages


Fri Feb 03, 2006 2:18 am

It's a function of my age perhaps but I never did get a chance to send a telegram, although I have used Western union.

Another link to the 20th century, kaput!

Telegram for ... the museum
Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Gone the way of record players, cigarette cases, steamships, rotary phones, Brylcreem and typewriters STOP.

In an age of e-mail and cell phones semipermanently attached to people's heads, Western Union finally said STOP.

The ultimate irony: The company's terse ending of a 161-year era appeared on the Internet.

"We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage," the notice said.

Spokesman Victor Chayet said Western Union - the pioneer of the telegram, the telex, the stock ticker, the fax and the commercial satellite - has evolved into a financial services company. From now on, Western Union will just send money.

The news must have leaked early. Chayet said some of the telegrams on Jan. 27 - the last day of the telegram - were from people trying to send the final gram.

"One of them said, 'I'm pretty sure this is the last telegram ever,'" he said. "It wasn't."

Chayet wouldn't reveal the content of the last message, but it is likely to end up one day in a museum next to telegrams that started wars - the decoded Zimmerman telegram pushed America into World War I - and the ones announcing their endings.

The first was sent by inventor Samuel Morse from Washington to Baltimore on May 24, 1844, and read simply, "What hath God Wrought!"

Orville Wright documented the birth of a new era with a 1903 missive to family in Ohio from a Kitty Hawk, N.C., telegraph office: "Success four flights Thursday morning," it said. "Inform press. Home Christmas."

Robert Benchley, upon landing in Venice, sent another famous one to his editors at the New Yorker: "Streets flooded. Please advise."
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Fri Feb 03, 2006 4:07 pm

Greg, Telegrams were expensive and usually meant bad news :cry:

But not always........the last one I received, was back in 1979. Good news. Leading to an increase in earnings.

Fri Feb 03, 2006 4:25 pm

Look on the bright side Greg. Telegrams may be dead, but strip-a-grams live on!

Fri Feb 03, 2006 4:53 pm

I hadn't thought of that. Thanks for the tip, Pete! :D

Thu Feb 09, 2006 4:59 pm

Notably, no one here seems to care about this demise but here's a David Hinckley column on the subject:

Western Union really
delivered for H'wood

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

The 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" has a pivotal scene in which Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, receives a telegram from the Brazilian ambassador calling off their engagement.
Were Hollywood to remake "Breakfast at Tiffany's" today - and hey, it's remaking everything else - that scene might show Hilary Duff getting the news as a text message on her Blackberry.

This image alone tells us what popular culture has lost since Western Union went out of the telegram business last week.

No, I'm not arguing we should abandon the Internet because telegrams are more romantic.

But they were.

And let's not forget that, in their day, telegrams were the Internet. They were a magical means of sending words to people thousands of miles away.

The importance of the telegram is nicely illustrated in HBO's best series, "Deadwood." It is the arrival of a polite, well-dressed man with a telegraph machine - even more than a sheriff - that signals the moment Deadwood stops being a steel-cage death match and starts becoming a part of civilization.

Small wonder Hollywood has always recognized the telegram as a potent dramatic weapon.

Jimmy Cagney getting the telegram from President Roosevelt summoning him to the White House in "Yankee Doodle Dandy." The telegraph operator sending his all-points bulletin about the murder of the German couriers in "Casablanca."

In "High Noon," the telegraph operator is the first to learn Frank Miller is back in town, aiming to kill Marshall Will Kane. Telegrams set up critical action in "Mister Roberts," "The Caine Mutiny" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." A telegram ordering him to duty in Hitler's army pushes Capt. Von Trapp to lead his family over the mountain to freedom in "The Sound of Music."

On lighter notes, Oscar Madison jokes in "The Odd Couple" about Felix sending him a "suicide telegram," and Mel Brooks alerts the town of Rock Ridge with a telegram in "Blazing Saddles."

Yes, some of these messages could have been conveyed other ways, but there's something dramatic about a telegram. It has a flourish in the movies, as it has in real life. Sometimes its arrival reveals nothing of its message, while other times it carries the smell of death. A wartime telegram back home often meant something terrible had happened over there, an awful truth used by Steven Spielberg to set up "Saving Private Ryan."

Now that the telegram is part of the past, the movies will also move on. In fact, they already have, and that's fair. All we ask is that, if they remake "Breakfast at Tiffany's," we don't have to hear the new Holly Golightly on her cell phone saying, "So, like, he just blows me off. ... So I go ... and he goes ... and I'm like ... and he's like ... whatever...."

Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:09 pm

Greg -

I really enjoyed reading your 'telegram' anecdotes.

You never mentioned Bad Day at Black Rock when the mail clerk fails to send Spencer Tracy's telegram, leaving him in a lot of trouble...........

Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:14 pm

Greg. stop Good thread stop

It brought back memories of young guys on Post Office Red motorbikes speeding around manchester and other UK cities.

Thu Feb 09, 2006 6:01 pm


Thanks, gents! It's amazing to have been aware of them but in my relatively short life, they were just an artifact that I knew of from times past in movies, although occasionally I'd hear of someone sending telegrams to congress as a political stunt...


And I totally forgot the obvious Elvis connection!

Western Union
words & music by tepper - bennet)

Oh, western union clickety clack
I had a fight with my baby
Ooh how sorry I am
She won’t talk to me no how
I’m gonna send a telegram

Western union oh yeah
Send my lovin’ baby back to me

She won’t open my letters
She won’t answer the phone
When I’m a-ringin’ her doorbell
She says there ain’t nobody home

Western union oh yeah
Send my lovin’ baby back to me

Western union oh yeah
Send my lovin’ baby back to me

I love you is my message
Just three words and no more
If she won’t let you deliver
Slip it underneath her door

Western union oh yeah
Send my lovin’ baby back to me

Western union oh yeah
Send my lovin’ baby back to me


Thu Feb 09, 2006 6:20 pm

Speaking of Western Union............. One thing leads to another.................... :)


Liam Grundy, invited us to meet Scotty Moore backstage after the show. Magic moment!

Great band songs and singer that night.