“FT, WU, and GTG”

February 9, 2006

December 21, 1940 A year or two back, a friend of mine sent his new girlfriend a surprise Western Union telegram to celebrate an anniversary. It wasn’t very expensive: less than $20 for an unforgettable love note is pretty cheap. I always thought that was a great idea, and I had it tucked away for that special occasion someday. But it turns out I’m out of luck: after 145 years, Western Union is discontinuing their service of sending telegrams. Aww. Verily, it is the end of an era.

Probably most people nowadays can’t remember the days when telegrams actually mattered. That’s why we have the CNY. With the stormclouds of World War II gathering on the horizon, Margaret Case Harriman reminded readers that not everyone was thinking dire thoughts. Some were spending their time composing and submitting “Pep-Grams,” pre-written congratulatory messages for those without the time or creativity to write their own messages. Some were employed as deliverers of Singing Telegrams. And some were busy forgetting their wives’ birthdays and pretending to be Western Union on the phone at the last minute — without success.