MANSFIELD -- Six years of taking and sending out messages that range all the way from marriage proposals to urgent requests for money has resulted in an insight into the hidden characteristics of people's minds that they ordinarily divulge only to their nearest and dearest friend.
This has been the experience of Miss Mary E. Old, delivery clerk of the Western Union Telegraph company.
When the company moved from their old quarters on North Main Street to their present location, Miss Old began working for them and took over the charge of delivering messages and seeing that the messenger boys did their part of the work well. To have charge of the sending out of from 75 to 150 messages each day, to take as many over the phone from those wishing to send them, and to accurately account for all messages that come under her supervision is just part of the work that Miss Old does.
Three messenger boys are kept busy all the time, although all telegrams that can be phoned to private homes are done so, in order to insure a safer and quicker delivery.
"Our messenger boys," said Miss Old, "have to be at least 16 years old before they can work. We have been particularly fortunate in having our boys stick to their work for quite a while. So many times boys will stay not longer than two months, then new ones have to be broken in. A number of our boys have become interested in telegraphy, and so advance."
"I suppose, Miss Old, that you receive and take many queer messages during the day?"
“Yes,” she said, “and some are very mysterious. Many odd things go in messages that we think sound very queer and often wonder just what is taking place. And so many people say things in such a funny way. When we find that things might be misconstrued, we try to put them intelligently but often those sending messages will insist on saying things in their own way regardless of how it sounds. Of course, messages we receive have to be delivered over the phone just as we receive them."
"Has so much experience helped you to classify people?”
"Yes indeed. I know almost instantly when someone comes in whether they are going to send a sad message or a glad one. And I can tell a salesman, always, by just the way he comes up to the counter. We have funny experiences with those who have just been married. They generally, not always, come in giggling and laughing and rather embarrassed. We treat them just as we do anyone else and try to put them at their ease."
"What is the shortest message you have ever taken, Miss Old?”
"I can't tell you any particular message, but many of them contain just one word. Sometimes when someone has asked a question, the answer will be simply “yes” or "no." We have many like that. The longest messages sometimes run up into 350 words."
"Do you send many code messages?"
"A great many of them," she answered. "The manufacturing plants send practically all of their telegrams that way. Those, of course, we never know anything about. But we have become so used to taking messages from the business executives in Mansfield, and have become so familiar with their technical terms that we can often tell when a mistake is made. The big plants send messages all over the world and they are most always telephoned in. The offices down town have their boxes for ringing in for messenger boys, but other business places generally telephone in what they want to send.
"My work," she continued, "never gets monotonous. Something different and funny happens every day and a great many times a day, perhaps. Another part of my work that I haven't mentioned is the checking of night letters. That is the first thing I do when I come in the morning. Although we never send code or business messages in night letters, still there are quite a number of those to look after."
"Is there any particular time of the years when the messages increase?” I asked.
"Always at Christmas and Mother's day. Generally the messages are wishes for good luck and happiness."
And so it goes, day after day, with little personal experiences that exclude the possibility of any day becoming more monotonous than the other. What Miss Old learns about human beings would make a good Friendship Village story, with the romance centering around the telegraph office.
Outside of office hours, Miss Old finds enjoyment in reading about the folks of whom she gets such good first-hand glimpses during the day and in studying business problems that perhaps equal her own.