American Living– 80s Style!

coverLiving in the USA

Submitter: I just found this book on the shelf in our academic library.  Being 25 years old, some sections are more outdated than others.  Particularly amusing from today’s perspective are the bits about communication: public pay phones, long-distance phone calls, and telegrams!  I actually thought telegrams had gone by the wayside a lot sooner than 1988.

Holly: Anyone new to this country would be very disappointed to find out that pay phones are not in booths, gas stations, lobbies, etc. and that answering machines are not “becoming widespread,” but disappearing as voice mail takes over.  Western Union might have still sent telegrams in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t as common as this book makes it sound.

public telephones and long distance

telegrams and cables

getting in touch with people


  1. Western Union ran its telegram service into the 21st century. I did a newspaper article when they finally canceled it. Not that this makes the book any more useful.

  2. Fun book but sadly dated. I wonder how other countries’ corresponding books are; they’ve probably aged just as badly.

  3. You CAN still send telegrams — I sent one to my wife on our anniversary. Go ahead and keep that idea under your hat, fellas.

    1. My first reaction too — immigrants? It sounds like it’s written for a visitor to earth more likely. If I want to relay an urgent message fast, I DON’T use Western Union, but rather pick up this TELEPHONE device and talk into it?!?! Huh. Who knew?

  4. The telegram information would have been useful back then. Domestic long distance calls had gotten pretty cheap by the late 1980s, but international calls were still quite expensive, so for sending a brief message home a telegram still made sense. Letting the visitor know that this isn’t done at the post office was useful information back then. But I agree that this should have been weeded years ago.

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