The Western Union Telegraph Company was listed in the village directory at the "corner of Broadway and Main Street" in 1936, and at 2 Broadway from 1938 to 1948, managed by Thomas P. Leahy, who lived at 84 Main Street. It was listed at 90 Broadway, the Berkeley Hotel in 1950.
According to Howard Riley, who delivered telegrams by bicycle after school, during World War II, there was a full-time Western Union Telegraph Company office, operated by Thomas Leahy, at 90 Main Street [?], adjacent today to the Blue Line Sports Shop. Winifred Finning was a telegraph operator there.
Telegraphy was an important means of communication in the early days of Saranac Lake.
Howard Riley wrote of his experiences as a telegraph messenger boy in his column in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on May 15, 2021: I used to deliver some of those telegrams [informing parents of the death of their soldier son] by bicycle after school, as did my pal Manny Bernstein. However, thank God, I never had to deliver one where the parents had not already been notified by telephone.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 25, 1954
By Eddie Vogt
There Have Been Some Changes Made ...
The last time I sent a telegram I realized that when I first came up here—back in the late thirties —that the Western Union Office was in Berkeley Square, where the C.C. Commo Shop is now. There also was a Postal Telegraph and, if I recall, it was in the store now occupied by Charlotte's Little Shop...
Plattsburgh Press-Republican, August 10, 1985
Western Union strike took its toll
By LIZA FRENETTE
Staff Writer Sara-Placid Bureau
SARANAC LAKE — The recent Western Union work stoppage, which ended this week, caused considerable delays for local people waiting to receive money.
In small Western Union offices such as this one, all the transactions are done by telephone because there is no Telex machine.
Dyer said the lines were constantly busy, and when a person finally got through they were inevitably put on hold. This usually lead to disconnection and then it was "back to dead air."
At least one person waited a full day to receive their money. Marge Hoffman of Comsec Ventures in Lake Placid, another local Western Union office, reports the same dismay.
Normally, she said, the system guarantees service within 15 minutes — this was far from possible during the 11-day work stoppage.
"A lot of people were unhappy," Hoffman said. Hoffman said the luckily, there were no serious crisis situations that resulted from people being unable to get their money in a timely fashion.
Dyer reports that one woman trying to get money to fly to her fathers funeral was even kept waiting.
"Its a very good system when it works." said Dyer, explaining just how the system works.
The person sending the money brings it to his nearest Western Union office. The money is deposited into a Western Union account, and then recorded on the computer. The person waiting to receive the money reports to his nearest Western Union office. The information is verified from the receiving office and a check is written out to the person waiting for the money. The money is then telexed out of the account.
The Chamber of Commerce began its service as a Western Union office about eight years ago after several other offices closed down. Dyer said she cannot remember a similar work stoppage during this time. Dyer said that locally, Western Union is frequently used by college students and inmates of the three prisons in the immediate area. The chamber is paid a small amount, usually about $1.25, for each money order it transacts.
Different amounts are also paid for telegrams. Dyer said that these are usually received for legal matters and emergencies locally.
Candy-Grams and flowers can also be sent with the telegram. system. Singing telegrams are no longer offered through Western Union, although in major cities there are usually private businesses offering this service.
Firms often telegram bid information or relay their interest in buying bonds via telegram. Dyer added.
Western Union also offers a special package for legislative matters. People concerned about pending legislative action can have a telegram sent to every Congressman.
On this receiving end, the chamber employees type up the telegram message on a Western Union telegram sheet. This is then delivered, usually by taxi, to the appropriate party