Wednesday, May 9, 2012

pneumatic tubes in literature 4

Two fantastic paragraphs from Slaughterhouse Five (p7) about the connections made between institutions, by the brass and velvet pneumatic tubes, sent to me by my brother-in-law Andy:
While I was studying to be an anthropologist, I was also working as a police reporter for the famous Chicago City News Bureau for twenty-eight dollars a well. One time they switched me from the night shift to the day shift, so I worked sixteen hours straight. We were supported by all the newspapers in town, and the AP and the UP and all that. And we would cover the courts and the police stations and the Fire Department and the Coast Guard out on Lake Michigan and all that. We were connected to the institutions that supported us by means of pneumatic tubes which ran under the streets of Chicago. 
Reporters would telephone in stories to writers wearing headphones, and the writers would stencil the stories on mimeograph sheets. The stories were mimeographed and stuffed into the brass and velvet cartridges which the pneumatic tubes ate. The very toughest reporters and writers were women who had taken over the jobs of men who had gone to war. 
For those interested in learning more about the Chicago Postal Pneumatic Tube Company, you may enjoy this thread on the Forgotten Chicago Forum, about the mysterious manhole covers in the city. 

Image of the Chicago Postal Pneumatic Tube Company from the University of Illinois Library.

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