Occupation: Enabler

Filed under: Books — olivander February 16, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

A curious/squicky entry from the 1952 edition of 125 Ways to Make Money with Your Typewriter, by David Seltz.

Make-Believe Social Letters

The Plan
Writing “make-believe” letters to persons anxious to receive correspondence is a novel part-time occupation which is reaping substantial returns for an aggressive young man in Passaic, New Jersey.

How It Works
An aged couple, childless, wanted to receive “typical” letters from a “typical” child attending college; a spinster, denied romance throughout her life, requested “romantic” letters from a mythical lover; another woman desired letters that coached her on social and personal graces; still another person, unsuccessful in self-discipline, wanted letters reprimanding him in a fatherly tone. This correspondence filled certain voids in their lives. He typed the letters and sent them out at intervals, as requested. His customers were secured by placing an advertisement in his local newspaper announcing this unique service. He was surprised at the large number of requests for this “make-believe” correspondence.

Possible Profits
His rates are $3.00 a month, on the basis of a letter each week. With some 37 subscribers, he has been able to earn about $90 a month.


  1. I LOVE THIS. Must get my hands on a copy of that book.

    We could make a fortune.

    Comment by monda — February 16, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  2. Oh my god. That is a brilliant idea, particularly now. Olivander, I hereby declare that you resurrect this money-making venture. Are you hiring correspondents? Either that or I am going to nab this idea and write a novel about it. Brilliant.

    Comment by Strikethru — February 17, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  3. Monda, I’ve updated my post with a link to the online version of the book. Sounds like something that could make a good creative writing assignment for your students!

    Strikethru, I confess I had a momentary thought of placing an ad for this service in the local paper. While I’m sure some clients would have perfectly healthy reasons for wanting these letters, the whole concept smacks of the notion of propping up someone’s delusion. One of my very good friends is a shrink, and I can imagine she’d have all sorts of things to say about the ethics of such an enterprise.

    Having said that, this would be perfect NaNo material, and I think you should attack it with gusto. I don’t see why we couldn’t both use this as the basis for a plot, as there are endless possibilities.

    Comment by olivander — February 17, 2009 @ 8:23 am

  4. That is the awesomest idea, ever. Why didn’t I think of that?
    For some reason that brings to mind the scene in Amelie where she creates an ‘antique’ letter from her landlady’s deceased husband.
    I’m going to spend some time at that link, I predict. Very well done, Olivander.

    Comment by duffymoon — February 17, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  5. I think it’d be super-fun to do something along the lines of a compilation. Everyone could do a short story (typed, of course) on the subject, then it could be bound and hailed as one of the great novels of our time.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Comment by Mike.Speegle — February 17, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  6. Well, I think you’ve hit on how to mark Typewriter Day 2009, though I just read about a guerilla/art/typing thing that I might suggest as well.

    Cool, and also slightly creepy. I like it.

    Comment by mpclemens — February 17, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  7. Somehow incorporating this into Typewriter Day had crossed my mind as well. You could randomly match a personality with a typist, “Whose Line is it, Anyway?”-style. “Write a letter to the next person on the list in the form of…a Hollywood snake wrangler.”

    Comment by olivander — February 17, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  8. Form of… a Hollywood Snake Wrangler!

    Shape of… a dissatisfied housewife longing for escape!

    Wonder Typist Powers…. activate!

    Comment by mpclemens — February 17, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

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