In Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, part of the story is told through notes that Sylvia Barrett sends to other teachers. For example, the first one goes

FROM: Mrs. Beatrice Schachter, Room 508
TO: Miss Sylvia Barrett, Room 304
Dear Syl—
Welcome to the fold! I hope it goes well with you on this, your first day. If you need help, just holler; I'm in 508.
What's your program? Can we synchronize our lunch periods?

In chapter 2, Sylvia and Beatrice seem to exchange seven notes within a single day of work.

How were they sent? Did they ask students to deliver them during classes? During breaks? My imagination runs rampant and thinks of pneumatic tube transport, but surely this wasn't the case in 1960s US schools?

  • +1 for pneumatic tubes. One can only imagine how creative students get sometimes. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 21:05
  • Teachers' aides or students currying favor, I imagine. Possibly dropped in a teacher's mailbox in a central office. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 9:44

1 Answer 1


Intraschool Communications along with various memos + missives from management seem to be placed into pigeon-holes (referred to as "boxes" or "letter-boxes") to be collected between periods. This accounts for the large number of messages since most high schools in the 1960s would operate a 6-10 period-per-day system.

FROM: 304 TO: 508

Dear Bea—
What am I supposed to do about the number of basketballs I need?

FROM: 508 TO: 304

Nothing. Notice was put in your box by mistake.
Health Ed teacher is right under you.


FROM: 508 TO: 304

Dear Syl— Your letter-box is crammed to the gills, as usual; I hope I can squeeze this note in!
I'm supposed to lure you out of 304 during the homeroom period today: I promised your cherubs I'd think of something! They want to collect money for your Xmas corsage; it's traditional, and every year every teacher pretends great surprise at receiving it. (The one with the biggest corsage wins!) So be sure to drop in to my room — on some pretext or other.

There's also the mention of teacher's aides who could be used to shuttle notes around.

Purely for interest, in the play version, the stage direction is that slips and notes are brought by hall monitors (student trustees)

(Stops as she sees a girl, FRANCINE GARDNER, who approaches her with a slip of paper. FRANCINE is bored, looking about indifferently)

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