Legend:   Old lady who receives the gift of a radio from some schoolkids pens an interesting ‘thank you’ letter.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2002]

The following letter was forwarded by someone who teaches at a small high school in central Ontario. The letter was sent to the principal’s office after the school had sponsored a luncheon for the elderly. This story is a credit to all humankind. Read it, soak it in, and bask in the warm feeling that it leaves you with.

Dear School,

God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent senior citizen’s luncheon. I’m 94 years old and live at the local Home for the Aged. My family has long since passed away and I rarely have visitors. As a result, I have very limited contact with the outside world. This makes your gift especially welcome.

My roommate, Maggie Cook, has had her own radio for as long as I’ve known her. She listens to it all the time, though usually with an earplug or with the volume so low, I can’t hear it. For some reason, she has never wanted to share it.

Last Sunday morning, while listening to her morning gospel programs, she accidentally knocked her radio off its shelf. It smashed into many pieces, and caused her to cry. It was so sad.

Fortunately, I had my new radio. Knowing this, Maggie asked if she could listen to mine. I told her to fuck off.

God bless you.

Edna Johnson

Origins:   This tale about the gift of a radio being used by a senior citizen to spite her equally aged nursing home roommate has been part of the folklore canon for more than 40 years, circulating in the days before the Internet as an item of Xeroxlore. (One of the visitors to our site found among his late father’s papers a May 1967 letter that included it.) Versions of this piece have been making the online rounds since at least

1992, and in recent years it has been circulated in the form of a faux typewritten letter dated 1982:

The story employs many of our fears about old age as the set up for the joke: having to live out the end of our days in a nursing home, no longer having the autonomy of living alone,

having so little set aside that affording a small luxury such as a portable radio is out of the question, having to rely on the capricious kindness of strangers (rather than being able to look to family or friends) for small betterments, and being forced through reduced circumstance to share accommodations with a dislikable person. A dig is also made at those who observe the form of religion but don’t live its teachings — in this case, a roommate who selfishly hogs her radio uses it herself to listen to Sunday morning gospel programs.

It is the unexpected obscenity that completes the piece that gives it its punch. We are unaccustomed to thinking of seniors as prone to vulgarity, let alone considering them comfortable with using any of the more crude swear words. The old lady’s answer to the roommate who comes seeking a favor she herself had been unwilling to grant is therefore seen as shockingly incongruous and tickles the funny bone.


  • While a radio is by far the most common item featured in the tale, sometimes the contentious item is a hair dryer.

  • A variety of names are given to the venue where the described event supposedly took place, including the Hudson Assisted Home for the Aged, Safety Harbor Assisted Home for the Aged, and the Wilton Retirement Home.

Barbara “lady slings the blues” Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 October 2015


  Sources   Sources:

    Dundes, Alan and Carl Pagter.   Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire.

    Austin: American Folklore Society, 1975.   ISBN 0-292-78502-X   (pp. 32-37).

    International Times [London].

    4-18 May 1973   (p. 6).