I don’t know about you, but I feel sorry for the United States Post Office.
They don’t have a chance against today’s technology, and they admit it. In fact, they’ve lamented they don’t see any glimmer of hope on the horizon and that technology will slowly and surely squeeze out the average consumer’s need to send correspondence the old-fashioned way.
The proof is in the pudding. Postmaster General John E. Potter recently reported to Congress that mail volume will drop an appalling 32 BILLION pieces in less than 2 years.
Two years? Yikes!
To battle the sharp declines, the post office is forced to raise rates. A postage stamp will jump to 44 cents each on May 11th, and we’ll see price hikes every May from now on. Which, of course, only keeps the cycle spinning – consumers won’t WANT to spend 44 cents and more on a letter, so mail volume will drop and keep dropping.
We’ve become a society where corresponding by email is as natural as breathing. We pay our bills online. We apply for jobs online. Some of us even send Christmas cards online, and thank you notes, and birthday cards online . . ..
Makes you wonder what those dedicated riders for the Pony Express would have to say about all this, don’t you? After all, it wasn’t so long ago that America was completely dependent on the Post Office to courier its goods all over the country. And some of those goods were mighty strange.
Here are some examples:
* A farmer shipped 1 and 1/2 tons of hay by parcel post from Oregon to Idaho.
* Harry Winston was kind enough to donate the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1958. He sent it wrapped in brown paper, first class registered mail.
Even more stranger:
Poisoned candy, loaded pistols, and assorted body parts in various stages of decomposition.
But in 1916, the Postmaster General put his proverbial foot down when someone shipped AN ENTIRE BANK BUILDING from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah–80,000 bricks packaged in small bundles. But an exception was made in 1941 to allow 9,000 tons of gold bricks to rumble from New York to Fort Knox, an endeavor that took an entire year and allowed the Post Office to collect an astounding $1,600,000 in postage, insurance and surcharges.
But my absolute favorite–or my most appalling, whichever you prefer–shipped goods was in 1914 when the parents of four-year-old May Pierstorff plunked 53 cents worth of postage on her suitcase (though some claim the stamp was glued to a tag on her coat) to pay for the 3 hour trip by train to her grandmother’s house in Lewiston, Idaho. They got away with it since it wasn’t technically against the law to ship a child. Never mind that it WAS against the law to ship a pig–or smelly Limburger cheese. But since the cost of a train ticket equated to a full day’s pay for May’s father, the local postmaster agreed on the basis that it was lawful to ship little chicks, of which he considered her such.
The story had a happy–and safe–ending. The baggage clerk delivered her promptly from the train to the Lewiston post office, where Grandma waited to greet her–a happily delivered product of the United States Post Office.
And yes, this is little May. How could her parents plunk a stamp on her and send her on her way, all by her lonesome?
What was the strangest thing you’ve ever shipped by mail or otherwise? What was the strangest thing you’ve ever received?
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