Our local mail carrier delivers an assortment of mail to our door six days a week, most of it junk. But I look forward to reaching into my mailbox, grabbing flyers and envelopes and scanning through the stack (can I fall any lower during quarantine than when a highlight of my day is getting the mail?) Sometimes there are items besides junk sprinkled in – a bill or two (most bills appear via email), a thank you note (occasionally), an invitation, catalogs, packages of must-have items ordered online, and perhaps an actual letter (I have not received one of these in – oh, I don’t know, months or years).
The post office is owned by the federal government but operated as a private corporation overseen by a Board of Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. USPS, the U.S. Postal Service, is a service most of us use regularly. Unfortunately, it is threatened with extinction.
|In small towns and rural areas post offices were small structures|
like this one in Florida, or in the general store.
Sure the post office does not make a profit and runs a deficit every year. The federal
government also does not make money and often generates a deficit. But the post office, its buildings and employees are beloved members of our communities. You never know if you will see a neighbor and chat for a few minutes. Sometimes lines get long, but...the variety of stamps for sale are appealing, educational, and works of art. And the post office employs thousands of people, extremely important when unemployment is in the double digits.
|The post office is in this retail store.|
Yes it is a large unwieldy bureaucracy. But so is government and we’re not going to throw that away so fast (although maybe we should, but that’s a discussion for another time.).
The post office has been an integral part of our society since Ben Franklin became the country’s first Postmaster General in 1775. It is part of our history. The Pony Express, although short-lived, captivated folks when it began in 1860. In 1913 parcel deliveries began. Americans, ingenious folks that they are, came up with the idea of using the mails to send their children...wherever. An Ohio couple spent 15 cents, plus $50 to insure the youngster, to
mail send their son to his grandmother’s home a mile away. For long distance travel it was cheaper to send a child via mail than buy a train ticket.
The practice of sending children via the post office did not last long. The method was obviously controversial. In 1915 the last child mailed was a three-year-old sent 40 miles by her grandmother to visit the child’s sick mother.
Although the last documented child sent via the mail was in 1915, as late as 1920 two applications to mail children were rejected because they could not be classified as “harmless live animals”. Any man or woman who has raised kids can understand that decree. On June 13, 1920, the Post Office announced children could not be sent via parcel post under any circumstances.
I lament the fact that another hallowed slice of our society may soon be consigned to the trash heap of history. With any luck it will not occur until after we all mail our ballots in November.