Thursday, July 31, 2008

Postmaster takes oath of office at Little League game

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and…the Postal Service?

Maybe the old jingle didn’t go exactly like that, but when Elk Mound, WI, Postmaster Deb Christopherson looked for a way to make her installation ceremony a fun community event she took her inspiration from the national pastime.

So on a sweet Wisconsin summer evening, Christopherson officially took her oath of office at the community park. Then everyone turned their attention to the baseball field (surrounded by corn, of course) for an unveiling of the Take Me Out to the Ballgame commemorative stamp. This was followed by a Little League game between the local Elk Mound 9-and-under team and the Eau Claire Americans.

The kids played, the crowd cheered and sang, and everyone stuffed themselves with fresh-grilled hot dogs and other goodies. “The people of Elk Mound are so proud of their community,” Christopherson said. “I’m just excited to be a part of this.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chew on this. Dogs and treats.

The Postal Service has a long-standing policy about carriers providing treats to dogs. In the past, it seems that it created a certain canine angst when the sub carrier would stumble upon the pooch who had been trained to expect his daily crunch.

A Minnesota television station ran a piece on this. Must have been a slow news day. One dog owner said, "They wait for him all day, I think. They look out here onto the street. I assume they're just waiting for him to come. They can tell when he drives up down the block, they're barking all the way when she walks up, scraping at the fence."

Me thinks this owner should spend a little more money on dog food instead of relying on the carrier to feed his animals.

What do you think about feeding dogs cookies? Bad practice? Good? What's your experience? Click here and tell Uncle Benny!

Photo courtesy of Kathy Wu

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carrier wins a car

Photo, Kingwood Observer, by permission

Kingwood, TX, Rural Carrier Marilyn Miller got the surprise of her life last week.A local dealership picked her name from among thousands of entries to win a new 2008 Honda Civic TX. Read the whole story here.

Her rural route was converted to LLV delivery a while ago, but the car will rack up plenty of miles without too much effort. Miller has a 100-mile round trip from her home near Houston to the Kingwood Post Office.

I won a horse once. But when I tried to ride it, the poor creature was so old that it's back swayed like a U and my feet drug on the ground. I took back the "prize horse."I'm hoping that Marilyn has better luck. It's nice when one of our own does well!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Longest Held Post Office Box?

In 1942 a young Todd County, MN farmer was called to serve his country in WWII. He held an auction to dispose of his property and headed to the county seat of Long Prairie. There he rented a Post Office Box in the modern new (built in 1937) Post Office, before he left for war.

Fast forward to 2008 and this 87-year old Norm Kitzman is renewing the same Post Office Box he’s held, continuously, for the past 66 years! He’s worn out 2 keys for Box 14 in those 66 years!

Norm was one of the first veterans in the area to return from the war. That was because he was wounded in action in Germany; taking a bullet to the hand.

When he returned home from the service, Norm took a job as a rural sub at the Long Prairie Post Office.

Some days Norm would have to deliver two routes in one day; delivering the route west of town in the morning and the route south of town in the afternoon. He recalls that during the Christmas season there were days he came back with more packages than he took out, as his appreciative customers lavished him with gifts of butter, eggs, and sausage from their larders.

Norm also worked as a clerk in the office before he left to work for a promising new print shop – Harts Press (now known as RR Donnelley).

I gave my box up in 1797. I should have kept it! Know of any other long-term Post Office box holders?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Postal Benny wins BIG

Congratulations to USPS Maintenance Custodian Benny Martinez, and his wife Julia, who won the $2.8 million Colorado Lotto in early June!

From one Benny to another, I figured it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, and so did all his co-workers. They said Benny works hard, has a great positive attitude, and is always willing to help out. He probably has been reading my Almanac to have acquired such good judgment and thrifty ways.

Martinez said he plans to keep working and doing the best job he can. “I really like my job and my co-workers. I feel very thankful this has happened, but I also greatly respect and appreciate working for the United States Postal Service.”

Sounds Benny was already a winner before the lotto!

What would co-workers say about the job you do? Would you keep working if you won the lotto?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"The moose is loose!" - Caption contest

What should the caption be on this unique photo (courtesy of my friends in Alaska).

What is your suggestion? Send it here:
If you dont have an account, its okay. Just choose "name" or "anonymous".

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another way to save on gas

Brian Lafler, Postmaster at Alliance, NE, participates in the annual National Pony Express Association Re-ride.

Brian is shown here in front of the Ficklin Springs Pony Express Station marker. Benjamin Ficklin had carried U.S. Army dispatches from Utah Territory and proposed that the government could provide express mail service using a horse relay.

The idea took off, and the Pony Express first ran in April 1860. They charged five dollars per half-ounce for mail (about $85 in today's money.) It ran once a week in each direction from St. Joseph, MO, and San Francisco, CA. Delivering in 10 days or fewer, it was better than the Overland Stage using 25 days, and the Mail Steamship Company which traveled through Panama taking four or more weeks.

We've come a long way at $16.50 for overnight Express Mail, but maybe USPS should take a look at delivering some mail by horseback again. What would the price of hay be compared to the price of gas?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We've got the power

Power outages are not uncommon in Steilacoom, WA. During the winter, high winds, driving rain, sleet and snow regularly flicker the lights.

But few expect the electricity to go out during the summer. Not so the case in Steilacoom Washington. City officials had warned residents in advance that power would be cut off for 12 hours on July 16, due to maintenance on its only substation which feeds electricity to its 2,600 households.

Virtually all businesses in the city elected to take the day off. However, the US Postal Service was available to provide full service.

“Our retail operations are business as usual” stated Tacoma, WA, Customer Relations Coordinator Dennis Shimomura. “We were able to provide our full service mobile van to service the customers of Steilacoom”.

Parked outside the Steilacoom Post Office in this quiet community by the bay, the van attracted many customers. Retail Associate Debby Spevak pointed out that in addition to her regular customers, many people stopped by just to say “Hi” and see what was going on. Business was brisk. “Selling ice cream?” was a question frequently asked by people passing by.

The mobile retail van is used throughout the Seattle District for various projects. The van was sent down to Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

Always ready to adapt! That's what postal employees are known for.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Postmaster earns Bronze Star & Combat Action Badge

Brighton, CO, Postmaster and U.S. Army Master Sgt. Karren Buchanan is back in her office after returning from a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Buchanan is Brighton’s Postmaster, but she is also a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army. She was stationed in Numiniyah, Iraq, about 80 miles southeast of Baghdad.

She trained, coached and mentored Iraqi Army soldiers on managing their supply systems. She was in a serious attack as well, which earned her the Combat Action Badge. The CAB is awarded to soldiers who are in hostile areas and perform well while engaging or being engaged by the enemy.

In addition to the combat award, Buchanan also received another high military honor -- the Bronze Star.

A big Benny SALUTE to PM Buchanan!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stinky mail

I was sent a real stinker in response to my "weird mail," question earlier this month:

"This wasn't as much strange as nasty. One day there was a horrible odor coming from our parcel hamper. So horrible that we had to segregate the offending parcel on the dock. Since the customer only lived three blocks away, the carrier bungee-strapped it to his trunk lid and drove carefully to her home. No one was home so he simply left it on the porch. A few days later the customer sheepishly approached him and told him that the box contained okra that had been sent, parcel post, from North Carolina to Minnesota. And the customer's friend who had sent it told her "it had already started to go bad before I mailed it." Yuck!"

I have my own story. I knew a trapper who regularly got rid of 'varmits' from rich people's homes. he would trap beavers that were cutting down valuable trees, get rid of squirrels that found their way into attics and ground hogs that dug up gardens and the like. On the side, he would trap skunks and then milk their 'stink sacks'. He would put the liquid into vials and ship them to hunters supplier who would repackage them into 'hunter's cologne,' to mask the human smell. This trapper sent the vials through the mail. Of course, they were sealed -- but it was never enough to keep out that p.u.!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

150 years is a long time -- for some

Holmes City, MN, reached a big milestone last week -- 150 years. That may sound like a long time to some of you, but realize that I'm 302. Still, it's a big deal for a town.

It looks like they threw a big party. Of course, the Post Office was there to celebrate with the rest of the fine citizens of Holmes City. I'm sure the P.O. was there on Day 1. The establishment of a Post Office was the first step for towns to gain legitimacy, to be recognized.
Did you know that at the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 90,000 Post Offices? We've definitely been more prudent with our resources since then.

Some nice pictures of the the event were sent to me by Rural Carrier Associate Mary Bolas.
Below is a photo of Officer-in-Charge Mary Kilpo, who sold collectibles at the event.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Take me out to the ball game

Back in my day, we would have never dreamt of paying money to watch grown men run around a diamond after hitting a ball with a stick. I must admit that while I understand apple pie and mom, I don't understand this game.

But that doesn't mean it's not a big deal for the millions that passionately follow baseball. If I had a favorite team, it would be the Philadephia Phillies (of course.)

One song that captures the essence of nostalgia for baseball is "Take Me Out to The Ball Game", and the Postal Service is honoring the 100th anniversary of that tune with a great stamp.

Our friends over at Stamps of Distinction have a great post on the story behind the song. Pretty interesting stuff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

She gets her wish

Retired Postal Nurse Marian Huggins is now a young 87 years old. She retired when she was 72, and has been able to accomplish almost everything she's ever hoped to do -- done most everything she has ever dreamed of -- except to ride on the back of a hog.

She got her wish to come true, thanks to Spokane Retail Associate Marvin Olson, who gave her the spin of her life on his Harley.

What's the one thing you want to do after you retire? I just wanted to fly a kite, and look where it got me?

Monday, July 14, 2008

It's hot in Vegas!

Today, it will be a scorcher in Las Vegas -- probably will get up to at least a 140 degrees. They say it's a dry heat. But an oven is a dry heat. A roaring campfire is a dry heat. And most likely, hell is a dry heat.

Redbook is adding fuel to the fire by naming one of our own, Las Vegas Letter Carrier Brendan Doane, as "America's hottest husband." He and his wife won an eight-day cruise to Tahiti.

I'm in no position to say anything. I realize that I'm a little frumpy and I can't do a thing with these curls! But, have you ever seen me trot into town with my mail bags full? Have you ever seen me with my glasses perched on the end of my nose? Have you ever seen me debate? Redbook, reconsider!

Friday, July 11, 2008

More eagle envy

This turkey vulture still hasn't got over the selection of the eagle as the official bird of the U.S. and the symbol of the Postal Service. Remember, I wanted you, my friend!

(Photo, courtesy of Preston Surface, who is a distribution clerk in Wamego, KS )

This isn't the first time this has happened. We have already talked about wild turkeys that actually invaded a postal dock, and another story about turkeys attacking Wisconsin carriers. We also have had a discussion about my idea to replace the eagle with the turkey.

Wamego, KS, Distribution Clerk Preston Surface, who took the above photo, thinks that this vulture is saying to our competitors, "Lead, follow or get out the way."

What do you think is going on the aviary kingdom?

Sorting flats

In my day, newspaper printers often served as Postmasters because Postmasters decided which newspapers could travel free in the mail ... or if they could be mailed at all. That confounded Postmaster who preceded me in Philadelphia -- whose name I refuse to utter -- barred my newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, from the mail entirely! All to benefit his namby-pamby little paper. The nerve!

Well, I stopped that practice tout suite, let me tell you! Thanks to me, all newspapers could be mailed for a small fee. And that fee helped make the British Crown Post in North America -- Can you believe we called it that, back then? -- profitable for the first time.

Of course, we sorted newspapers, catalogs and other flat mail into little cubby holes, like today's carrier cases. (And didn't I invent that system, too? I can't recall …)

But just look how we'll be sorting flats tomorrow. What a difference a couple centuries make!


What do you think of this new system? Have you ever seen the likes?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Deal Era murals

Chase Davis, the son of a Postmaster, sent this wonderful article he wrote about New Deal Era murals:

"My grandma told me about how Franklin Roosevelt was the first president she was able to vote for; Mr. Roosevelt’s legacy still stands in almost every town and city in the United States.

During the Great Depression FDR’s New Deal put many people to work. Some of those people were artists. About one thousand Post Office murals/sculptures survive today from the Great Depression. Many people don’t realize the treasures they have in their local Post Office.

I have photographed New Deal artwork in more than seven states and haven’t even scratched the surface. Like a scavenger hunt I’ve tracked down murals and sculptures in Post Offices across the United States.

One of my more memorable trips was in Helper, Utah, a very small town surrounded by the walls of a large canyon. The Post Office mural in Helper is only one of three in the entire state, it titled “Western Town” and depicts men on horses in an old western style street, and it was painted in 1941 by Jenne Magafan.

Most of these artworks are fresco style murals that were painted by artist who were supposed to relate the subject matter with the area and lifestyle in which they were painted. Agriculture is perhaps the main focus of the majority of the murals.

I like how these murals remind us of America’s agricultural past. One of my favorite murals is entitled “Products of Missouri”, which hangs in the Monett, MO, Post Office. It was painted in 1939 by James McCreery. The scene depicts a hen and rooster near the railroad tracks surrounded by a plethora of produce from peaches, corn to tomatoes and blueberries. Although the mural is nearly 70 years-old, it looks like it could be brand new.

Some murals around the country are in danger, though. Many have been flooded, stolen, destroyed or discarded. I hope that other photographers and I can document these murals so there is a record just in case more are lost forever. I hope these murals and sculptures are around for many years to come so that Americans can remember the hard times and the resolve of the people during the Great Depression."

--- by Chase Davis, with permission
See his photos

Got your own New Deal mural in your office? Send me a photo and a description to

Products of Missouri”, which hangs in the Monett, MO, Post Office

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In with the new

Out with the old, in with the new.....
The delivery boxes at Node, WY, were recently replaced.

I like this modern new version, seems readily accessable and still secure. Perhaps they should be named "Benny Boxes"?
The old boxes at my Post Office could use an upgrade.
My, how have times changed!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Then and Now

We are an aging postal workforce. Just look at me! More than 300 years old, and still going strong.

One youngster, Bob Fisher, entered on duty May, 1978. Here we are, 30 years later and things have changed! Bob, who is now the Postmaster of Milton, WA, was featured in the Oct, 1982, Seattle Postal Dispatch. Inset, is his photo today. Same guy?

Send your before and after photos to

Monday, July 7, 2008

Benny does catalogs

You know I don't like to brag, but I was reminded by the postal newsgroup that I was the very first customer to send out a mail order catalog. It only happened 300 years ago, so I nearly forgot. I had a list of science and technical books available from the libray (that I founded too, by the way.)

It was just my way of getting information into people's hands. And, a trillion or so catalogs later, it still works.

They said the Internet would make them obsolete, but some days, my satchel is pretty heavy with them.

What do you think of catalogs? Do you shop with them and why?
Drop me a note.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Saturday delivery -- a poll

Yesterday's post about Saturday delivery generated some buzz.

Here are the possiblities as I see them:

A -- Keep things the way they are.
(We've done it for hundreds of years and it's not worth the PR and service hit.)

B -- Skip Saturday delivery.
(Catch up on Monday. Perhaps we could still deliver P.O. Boxes on Sat. Just no physical delivery)
C -- Deliver on Saturday, but skip delivery on Tuesday
(Tuesday is a light day anyway.)

D -- Another possiblity.
(Use the 'comment' tab below to tell me your alternative.)

I've commissioned a poll of the fine readers of this blog. It is on and is right on the right side of the front page. You can vote anonymously, so let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Saturday delivery -- good for us?

The House Appropriations Committee has approved an amendment by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) that would require USPS to study the cost effectiveness and fuel consumption of a five-day delivery system and consumer demand for Saturday postal mail. Kingston calls it a "a perfect example of government waste that is driving up the price at the pump.” He says reducing delivery to five days "would immediately save 20.8 million gallons of gas."

Mike Burns, a letter carrier in Tempe, wrote Your Postal Blog and also thinks it's a good idea.

He said, "I think it's way past time the Postal Service gave a serious look at discontinuing Saturday delivery. Who needs mail six days a week? I know I don't. Now would be the best time to implement the non-Saturday Postal service due largely in part to the sagging economy and gasoline at record highs. Parking the postal vehicles one extra day per week would save the Postal service millions, if not billions of dollars each year. The public would really not care if you think about it. There has never been a better time than NOW to make this happen."

So, what do you think about six day delivery? Click below to give your opinion.