The Courier recently carried an editorial about what is at stake if the rural Milton routes are consolidated at the Janesville postal routes. Thinking about the local, rural post office brought back some treasured memories for me.
When I was growing up Walton County, we received our mail at the Oxford, GA, post office, which, when we lived there, was about the same size as the current Milton, WI post office and constructed with the same kind of yellow brick. Mom would drive to the post office daily to get our mail; if school was out, I was usually along, and Mom would entrust me with her keys and I would collect the day’s mail. Sometimes there would be a card stating that we had a package too big for the box, and I would take it to the window to retrieve the package.
Quite often the postmaster, Mr. Allgood, would be working the desk, and we got to know each other through these package pickups or the occasional stamp-buying errand.
When I was in high school I was nominated and interviewed for the Governor’s Honors Program (GHP). This was a program in which 600 high school students were selected to spend six weeks of their summer on a college campus studying a particular field. For me it was Communications (primarily writing). The first year I interviewed I didn’t receive the nice big manila envelope of acceptance; I got the single-sheet letter-sized “alternate” notification.
But, I really wanted to go to GHP, so the next year and I interviewed again. And I waited again for what I hoped would be a nice big manila envelope of acceptance. Mr. Allgood knew why I was haunting the lobby of the little post office every afternoon, checking the P.O. Box then asking him if there was any more mail that had not been put out.
“No, letter today? Michele.” He would ask.
“No.” I would sigh.
“Well, hang in there. You’ll get that manila envelope you want so badly soon enough.”
One Saturday Mom drove me to the post office, and inside our PO Box I found a package-pickup card. I really wasn’t expecting a package; what I had hoped to see was the U-shape of a manila envelope stuffed into our box. I took the package pick up card to the desk and handed to the postal worker there. Mr. Allgood heard me come in.
“I’ll get this one.” He called, and he came out, carrying a manila envelope. “I believe this is addressed to you, young lady.”
He handed me the envelope. I barely glanced at the return address before I started jumping up and down. “Thank you, Mr. Allgood.”
“Don’t thank me. You did all the work. Congratulations.”
The experience at GHP was everything I thought it would be. In that six weeks I met people who would become life-long friends. At the end of the summer the faculty and staff invited college recruiters to come speak to the GHP students. At that event I met the college recruiter from Wesleyan College, a college that I had never before heard of. But, I talked to her. And when my family returned from our trip to the Oshkosh WI fly-in, there was personal note from her in the PO Box inviting me to come down for scholars weekend to interview and try for a scholarship.
Because Wesleyan is a private college, the tuition was higher than the state college tuition my parents were willing to pay. The agreement with my parents was that I could visit and interview, but I wouldn’t be going to Wesleyan unless I got the full-ride scholarship.
I visited Wesleyan and fell in love. I began, again, haunting the post office. This time the letter came when I wasn’t with my mother. She drove to town to pick up her friend Sandy for a Christmas shopping trip. They checked the PO Box on the way to the store, and retrieved the letter from Wesleyan. Mom changed her plans and sped back home, risking an encounter with Oxford’s sole police officer, Mr. Farley, as Sandy held the letter up to the morning sunlight trying to discern its contents.
“I think I see the number 5,000,” she said, “Does that make sense?”
Mom stepped on the gas. “Yippee!”
I was surprised when I heard the car come to a screeching halt in the drive way and Mom bounded through the door. It was a single letter, so my heart fell. Surely a full-ride scholarship would come with more fanfare (as if my mother’s speeding wasn’t enough fanfare).
I opened the letter, and everything I had dared to hope for came true. I would be going to Wesleyan.
We go through life at break-neck speed these days—wanting instant communication and results. I’m not any different. I e-mail regularly from one of several accounts; I’m network over the internet. But, no e-mail has ever given me the same thrill as the airmail from Greece when I was “courting” my husband, or those letters from GHP and Wesleyan, or the packages for birthdays and holidays, or the letters with a poem and a one-dollar bill that my grandmother sent to me when I was a little girl.
We can bank online, buy our stamps online, pay our bills online, order and ship a gift without ever leaving our overstuffed arm chairs if we wish. However, when we do that we are losing all face-to-face interaction with other people. And, we don’t benefit from slowing down to hand write a letter with careful and caring thoughts. We also deny others the joy of receiving a letter or package in the mail that is addressed to them, personally.
So, I agree with the Courier editorial. We stand to lose a lot if we lose our post office. We stand to lose part of our humanity.
So, write, don’t e-mail, your congressman about the importance of the local post office. Think about that person from whom you haven’t heard in a while, and write that person a letter.
Save the post office: mail a letter today.
Copyright 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.