Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Early Air Mail

This picture was taken in 1938, and shows the Post Office's early investigation of shuttle air mail service. The picture shows the use of a gyro-copter to shuttle mail between the Washington DC post office, and the Washington airport. The gyro-copter could take off and land in short distances, and it was hoped it could make short-hop airmail service feasible. I guess the idea never really took hold.

I find it interesting to read the comments this week on the frustration people have with the post office. In my last job, where I had a high-tech start up company, I found it interesting to observe the difference between the service of Fed-Ex and the post office. The Fed-Ex truck would show up right on time. Once the truck stopped, the guy would literally jump out with the package, and RUN to our door. When he came in you noticed that he was dressed in neat, new, pressed shorts and pressed shirt. He was trim, and always had a neat, short haircut. He was courteous, and businesslike. He would greet us, deliver the package, and then RUN back to his truck. On the other hand, the post office guy would show up later than advertised. He had clothes that did not fit, his shirt tail was out, he had shaggy hair, and the front of his shirt was covered with mustard and ketchup from his extra long lunch break. He wandered around the building a little before finally coming around with our package, and then would tell us something that was wrong about the way we were using the post office. Interesting, I am not describing two people, but two organizations . . . all the Fed Ex guys were like the one I describe above, and all the Post Office guys were like the one described above. It is interesting how different private sector services operate vs. government services. Some day I will relay my stories from the Department of Motor Vehicles.


  1. My daughter shipped me a large box of Walla-Walla sweet onions. Well I should say a large box that had been torn and retaped that was empty except for some onion skins. The postage on the box was just under $20.00. The only thing that was on the box from the USPS was the retape and a sticker saying "RECEIVED IN DAMAGED CONDITION". You know they didn't take that box from her in DAMAGED CONDITION.
    They made no attempt to make things right with me or her, just the empty box with some onion skins.
    Granted that she did not put insurance on it, like you get free from UPS or FEDEX. But to deliver an empty box?
    That was the last time she used the USPS.

  2. One of the mail men that shows up at my office every now and then, looks like he just crawled off his Harley and slipped a USPS shirt over his old clothes. He looks so unkempt after he leaves I feel I have to take a shower and clean the area he had been in.
    Some of them are neat and clean, but like PJM states as a rule the delivery guys are an unkempt bunch.
    Shirt not buttoned and looking like they have them on for the whole week.
    And again as PJM stated both the UPS and the FEDEX guys are always neat and clean and their trucks are also clean unlike the USPS trucks.
    And how about those mailmen that have been caught lately with a basement full of undelivered mail, some of it was many years old.

  3. To Smart Girl:
    Oh, my "Good Ole Days" are back in the 50s too, but that story just happened to take place in the 80s.

    I do have another story:
    I send letters to grandkids every week. One lives in Anthem, AZ & she received my letters for months. Then I got one back as 'undeliverable'. I use printed labels that are all the same. My local PO said that the zipcode goes with Phoenix, not Anthem & that Anthem must be a substation. So, I changed all the labels to Phoenix. They were delivered for a month or so and now I am getting them back. Someone said I should just put the zipcode & no city, but I'm tired of paying for their mistakes.

  4. OH! for the good old days when people went to work (or anywhere) trying to look their best, not their worst.

  5. In defense of the Bradshaw, MD Post Office, I have to say our carrier is a doll. If we have a package to be delivered, she drives all the way down to the house (we live WAY out in the country) and leaves it and the letters at the end of the carport. If it is raining, she will even get out and put it further in so things don't get wet.

  6. You really said it!!! Most of the the mailmen around here look like they either just got off their Harleys, or they crawled out of a bar, or they're doing you a big favor.

    And . . . the difference between the FEDEX and UPS guys and the Postal Service can be summed up in two words - LABOR UNIONS.

    When people don't treat the jobs as entitlements, they are more conscientious, and I don't care WHAT the cry-baby liberals say!

  7. Anon:

    They either stole your onions for themselves, or they broke the box, or both. My bet is that they smashed the box and then someone took them home for themselves.

    Lady Anne:

    The reason you have a great mail carrier is becuase she's a FEMALE.

    Women always do a better job then men, sorry guys.

  8. The UPS guys are always HOT HOT HOT, even better looking than the FEDEX employees.

    I swear they make them submit model portfolios before hiring them.

    I LOVE those cute little brown shorts they wear in the summer!!

  9. Judi:

    OK, Now i feel better.

  10. There are a lot of facsinating details in this photo when you enlarge it.

    First of all, the wheels and legs on that helicopter look as if they would crumble when it lands. I've always been afraid of verticle flight aircraft.

    I especially like the glimpse of the tops of the cars sticking out above the rise in the ground. And it's a great view of the Capitol.

    But . . . does anyone have an idea what that white, pointy, conical-type structure is in the right background, in front of the trees?? It looks like it's in back of some sort of a wall.

    It almost looks like a rocket ship or a tower.

  11. Judi:

    use fedex or send the letters express mail, guaranteed delivery with a receipt.

    or, just go visit and bring them yourself?? probably more fun.

    don't try to reason with the USPS, you'll go insane.

  12. To expand on the drunk driving mailman. He is 65, and in his picture he looks like a lush. Now remember that he was clocked at over 10 MPH over the speed limit in a USPS vehicle at 10:30 in the morning.
    Officer could smell booze on him and did a field-sobriety test on him. He then was arrested for DUI.
    He also was convicted in 2002 for drunk driving.

    Now he on unpaid leave and may be subject to "discipline consideration"
    You know the UNION is got their nose in this with the words "discipline consideration".
    I suppose that him get to keep his job and go to rehab.

    Any other company would fire him.
    I don't know if it is still the rule, but UPS would fire an employee if they got in a traffic accident with the UPS truck.

  13. The gyro copter took off and landed just like a plane. The motorized prop on the front gave it forward motion, and the big unpowered blade on top started to spin from the wind passing by and gave it lift.
    The faster forward you went the higher you rose. Likewise the slower forward you went the lower you got.

  14. I can hardly wait until our medical profession becomes as efficient as the usps. It has been a recurring nightmare lately.

  15. OH DAN
    I am MOANING and GROANING over that thought

  16. Dan:

    you're a handsom guy - you sort of resemble my husband.

    rob: - that's a good guess.

  17. Since we're talking about the useless post office and the stupid idea of nationalizing health care, now that hurricane season is upon us, I have a little gripe. WHy is it that every year my hard earned tax money goes to all these southern states in the name of disaster relief. Really, I mean, most of the southern states citizens don't like big government so I think its a bit hypocritical for them to take "my" tax money so they can be afforded the privelige of living by the coastline. I have no problem with people living wherever they want to, but when wind rips apart your house don't ask me to pay for it. I had a new roof put on last month and no one helped me. People in the south need to be responsible and either move away or save money to pay for the natural disaster that is sure to come their way every few years.

  18. I have a drunk mailman story too!

    And since I obviously have nothing better to do than fool around on the computer this morning (as you guys can tell by the number of my posts), here it is:

    When we moved to our present home about 15 years ago, we moved from another city in the same state (R.I.) that was only about 5 miles away. We filled out the proper “change of address” form at the local post office about two weeks in advance and gave them our moving date. Then we moved on a weekend.

    I was working full-time back then, so I took the next week off to unpack. We didn’t get any mail for the first three or four days. I guess that is because they let the mail accumulate at the “old” post office for a few days before forwarding it.

    So, in the middle of the week, I’m working in the house, cleaning, etc.

    And all of a sudden, I hear this REALLY LOUD kicking, slamming and banging on our front door. Now this was when we had the mail slot in the door and an old aluminum screen door. It sounded like someone was kicking down the door, and I could hear someone swearing, too!

    So, I ran into the front hall just in time to see a HUGE pile of mail being jammed into the mail slot, and it’s all getting ripped and mashed. So, I reached down and pulled it through, and I called through the door “I’ll get it.”

    But before I could even straighten up, the doorbell rings. So I open the door, and there’s the mailman!!!

    For a fleeting second I thought he rang the doorbell to introduce himself and say “welcome to the neighborhood,” but this guy was definitely NOT Mr. Rogers!!

    There he was, face all flushed, squinty bloodshot eyes, with his sweaty, wispy red hair all askew, shirt untucked, and swaying back and forth like he’s in a hurricane. It was obvious that he was drunk. I just stared - and then he opened the screen door, pointed his finger in my face, and shouted “DON’T TOUCH THE MAIL!!”

    Then he turned on his heel and staggered down the steps without another word.

    Well, what does THAT mean - don’t touch the mail??? It’s my mail!! We could never figure it out. Then my next-door-neighbor told me that he was always drunk.

    And when I went outside, I found that he had kicked a big dent in the aluminum door and ripped the screen.

    He must have been trying to hold it open with his foot while he stuffed the mail in the slot, and he got angry when it wouldn’t fit all at once.

    We avoided him from then on - and I never gave him a Christmas gift, like some people do.

    We used to see his truck parked in the neighborhood about 9:00 am every day, but we never got our mail before 3 or 4 in the afternoon. My neighbor said that he spent the day up the street at Christy’s Tap before making his rounds. Fortunately, he “retired” after a couple of years.

    I find it hard to believe that anyone in the private sector could get away with that stuff for very long.

  19. Northern Boy:

    Good points. Nationalizing healthcare will be a disaster.

    But . . . the concepts of fiscal conservatisim and smaller government are rapidly moving below the Mason-Dixon Line.

    I'm at the point where I'd love to fly the Confederate Battle flag up here if I could get away with it.

    Blame the insurance companies, not the individuals for the hurricane stuff.

  20. We live in a suburb near Disneyland, CA and I put the red flag up on my mailbox for outgoing mail. The mail man is really nice and talks to us if we're home, since we are the second to last street on his route. We've had the same mail man for four or five years and he's always clean, friendly and courteous.

    However, when I lived in a very quaint "shades of the old days" old town plaza area in another town, the mail was completely messed up. Granted we didn't help them. I lived with a roommate at house number 540. A year later, I moved next door with a different roommate to house number 548 and used a change of address card. My new roommate went through a divorce and a name change. Then we took on a third roommate. A very nice couple moved into my old house at 540, then a year later moved away. The mailman would bring all of their mail, all of our mail and my roommate with the three or four different last names because she later adopted her stepdad's last name! I had to post a sign on the mailbox that had the names of who lived there and to please return to send any names that were not on the list. It didn't help much.

  21. We've always had male rural carriers where I live and they've been great and very punctual, also good at delivering mail with screwy addresses. In the rainy season, I keep a garbage bag at the back of the box and if there is a packege the carrier puts in the bag and drops it over my gate. They used to drive their own car, now they drive USPS vehicles. I really don't have any complaints about the USPS deliveries. The counter help at our local P.O. has either a poorly trained chinese lady whose English is so unintelligible she sometimes has to ask another clerk to 'translate' , or the really sharp and cheerful young fellow. You can see people droop when they have to deal with the chinese lady, and the happy grin when they draw the competent fellow.

  22. Why do DOGS hate mailmen?

  23. Northern Boy,
    Us southern boys are just as offended as you are about continueing to have to rebuild people who chose to live on the coast. This is not a Northern/Southern issue. They are taking from us all to pay the priveleged few who live with an oceanfront view.

    Your favorite Southern Boy,
    PJM (posting as ANON since I cant log in)

  24. Speaking of drunken mailmen, I have a story. I lived in the same apartment building on Manhattan's upper Westside for about 17 years and had the same carrier all those years. I used see him often and usually had at least a short conversation with him. I don't think I ever saw him sober. Having said that, I also have to say that he was very competent, outgoing and courteous. Judging from the other posts here, I guess not all mail carriers could work well while intoxicated.

  25. Really not fair to group all mail carriers into the same bunch and say they all suck. There are bad apples in every profession. We had to same guy for years; an older gentleman. When we had packages that wouldn't fit in our box he would bring all the mail to the front door and put it inside the screen. Also I've been told by more than one company don't send this UPS send it by regular mail as UPS kicks packages around,

  26. It's not "Southern States" that have hurricane problems, it's Gulf coast and Atlantic Coast residents. I assume that's what you really meant. Doesn't seem fair to lump them all together as "Southern states".
    I suppose one could make similar remarks about residents of Tornado Alley, flood plains and certain areas of earthquake country.

  27. Nice. I like it. I remember some early air mail.

  28. SmartGirl:
    I send 8 grandkid letters each week. Couldn't afford to send them Fedex or Express mail. I visit as often as I can. But we're talking 4 different directions of 800, 250, 1400 & 1500 miles.

    Re rural mailboxes. We had one in Dewey AZ but after a rash of thefts, we never left outgoing mail in them.

  29. SmartGirl:
    I send 8 grandkid letters each week. Couldn't afford to send them Fedex or Express mail. I visit as often as I can. But we're talking 4 different directions of 800, 250, 1400 & 1500 miles.

    Re rural mailboxes. We had one in Dewey AZ but after a rash of thefts, we never left outgoing mail in them.

  30. Oops. Sorry about the double entry. I accidentally hit 'enter' and then clicked 'publish your comment'. Judi

  31. We have the same issue here in Sydney. The mail staff all seem to be rough looking and not to look after themselves. I don't think that Australia Post promotes improvement though as long as the mail gets delivered somehow.
    They also use 'postie bikes' which are little scooters and they drive over anything in their path destroying flower gardens etc.
    I always send parcels by DHL, UPS or other courier companies.
    In movies I always see the Americans sending steak to each other. Do you guys actually do that?
    SmartGirl1953 you have been really active lately. It is a joy to read. Thank you.

  32. Lindon:

    Thank you. It all depends on how busy I am at home. I love this blog.

    I've always wanted to visit Australia.


    I do that all the time - sometimes this website makes my browser freeze and the posts go in twice.

    Wow, you have grandkids and I'm probably older than you. My daughter is only a sophomore in college.

  33. Lindon:

    Re the steaks, there is this online company called Omaha Steaks that are supposed to be really good.

    They send them all over, but they're frozen and it costs a fortune. They have other stuff, too.

    They make good corporate gifts - my husband uses them sometimes. But they opened a retail store right near me, and we got some steaks there once, but they cost twice as much as in a regular market.

    And there's also a company that sends lobsters all over the place -it's called "LobsterGram."

    I live in Rhode Island, which is in New England (the northeast), and the lobsters here are supposed to be the best, especially the ones from Maine. Everyone is crazy about them, but I don't even like them. They're too much work to eat and the lobster meat is loaded with cholesterol. They upset my stomach.

    You can check out Omaha Steaks and the LobsterGram out online, just for fun.

  34. There used to be a very silly employee on the Sean Hannity Radio show. She was a vegetarian and talked about it all the time. They sent her a Lobstergram as a joke and she naturally refused to eat it so she released it - in fresh water - so of course it died.
    I once won a gift certificate for Omaha Steaks in a raffle. I sent off for steak and received "gourmet frankfurters" instead. I thought "Oh well, it was all free" so I made franks & beans. The franks had no flavor - even the dog would not eat it! So I wrote a nasty letter and received tasty steaks by return.

  35. Thanks Smart Girl.
    I love this blog also and get into work early each day to check out the photos and the posts. Due to the time difference there are always lots of entertaining and informative posts to educate me and keep me amused. (Thanks PJM for enriching my life some more)
    It is also great to read about history from real people and to hear about current situations I dont get over here.
    I am lucky in that we have amazing steaks right on my door step so don't need them shipped but think that I would try to get them sent as a treat if I needed to.
    I also agree with the lobsters. Too much work to eat. My dad lives in a place called Batemans Bay and they have world class oysters there so whenever I visit I bring alot home and have a big oysters get together with my friends when I get back.
    I hope you don't get too busy any time soon Smart Girl so I can read more of your posts.
    I also miss Nate's comments. I will have to wait for the school holidays I think.


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