Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Postmen on Scooters

OK, we got lots of great comments yesterday. Nothing like talking a little trash about the Post Office to get people wound up and posting comments. I enjoyed reading your stories. Today's picture is from about 1915, and shows Postmen on motorized scooters. At first, I thought they must be electric scooters, but on further examination, I don't see anything large enough to be a battery, so I have decided they are probably small gas engines. Batteries were pretty inefficient at that time, and the battery would have needed to be pretty big.

Since everyone was telling their post office stories yesterday, I thought I would throw one in. As I have mentioned before, we home schooled our daughter k-12. When she was in 1st and 2nd grade we had a lot of fun. Her home school group would go on lots of field trips. The kids LOVED the field trips and got to go see lots of neat things. They went to places like the fire station, the police station, the hospital, the TV station and the National Guard armory. In all cases, the people were extra nice, and really showed the kids the inside workings of wherever they visited. So, they would get to sit inside the news helicopter, operate a camera, or turn the siren on on a fire truck. These field trips were always the high point of the kids week, and people really were nice to show the kids neat things. Well, there was one field trip that did not go well. Her group took a tour of the post office. The person giving the tour was very nice. She took the kids back into the post office, showed them where the mail came in, showed them where the mail was sorted, and then showed them how it was delivered. So, the person was nice enough. However, when the kids got back home, all of them started crying, and started having nightmares about the post office. I found that interesting, because you would think that all the other things that they had seen at the other places could have been much more disturbing than the post office . . . I had thought the post office would be about as benign as you could get. Well, I guess when they were in the post office, the lady showed them the warehouse sized room where they sorted the mail. She showed that the upper part of the large room had two way mirrors, and told them that behind the mirrors were people who watched the workers to make sure they did not steal anything, and made sure they kept working the whole time. Then she talked about how the mail just kept coming and coming and coming, and they had to get it moved through before even more mail came. As an adult I did not think much about it, but all the kids came away very disturbed. Again, it was not just my daughter, but it was all the kids that went on the tour. I then started to remember all the stories about shootings at the post office, and other problems that had occurred. Perhaps there is a really bad social environment inside the post office, and the kids picked up on it.


  1. You can see a little one cylinder air cooled engine mounted on the front tire.

  2. Funny... you rag on the private sector power company then on government sector places as a whole.

    Isn't it time you change your Defining Moments picture? Great picture of Lincoln, but it's been there for months and inquiring minds need to see what you will come up with next.

  3. PJM:

    Your post office story is really great. And . . . my husband always says that the reason people "go postal" and start shooting at the post office is because they can NEVER get caught up with the mail

    It just keeps coming . . . and coming . . . and coming!!

    But . . . . if they DID get caught up, then they wouldn't have jobs (or as many jobs), would they?

    And that's sort of what's happening today, with e-mail!!

  4. When you enlarge this photo, the detail is very clear.

    These scooters are really cute. But, how did they deliver or pick up the mail on these things - where did they put the mailbags - on their backs?

    And what about in the Winter or bad weather??

    PS - If you enlarge the photo, take a good look at the second guy from the left. I think he's the one who kicked in my screen door!!

  5. Your story about the mail coming and coming reminds me of the old Jackie Gleason skit about working in a cake factory!

    SmartGirl mentioned "going postal", and she has an excellent point. For whatever reason, the PO execs seem to feel that people respond best - and only - to discipline, never rewards. That'll get a responce, for sure, but not always what they have in mind.

  6. How absolutely telling that the children picked up on the 'work environment' within that post office. And to have it come back in such a negative way is quite curious.

    I recall a field trip to the telephone company while in high school. It was linked to a "career day" theme.

    That was a truly enjoyable excursion. One of the things we saw were the banks of mechanical switches for 'automated' phone calling.

    How amazing that digital technology has brought massive improvements in the way we communicate by phone.

  7. We never had field trips high school that I can recall.

    Only in elementary school.

    Lady Anne:

    Your are SO right. For some reason the USPS employs a sort of "para-military" management style that makes these people either take their jobs WAY too seriously, or they hate them and flip out.

    I have ONE more great mailman story to tell. There must be something wrong with my zip code.

  8. Lady Anne:

    And what about I Love Lucy when she and Ethel worked in the candy factory - with the chocolates on the assembly line

    Same thing!!

    That episode was always my favorite - I STILL love "I LOVE LUCY"!!


  10. I wonder if these were Stirling Cycle scooters? Just push yourself along until the engine fires up and let it push you on down the road.

  11. Downtown Indy:
    It's an Autoped scooter, manufactured on Long Island in 1918. More information here:

  12. I'm reminded of a rural mailman I heard about many years ago by my former intended's parents who did not wind up being my in-laws. Confused? Sorry. :-) They lived in Oklahoma in a very small town of about 700 people. Everyone knew the mail was spotty and often times friends and relatives would say "did you get the card?" or whatever, and of course the answer often was no, they had never received the letter.

    After the local mailman left the area, someone new bought his old property - a big lot maybe 5 acres, which was common there. As the new owners were touring the property, they looked over this one small hill into the dried up pond back there....and there was a huge pile of mail!

    Turns out that if the mailman couldn't or didn't want to finish his route, he would just throw the rest of the mail in the dried up pond bed. So of course, the USPS had to come out and collect all that mail - 7 or 8 years worth! - clean it up and deliver it if possible! There were checks, birthday cards, bills, everything. The former mailman wasn't able to be located and never was prosecuted for whatever the charge would be.


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