Mail call: Letters, postcards send message from past
by Juanita Hughes, columnist
January 22, 2014 12:00 AM | 1014 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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I read an article recently about a new development in our ever-changing postal system. The current controversy concerns one particular retail chain where postal service is offered. I was reminded of Woodstock’s good fortune in having a postal service location on Main Street.

We can mail letters and packages there, buy stamps and use priority and certified mail, all without leaving our old-town comfort zone.

A couple of times over the years since it opened, there have been rumblings about closing it, prompting a flurry of letters to the postmaster general.

Although the “new” (1990) post office just off Highway 92 at Interstate 575 is convenient for many residents, those of us on the east side of town are much better served by the Main Street site located inside the Woodstock Pharmacy.

Even after the move to a new South Main location in 1975, there was no in-town mail delivery until 1979.

Eventually, most of the old-timers gave up their rental post office boxes in favor of home delivery, but still had to go to the main post office for other services.

When a postal window opened in the drug store, we had little reason to make the trek to the big facility.

During all of the years of changes of location and methods of delivery, there was the constant change (what an oxymoron!) of postal rates. A little research reveals just how dramatic those changes were, not just in those years, but long before.

When I was born in 1934, you could send a letter anywhere in the United States for 3 cents, or if you were short on cash, a post card would do the trick for a penny.

That did not change until 1958.

We moved in 1960 from our hometown, and I would be writing and receiving many letters during the following years since we would be away from family and longtime friends.

Postage rates had risen to 4 cents for a letter, and 3 cents for a “penny post card.”

I have a few pieces of mail addressed to me by my father in 1936. There are three picture post cards, all scenes of Denver, Colo. One-cent stamps brought them to me.

Cute little cartoonish drawings of people and pets were enclosed in some letters from him to me about the same time.

The letters have 3-cent stamps. It’s strange how those post card messages, written with pencil in tiny lettering to get longer messages (which I couldn’t read anyway) in smaller spaces, have come to be very meaningful to me.

In my search for relatives of my father and insights into his life, I finally, in the wisdom that comes with old age, can read between the lines and understand his feelings and concern.

I’ve come to really appreciate the fact that my mother kept these items for me.

It took many years to reach this point of acceptance. I heard from some of my new-found relatives during the holidays, and those cards and letters with stamps costing 46 cents are keepers also.

We exchange emails and phone calls as well, but I must wonder at what future generations will have to treasure. What items will they have to remind them of their memories? I may seem old-fashioned, but I still want to have something I can hold in my hand and put in a scrapbook or pack away with clippings and report cards and diplomas … and yes, letters with postmarks and 3-cent and 5-cent and 20-cent stamps.

I’ll confess here that I print out emails occasionally, just because I want to be able to see, in print, and recall some inspiring word from a friend or some announcement of a bit of good news.

But nothing (except for personal contact perhaps) is better than a letter or note. I know we complain about postal costs, but how can I put a price on the value of those things I’ve received for mere pennies?

All those birthday cards and sympathy cards, those letters from my mother when I was away from her, those notes and letters from friends back home and yes, even those utility bills and tax notices.

Our world today is limitless. A penny is almost useless. Yet I would not exchange, for 100 computers, the warranty deed and its description of our property, signed by L.A. Dean and noted by him, “bought Nov. 8, 1965,” and the envelope postmarked June 3, 1966, and stamped with a 5-cent stamp.

Just one of many treasures, postmarked and stamped.

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.
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