Also, there were always two or three phone books lying around and almost everybody’s mailing address could be found there except for those who lived in post office boxes.
My, how things have changed. Phone books are dinosaurs since more and more of us don’t have land lines and we can find what we need online. Online info even includes zip codes … another “modern” fixture. It seems the larger our world gets, the smaller it becomes as we connect with each other in so many ways.
In the golden age before phone books and computerized contact lists, I grew up in a household which got mail in a post office box, regardless of our physical address.
Our mailing address was always P. O. Box 215, Dalton, GA, although at different times we lived on Spencer Street, Grace Street, on a rural route, and on Looper Bridge Road.
I discovered later, after my marriage, just how magical the postal service was. They could deliver mail when the address was only a person’s name and the city. In fact, for mail being sent to and from persons within the same city, the one word, “City,” sufficed for the location.
My friends, Sara and Marie Howell Poor, are said to have received mail addressed simply, “Sara and Marie, Woodstock, Georgia”! RFD, Rural Free Delivery, mail carriers knew all the families on their routes.
A simple Rt. 4 was all that was needed for me and the MOTH and our girls to get mail at our home in South Canton during the early 1960s.
During those golden decades, we had no way to obtain street numbers if we needed to send a letter to Uncle Joe in the Big City, but if we knew the name of the street, the accommodating mailman there would gladly deliver. (I’m always baffled now when occasionally mail is returned to me because the house number is off a couple of digits. Does the mailman not know that these folks live just down the street? Yet he can bring our neighbors’ mail to us even when it has their correct address on it. I guess that keeps us in touch with our neighbors.)
I’m thinking that it’s all because we’ve become too big for our britches. Perhaps there are little towns where the old methods still exist. In Dean’s Store, there are still packages of stationery where the pages and the envelopes are edged in black, a signal to the recipient and to the mailman that a death message is enclosed. Telegrams and the telephone replaced that touching method of correspondence.
But who among us does not still delight in the arrival of a personal note or letter in the mail. Even with constant email messages popping up, just to see a familiar handwriting and a friend’s return address quickens our pulse and causes us to be thankful for such a friend.
I love emails, but I do miss that feeling of anticipation, that tangible evidence of someone’s thoughtfulness. Of course, as Rebecca Johnston recently noted, while it keeps us in touch, it seems to deprive us of the neighborly atmosphere that once-upon-a-time defined us.
One of our neighbors in the late 1960s when we lived on the corner of Main Street and Barnesdale Terrace in Woodstock was Bertha Barnes. She knew the value of the handwritten word and often she by-passed the post office by sending her brother to deliver notes to friends.
In an era before Bertha’s day and before the use of telephones, that was one of the ways people communicated with each other. In-town folks sent notes of invitation or thanks or special news to their friends and neighbors via someone on foot.
Bertha’s easily-recognizable script always brought a feeling of expectation and excitement that I doubt today’s generation will ever know. I often hear comments about the precise and appealing handwriting of those long-ago generations, before typewriters and computers.
Their words were important and their feelings and thoughts, if they were to be preserved for future generations, had to be legible. Just imagine Robert Browning sending these words to Elizabeth in an email: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Today he would need a calculator to do so.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.