Thursday, July 30, 2009

What a great quote!

I received an e-mail recently from Nancy Pope, curator and historian at the National Postal Museum, which, by the way, has a great Web site to visit! Maybe some day I'll make it to the brick-and-mortar museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institute.

The quote at the end of Nancy's e-mail is so great...I just have to share it with you:
"Don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet you feel you've done something."

— Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, July 1, 1925

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Air Mail

After our experience with the "pony express" last week, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little about what seems to be the opposite of the Pony Express...Air Mail.

For our family's entertainment one night last week, I chose a video of The Waltons TV show. The episode, "The Air-Mail Man," focuses on an airplane pilot who delivers mail. The Walton family is enthralled with the pilot and his very important job. His first concern upon an almost-crash landing is to get the bags of mail delivered.

U.S. Air Mail service began in 1918. At the time, Air Mail was a special delivery-type of mail, and postage was for an Air Mailed letter was much more than than non-Air Mail service. At the time, it cost 2 cents to mail a one-ounce letter. A one-ounce Air Mailed letter cost 24 cents, initially, but the cost quickly dropped to 6 cents per ounce.

In 1977, all mail sent within the US was transported between cities by plane. By 1995, all mail, domestic and international, was delivered by plane, and the designation of "Air Mail" was eliminated. With that decision, the words "Air Mail" were deleted from stamps.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pony Express delivery

The Pony Express has been delivering letters and packages to us this week.

Of course, our regular mail carrier has been depositing our U.S. Mail in the mailbox out by the highway, but inside the house, special deliveries are being made by our own little Pony Express rider. When our daughter was at camp a couple of weeks ago, one day the "Pony Express" delivered the mail to the cabins. Girls who were attending the horse riding portion of the camp delivered the letters from home.

So, that piqued my daughter's interest and imagination, and she's been saddling up her stuffed pony and riding it through the house, delivering letters and packages (most of which she's created herself).

I did a little research...the Pony Express delivered U.S. Mail cross-country from April 1860 to October 1861. From St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, there were about 190 stations, spaced about 10 miles apart. Ten miles was the accepted distance that a horse could travel at a full gallop. At each station, the riders switched horses. The riders changed about every 70 to 100 miles. They rode day and night, all year long.

The Pony Express ended in 1861, immediately after the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph connected California with the rest of the country.

The route has been designated a National Historic Trail. There are several sites along the way that have memorials, monuments, statues, etc., dedicated to the Pony Express.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning snail mail into e-mail

The New York Times had a story last week about the Swiss postal service offering a program that lets citizens subscribe and have their mail scanned and e-mailed to them instead of having it delivered the traditional way.

The Swiss Post is using a business that offers such services worldwide, but, according to the story, this is the first time the company has licensed its technology to a postal service.

This is the way it works, very basically -- instead of being delivered to your home, the outsides of the envelopes that are mailed to you are scanned (by the post office, if you live in Switzerland, or by the company you've hired, if you don't live in Switzerland) and the scans are e-mailed to you. Then, you look at the envelopes and choose from your options: having the mail recycled; shredded; opened and scanned and e-mailed to you; or delivered to you unopened.

I hadn't heard of this service before. Now, I have to wonder...are my letters really being opened and read, or are they being scanned by strangers. My Granny never had to worry about such things!

Friday, July 17, 2009

New National Postal Museum online exhibit

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum has a new online exhibit, "One Giant Leap for Mankind: Celebrating NASA and Apollo 11 Through Stamps." (I can't get Blogger's linking to work, but the exhibit is at: I'll try to update the link later, if it's working.)

It is an interesting exhibit, with pictures of a variety of space exploration-related stamps, as well as some photos of the actual events that the stamps were based on. Additionally, there is some explanatory history.

It's worth a look.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letter from camp

Finally, seven days after she wrote it, we received our daughter's letter from camp. Of course, she'd been home for five days already, but still, we were excited to get it.

It is a classic letter from camp, complete with 9-year-old spellings and stories of horseback riding, tie dying and forgotten items. There is one scary story for the parents...about a fellow camper who fell and hit her head and was taken to the hospital. I'm glad we didn't hear about that story until the week-long camp was over. The girl was OK but went home early.

Anna even included a couple of extras with her letter...a little note referencing a joke on a postcard we sent and a picture that she embellished.

The envelope was beautifully decorated with stickers of all sorts.

What a wonderful letter!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letters TO camp

My daughter is safe and sound in the air conditioning of home sweet home after a week at Girl Scout camp, where the temperatures reached 107 degrees and the cabins had no electricity, which means no A/C.

She received all of our postcards, letters and e-mails, and she even saved them all, re-reading them at home and asking me questions about what I'd written. "Where is this book you said you bought me?" and "What was that about Junior (the cat) catching a rat?"

The girls received their mail every day at lunch, she said. On Wednesday, the "Pony Express" (the girls attending the horse-themed camp at the same time and place as Anna's "Glitz and Glam" camp session) delivered the mail to their cabins.

The e-mails were sent via a service, and the camp counselors printed out the e-mails and handed them out, along with the postal mail.

Following the directions in the Parents Guide for the camp, I tried to write upbeat letters that gave her a little news from home without making her homesick. The hardest part was coming up with news from home...without her here, it was a quiet house. There was the cat with a rat incident, and we did stop by a bookstore on the way home from dropping her off. But, otherwise, not much was going on.

Still, I managed to write her a letter and/or e-mail each day she was gone, letting her know that we were thinking about her and that we knew she was having a good time.

Anna assures me that she was happy to hear her named called out at lunch to pick up her mail. And, happily, she said most of the girls she was around, likewise, received mail almost every day. Hurrah for letters to camp!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Some other projects have kept me too busy to blog much this week, but I'm still writing letters.

To tell the truth, I don't get many letters of reply in the mail. But I guess all of you dedicated letter writers expected that. I'm sure you, too, send out more letters than you receive. Seems as if most people are just too busy nowadays to sit down and write a letter. I wonder if the replies will pick up when the weather isn't so warm.

So that I'm not inundating family and long-time friends with too many letters, I've been writing letters to people I've found through this blog, on and at I'm not getting so many replies to those letters, either, but at least I'm writing to new people. I'd say my new blog-found penpals and one high school friend are the best at writing back.

Still no letter from my daughter who's away at camp. But, there's still today and tomorrow's mail. We'll pick her up tomorrow evening. We've sent her several letters, as well as e-mail every day. The e-mails are supposed to be delivered along with the postal mail, but there's no opportunity for the girls to send a reply e-mail.

But, despite mostly bills and junk in the mailbox, I'm persisting with the letter writing, aiming to keep the goal!

Happy Letter Writing!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" -- Camp Letters

We're busy packing for my daughter's week at Girl Scout camp. I know what you're thinking...tents, campfires, mosquitoes, roughing it.... Oh, no. Think again. My daughter chose "Glitz and Glam" camp with manicures, pedicures, massages and a fashion show. I'm sure there will be swimming, maybe some hiking, and surely some camp chores. And, the cabins and tents aren't air conditioned, so it's not really as spa-like as the brochure makes it sound.

When she went to Girl Scout camp a couple of years ago, we thought they'd have post cards and other letter writing materials in the camp store. Alas, no letters arrived. Of course, she was only gone for three days last time.

But, this year, she'll be away for a week, so I'm putting together a camp letter writing kit. We'll pick out some paper for her to write on and some matching envelopes. I know the risk in losing some money on the deal, but I figure I'll even help her address and stamp the envelopes before she leaves home. That way, she'll have it all ready to go and won't have to worry about keeping up with stamps and an address list.

Maybe this year I'll at least get one letter from camp.

The camp's "Parent Guide" warns, "If you receive homesick letters, please realize that the feeling your camper had when she wrote the letter have probably passed."

That made me think of the old Alan Sherman song, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp)." In the beginning of the song, it's raining, and the letter writer is begging to come home. By the end of the song, the rain has stopped, and the campers are swimming and playing baseball. "Muddah Fadduh please disregard this letter," ths song ends.
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