Today’s story on cbsnews.com about a Brooklyn woman receiving mail sent 45 years ago, if true, raises some questions about where those three pieces of mail have been all these years. See (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brooklyn-woman-gets-45-year-old-letters-from-loved-ones-in-the-mail/). Nevertheless, it got us thinking about how mail has changed over our lifetime.
By the time you hit the sixty year mark, you have received thousands of pieces of mail. Maybe that figure isn’t even close to the real total. Back in the Sixties the mail we received was a different mix from what is dumped through our mail slot today. For one thing, we got more letters from family and friends than we do now. Long distance phone calls were expensive. There were no emails, SnapChats, text messaging, and cell phones with unlimited talk plans. So we all relied more on letters to stay in touch.
Back then, whenever the two of us were apart we wrote one another almost every day. Joan still has many of the letters that Greg wrote to her. We don’t know, however, if any of Joan’s letters survived the test of time!
When we were first married in the early Seventies, we used to receive all our bills in the mail. There was no online banking or automatic payment, so we had to do things the old-fashioned way and put checks in the mail. Like they do today, magazines and packages arrived at our doors via the post office. But now, due to online purchasing and the fact that we are not as poor as we were back then, we receive more packages. On the other hand, because we do more online reading, we receive fewer magazines. There were mail order clubs just like there are today, but mail order record clubs, of course, are now a thing of the past.
It seems like the content of the junk mail we get has pretty much stayed the same through the years. Political ads and pleas for campaign money, marketing ploys, scams, donation requests, coupon mailers, catalogs, we got them all. We still get them all! Publishers Clearing House was sending its “you could be a winner” sweepstakes entries our way even back then. We don’t remember when those pesky “pre-approved” credit card applications started arriving, but we didn’t get them in our early years of married life (perhaps because we were poverty-stricken!).
In fact, when we were first married, we had to actively initiate applications for credit cards. Our first attempt was with JC Penney, and the company turned us down flat. Greg was in graduate school (a no-prospects scholar, apparently), and Joan was working full-time at a low paying job. I guess we weren’t considered good credit risks. As a result, a testimony to our long memories and grudge-holding, we never got into the habit of shopping much at Penney’s and don’t, even to this day. Our first credit card was a Master Card.
Over the years we’ve gotten some pretty strange stuff in the mail. In 1997 Greg (that’s Commander Shreve to you!) got an “OFFICIAL STARFLEET OFFICER I.D. CARD” from the Columbia House Company. Pretty awesome! Our young son Justin, always older than his years, received an AARP card with his name on it and an invitation to become a member. When our middle daughter Kristyn was in high school, Joan started to receive invites to apply to various colleges and universities. Joan even got mail from the military, asking her to join up. We think all that came about because Joan, using her own name, had purchased clothes for our daughter through some online clothing companies that targeted teenagers.
Sometimes the mail we have received has been unintentionally cruel. After our first son Jesse died because he was born prematurely, Joan received an invitation to a new mother’s tea at St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh where he had been delivered. After Joan’s father died from complications due to Alzheimer’s about a decade ago, mail began to arrive addressed to him requesting a donation to a popular Alzheimer’s charity.
When we read about the current financial difficulties of the Post Office and hear about possible cutbacks in service (good-bye Saturday delivery), we wonder about the future of the Service. Will it become another casualty of the modern age, replaced by email, digital delivery, and ubiquitous Amazon drones?