Happy National Postal Worker Day!

If you see a postal worker out and about over the next few days, be sure to tell them thanks! Those kind words of gratitude will be spoken just in time for National Postal Worker Day on July 1.

This particular national day was started by Seattle-area postal carriers back in 1997 to honor their fellow employees. It continues today to recognize postal workers across the nation who consistently and diligently deliver all our mail. These employees work through some of the harshest conditions, like the brutal Georgia heat we’re experiencing as of late, yet continue to persevere six days a week.

In honor of National Postal Worker Day, The Crossroads Chronicle reached out to Andy Simmons, postmaster of the Swainsboro branch of USPS. He provided the following statistics:

Swainsboro serves a total of 5,374 deliveries, covering 662 miles every day except Sunday. Adrian serves a total of 991 deliveries over 219 miles; Kite a total of 655 deliveries over 125 miles; Twin City a total of 1,607 boxes over 351 miles; and Garfield a total of 359 boxes over 115 miles. Stillmore and Nunez only have P.O. Box service. (Unfortunately, data about the Oak Park, Midville, and Summertown areas was unavailable.)

Swainsboro’s office, Simmons added, currently employs 31 people. In addition to the delivery and retail operations, the Swainsboro branch hubs all the mail volume for 40 additional offices.

For privacy reasons, a list of employee names, their respective titles, and how long they’ve been with USPS could not be released in response to The Chronicle’s request, put forth in an effort to highlight every individual.

Nonetheless, Simmons says he’s extremely proud of his staff, today more than ever.

“I’d like to thank all of the employees of the Swainsboro and Nunez post offices, as well as all other postal service employees, for their hard work and loyalty,” Simmons stated. “Through unprecedented conditions and volume increases, they have continually provided outstanding services to the citizens of our area and Emanuel County.”

Stephanie Steinburg Fleming is just one of those employees. The Crossroads reached out to this 15-year USPS veteran for some perspective about the job. Despite the long hours and frustrating situations that are sometimes beyond the post office’s control, she says the personal connections are the best part of what she does for a living. Those connections make everything worth it.

“My absolute favorite thing about working with the post office is when someone desperately needs something—a package, a paycheck—and I can get it to them. There are so many times that somebody has an address change and forgot to inform the sender. They’ll call in a panic, and we can usually track it down. I’ve gone up to the office on a Sunday when it’s closed and gone through boxes of packages to find a person’s passport who needed it because their flight was leaving in the morning before he would get his mail and he had to drive to Atlanta that night. On Christmas Eve, we usually work late, sometimes 9 to 9:30 p.m., because we’re taking out express mail that came in late and it may be a gift. I stood on a man’s porch one Christmas Eve evening with a piece of express mail and handed it to him when he came to the door. It was an overnight from Pennsylvania. He was in his 70s and lived alone. When he looked at the mail piece, he began to cry! He said, ‘My daughter! She never forgets her daddy!’ Lordy, when I tell you I cried—not only for the sweetness of the moment but because I got to be a part of that because of my job! I’ve found medication for people who needed it but was sent to the wrong address by the company. Things like that are great!”

She continued, “In small towns like ours, everybody knows the mail clerks up front and the carriers on the road. A mailman sometimes is the only contact a person may have on a daily basis with another human being. On rural routes, people who may be ‘shut in’ to a certain extent or not able to drive can rely on the carrier to bring them stamps and their medicines, checks, and so on. We have our regulars, and they come in and talk. We watch their children grow up and celebrate the good with them and pray for or with them in bad times. Swainsboro especially has the sweetest people. We get goodies and thank-you notes all the time—not just at Christmas. During the quarantine, I felt good about being a postal employee because we were there the whole time. The carriers still showed up everyday, and we were there at the window. In those times, we were even more important because in addition to getting customers their normal mail, we were now delivering bulk-size boxes of paper products and household goods. People weren’t shopping as much, so the mailman had more to deliver due to the online orders. You’d even see little feel good videos online about children who had, out of boredom, gotten into a routine of looking out for the mailman everyday and developing a friendship through the window! It doesn’t matter if the whole town is boarded up and waiting on a hurricane… We’re there, and our carriers are out! It makes you feel good knowing people can depend on you. My daddy was a carrier and retired with 38 years. He started in Swainsboro in 1967 and retired from Hinesville. He was a city carrier and knew everyone we saw. He loved his job and would deliver the mail in downtown Statesboro for years dressed as Santa Claus. I think he passed on his love for the job to me because for so many years growing up, I watched him go out of his way for his patrons. He’d check in on his elderly customers who were alone, make sure they were okay, and had things they needed. That’s another thing about postal employees, especially the carriers: they can be trusted to notice disruptions in patterns of their customers and sometimes, that can save lives! I know some carriers who have been known to carry dog/cat food with them to feed strays they see regularly. Hank Evans was the best known for that.”

An overview of the United States Postal Service

The United States Postal Service, also known as the “Post Office, U.S. Mail, or the Postal Service,” is an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government. It traces its roots to July 26, 1775. During the Second Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. (He also served a similar position for the colonies of Great Britain.)

The Post Office Department was created in 1792 with the passage of the Postal Service Act. It was elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872 and transformed by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 into the USPS we know today.

Across the United States, some 490,000 carriers deliver loads of letters and packages right to our post office boxes, businesses, and/or homes. Regardless of the weather, postal workers deliver every day except Sunday. (After all—“rain, shine, sleet, or snow, the mail must go!”)

In addition to the weather, dealing with unusual packages is also part of the job. In 1913, the postal service began delivering packages up to a maximum of 11 pounds. The most surprising package to arrive for delivery was a small child. Barely under the weight limit, James Beagle was mailed. For a cost of $0.15, a postal worker delivered young Beagle to his grandmother just a few miles away. This practice continued for about a year before the postmaster general put regulations in place prohibiting such a practice.

Excluding the appointing of Franklin as the first postmaster in 1775, here are some other important USPS dates:

• Postage stamps were issued in 1847.

• The Pony Express began in 1860.

• Free city delivery began in 1863.

• Postal cards were issued in 1873.

• The General Postal Union, now the Universal Postal Union, was established in 1874.

• The first commemorative stamps were issued in 1893.

• Free rural delivery began in 1896.

• Scheduled airmail began in 1918.

• Zip codes were inaugurated in 1963.

• The National Postal Museum opened in 1993 in Washington, D.C.

How to celebrate National Postal Worker Day

In general, the best way to observe this commemorative day is to thank your local postal worker! Encourage others to get the word out and focus on making every postal worker’s day just a little bit better. Maybe leave a small token of gratitude—a bottle of water to beat the heat or write a heartfelt letter. You could also contact the postal service and let them know how much you appreciate the work they do.

On social media, use #NationalPostalWorkerDay to give a shoutout to your favorite postman or postwoman. Whether this person delivers, sorts, or simply keeps things organized—July 1 is their day!

United States Postal Service trivia

In closing, here are a few fun facts about the United States Postal Service!

1. The very first post office in colonial America was established in 1689 in a Boston bar.

2. American newspapers largely owe their existence to the post office. As part of the Post Office Act of 1792, newspapers were permitted to be mailed at an extremely low rate. The result was by the 19th Century, newspapers made up the bulk of U.S. mail.

3. Until the mid-19th Century, recipients—not senders!—usually had to pay for postage on the mail they received. As a result, people tended to refuse so many letters in order to escape paying for them, which caused the post office to spend an inordinate amount of returning mail to senders. Postage stamps, which were prepaid, were introduced in 1847 and eliminated the problem.

4. Mail carriers should have been called “mail waiters.” Even though mail became delivered to people’s homes, carriers were allowed to hand it only to the recipient, so workers waited and waited (or sometimes circled back over and over again) until their customer came home. As of March 1, 1923, all U.S. homes had to have a mailbox or mail slot. Just like that, postal employees no longer had to worry about patrons—just dogs on occasion!

5. When New York City jewelry Harry Winston donated the almost 46-carat Hope Diamond, today valued at $350 million, to the Smithsonian, he trusted the U.S. Postal Service to deliver it! The cost of the registered first-class postage was $2.44 in 1958; it would cost around $16 today. Just in case, Winston added another $142 worth of insurance, which would cost in the ballpark of $920 today. The Hope Diamond arrived at its destination safely and remains today with the Smithsonian, along with its original packaging and postmarks.

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