Commentary

Snow: Saying so long to Saturday mail

March 2, 2013 

My brother-in-law Bob Brinkley dropped by the house to celebrate. For more than a decade, he’s been campaigning to abolish Saturday mail, writing the president, his Congressmen and others in high places.

It’s not that he’s against the modern Pony Express. He’s just for saving $2 billion a year of taxpayers’ money. Saturday mail has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any.

The decrease in first class mail due to the advent of electronic communication helped sound taps for Saturday mail, which ends in August. Also, “The check is in the mail” doesn’t apply as universally as it once did, due to direct deposit of Social Security, IRS refunds and online banking.

Most of my Saturday mail could well wait for Monday or even Doomsday for that matter.

The warmth and emotion of hand written letters are missing as today we email, Tweet and Text. Who saves e-mail copy for future generations?

Nobody in the future will come across love letters such as one supposedly written by a foothills lad to the girlfriend who lived across Snow Creek. Declaring his undying devotion and vowing that, if necessary, he’d slay dragons and fight through fire to be near her, he concluded, “See you Saturday night if it don’t rain and the creek don’t rise.”

The mailman has been a welcome visitor since my childhood. When Mr. Bryant pulled his old Ford up to our mailbox on RFD 2, my brother and I would race across the tobacco field to be the first to claim the mail.

Usually, it was poor pickings: my father’s “The National Republican” newspaper, an occasional “Wish you were here” post card from one of the “town girls” vacationing at Myrtle Beach and the like.

At least once a week, the mail brought a multi-paged handwritten letter from Grandma Holder, who lived with Aunt Lily in Winston-Salem. The letters were always litanies of her ailments, how her inept doctors were dealing with them, and the lack of sympathy from her family.

Think back on the important letters in your life. Many of you men remember the one that dramatically changed your life. It was from your Uncle Sam, and began with “Greetings: … you are hereby notified that you have been selected…” And off to war you went.One of the most anxiously awaited letters for high school seniors was one from their college of choice. A thin envelope foretold a one-page rejection. A fat envelope, with paperwork included, was cause for celebration.

Today, students get the news via e-mail or by logging on to the college’s web site on a specified date.

My daughter recently recalled perhaps her most treasured letter.

Her sixth-grade teacher assigned students to write to some famous person whom they admired.

Having just read “Gone With the Wind,” my daughter assigned me the task of procuring the address of Olivia de Havilland, the sweet, gentle Melanie in the film version.

It took some doing, searching through voluminous newspaper clip files until I found an item describing de Havilland’s visit with the priest of a New York church. When I called, he graciously provided the actress’ Paris address.

Off went the child’s letter, followed by her daily visits to the mailbox.

After weeks of disappointment, the long-awaited reply arrived, with Ms. de Havilland’s explanation that she had been out of the country.

Ms. de Havilland’s framed two-page handwritten letter that now hangs in my daughter’s dining room, concludes with a bit of good advice:

“Katherine, if you merge within yourself the best of each character you will be perfectly adapted for modern life and you will have a happy life too.

“Scarlett’s vigor, resourcefulness and perseverance are such splendid qualities in their positive expression, and Melanie’s compassion, generosity, and lovingness are gifts very precious indeed.”

It’s no accident that my first-born granddaughter is named Olivia.

Remembering letters of consequence in your life, how many delivered on Monday rather than Saturday would have turned your life upside down?

Bob’s right. In a time of national penny-pinching, $2 billion a year saved is not to be sneezed at.

Well, I’ve just brought in my Saturday mail: A fistful of solicitations. Oh, whoa up! Here’s another letter from Robert Redford addressed to my wife. With the election behind us, I thought that relationship was over.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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