By Janet Morrison
Did You Know?
Today’s “Did You Know?” column is a continuation of the one two weeks ago about Harrisburg’s mail carriers in the age of the automobile.
Readers will recall that Ira Lee Taylor started delivering the mail in the Harrisburg community in 1948. There was only one mail route then, and it was 80 miles long!
Taylor had to keep a daily time sheet indicating what time he got to work, the time he left on his route, and the time he returned to the post office. He not only sold stamps to his patrons but also money orders. He took the money for money orders, but the postmaster was the only person who had the authority to write them.
Many postal patrons never bought stamps. They would just put a letter in their mailboxes along with the money for a stamp. Taylor would lick a stamp and affix it to the envelope. Yes, lick the stamp. Self-adhesive stamps were introduced in 1974.
Taylor remembers the honesty of his customers. Without realizing it, one time he gave Mr. Johnson of the Bellefonte community five cents too much in change. The next day, Mr. Johnson was standing by his mailbox on Robinson Church Road, waiting to give Taylor the nickel.
In October of 1954, Taylor had 305 mailboxes on his route. When he retired in 1980, there were more than 900 mailboxes on his route! He started each work day by sorting the mail for his route in sequential order for delivery.
Mr. Taylor was awarded a certificate from the National Safety Council for driving one million miles without an accident on his postal route. He recalls the challenges of delivering mail on some of the area dirt roads. He specifically remembers the snow being so deep on Peach Orchard Road (which was not paved until the mid-1960s) that he was not able to tell where the road was. He used snow tires on his car and kept a shovel in the trunk for emergencies.
Tommy Linker was Taylor’s substitute carrier for a while in the early 1970s. A second mail route was eventually created, and Linker got that route. Taylor’s original route of 80 miles per day was trimmed to 49 miles after the second mail route was created.
To realize just how much Harrisburg has grown, one must only compare the number of mailboxes Mr. Taylor had to service when he retired in 1980 to the 5,600 mailboxes Harrisburg’s 10 mail carriers service today.
Keith Brown was Ira Lee Taylor’s substitute carrier just before Taylor retired. Brown was just out of high school. He learned well from Taylor and today is the mail carrier on part of Taylor’s old route. Brown was awarded a certificate from the National Safety Council for having driven one million miles without an accident on his postal route in his 30 years of service.
Harrisburg’s 10 mail carriers travel 257 miles per day. They use their own vehicles and are given an equipment maintenance allowance based on mileage to help with maintenance and gasoline expenses.
Harrisburg had 10 mail routes in 2001, before five routes were moved to the Concord Post Office. The fact that Harrisburg has 10 routes again in 2008 demonstrates how quickly the area has grown.
Conversations with Ira Lee Taylor, 2006-2008.
Interview with Karen Shugart, former Harrisburg Postmaster, and Barry Chandler, Postal Clerk, July 16, 2008.
http://www.usps for postal history facts