To say that my frequent stops at the Petoskey Post Office are akin to Norm or Cliff’s pit stops at Sam Malone’s Cheers might be a bit of an exaggeration.
Nonetheless, if I find myself at the counter across from Randy or Millie, I know they will take care of me, without having to ask for my box number every time I retrieve a package. They know me and they take good care of me.
The United Postal Service is of course, among America’s oldest institution, and the first established location in Michigan predates statehood.
Statehood came to Michigan in 1837, though distinct territorial designation occurred in 1805. The first post office in the region, previously part of the Indiana Territory, however, was established on January 1, 1803, the same year Thomas Jefferson brokered the Louisiana Purchase. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) arrived in much later, reaching Petoskey and Harbor Spring in 1902.
Mackinac Island, where I also know the postal employees and they know me, is rarity even among post offices everywhere in the country, in that there is no home delivery. Locals must pick up all their mail in person, though UPS and Fed Ex do deliver packages, for example.
Most folks do not give the post office or its daily mail delivery much thought, save on federal holidays when the service is suspended. Regardless, the fact that the United State Postal Service continues a tradition established in colonial days is nothing short of remarkable.
Postal rates are among the best bargains around. A first class letter costs only $.55, up a nickel this year, though any Forever stamps purchased prior will still see the mail to its destination. By comparison, the same stamp cost $.44 a decade ago and $.33 in 1999.
The mail moves in large numbers. In 1886, the first year for such statistics, the postal service delivered 3.7 billion pieces of mail through more than 53,000 post offices, while in 2017, the most recent year for such numbers, there were more than 149 billion such pieces, circulated by less than 25,000 offices, a remarkable change in all numbers. In 1789, the first year the postal service delivered mail, there were only 75 post office locations, while the volume of mail is unknown.
The number of postal employees has also moved downward in recent years, since a high in 1990 of more than 776,000 folks, to just over 503,000 in 2017.
So next time you stop at the post office for stamps, a passport, or other business, or helped by Randy or Millie or one of their equally hard working colleagues, appreciate the hard work of the many people who keep the mail moving.