Handling His Majesty’s Mail
Humors and tragedies of Canada's postal department graphically depicted.
DOROTHY G. BELL
EVERYTHING from cats to dynamite comes ca-
reening down that mail chute,” volunteered the “facer-up” rapidly, as he sifted and placed right side up the letters which poured in a steady stream from the letter box on the street to the table on the ground floor of an eastern Canadian postoffice.
Then he told me of the post office cat in St. Paul who, bored with officialities, had its soliloquies of a hard night interrupted by a speedy American mail clerk who trod on its tail, stumbled over it and cursed it profusely. With a suitable feline reply the cat leaped to a nearby mail rack and, balancing for a moment on the round iron rail, dropped deftly into one of the open-mouthed bags. Here it was dark and quiet; here it was out of the way of blundering mail clerks; here a cat might snatch the forty odd winks that were its due. Curling up comfortably among the legitimate mail, it proceeded to claim them. But, before it had issued again from the mice and milk land of its dreams, the bag was snapped shut, flung onto a truck, trundled hurriedly into a waiting car and, after a journey under tons of other mail, it shot the chute into the Toronto head office where it accepted as a matter of course the interest and hospitality of the Toronto staff for several months. Its sudden disappearance one day caused no disturbance and little comment. Cats are home loving creatures and Thomas’ best friends are merely of the opinion that he slipped unseen into a St. Paul mail bag and returned to his native haunts—or perhaps the lure of the itchy foot led him to select some or her.
Canada’s first class mail includes 750,000,000 letters a year. Immediately they tumble down the chutes of the
various cities they are “faced up” and fed into the dating and stamp cancelling machine which inks the stamps of from 40,000 to 45,000 letters an hour. The man whose special care was this electrical y controlled machine after relating its qualities, remarked with pride: “It is absolutely bomb and bullet proof.” “But, bombs and bullets?-are they part of the day’s mail?” "Not every day fortunately, but we get ‘•m. Only a week or two ago the machine v.as blocked and stopped. When we extracted the trouble it was a revolver bullet cancelled as flat as a pancake, but it didn’t do a mite o’ harm. Another time things were running pretty swift and smooth when suddenly there wa. a. loud explosion, a flash of flame and one letter flew to pieces. But it takes more’n dynamite to feaze this little old machine,” and the official laid his hand on it almost fondly. If the letters are too big or too small for the machine they are set aside in a separate pile and cancelled by hand. This is -low business anti consequently a letter of 'he ordinary size stands a bet ter chance
of quick delivery. Every effort is made, however, to expedite the handling of this odd-sized mail, when it comes in as first-class matter. These are given a primary sortation and put into pigeon holes marked for certain railway lines, provinces or sections of a province. The men who do this work are like sleight of hand artists, they handle the letters so quickly. Twice a year they are put through severe examinations and are given a thousand cards with many out-of-the-way and difficult addresses written on them. As they sort these cards the men are judged for their speed and accuracy. They must know every village, town and country post office in the Dominion. After the first sorting of letters another group of men give them a
final sorting into pigeon holes marked for a definite place. Next, they are tied up in bundles and placed in the mail bags, which are sealed, labeled and sent to their destinations. The mail that has been directed to the railway lines goes through another sorting on the trains and the different bundles are put off at their respective towns and stations en route. The city sorters who distribute the incoming mail have perhaps the most difficult job, for these clerks sort the letters into the different routes for the letter carriers and there is nothing on the letter to show them where they must put it. It must be purely a matter of memory on the part of the clerk. If a letter is addressed to a certain street and number, he must know in which pigeon hole to put it. These men, too, go through rigid examinations and • must be able to give without a moment’s hesitation the number of a house by its location or its location by its number. Consequently only an experienced man can make sortation with any speed. This was discovered by some of the rookies and tyros in Toronto during the recent strike. During this strike the difficulties of handling the mail without trained help did not impress the average layman. One business man in Toronto, however, had it brought home to him. He stormed into the post office one afternoon declaring that there was an important letter there for him. “Utter nonsense,” he declared, upon being told that it was impossible to sort the mail. “My letter is there. I must have it. Now where is it?” The postmaster happened to be passing the wicket where the man was registering his complaint. He turned to him.
“Come with me,” he said. “I.will show you where it is.” The man regretted his hasty manner, apologized for his rudeness and declared that he appreciated the kindness of the postmaster. Quite soberly the P.M. led him into the receiving room. Letters, papers, parcels—millions of them it seemed—reached almost to the ceiling in one vast heap. “It is in there,” said the postmaster. “You may look for it if you like.” Order in Apparent Chaos ON ONE particular morning before I had reason to investigate the postal service I went to the gate in eager haste to meet the post, for I had been given cause to believe that there was an important letter for me in that delivery. The “postie” touched his cap as politely as he could with both hands full of letters, shook his head negatively and passed by. A glimpse into his bulging bag showed me hundreds of letters criss-cross, upside down, loose and in bundles. He did not
even stop to look into it as he passed me and I was convinced that it contained the letter for which I was waiting. Since then, I have come to believe that it is as impossible for a letter carrier to overlook the delivery of a letter as it is for him to fly over the housetops. For the postman is not just a two-legged mortal who distributes letters promiscuously from one end of our street to the other, just as he happens to come across them in his bag. He is a thoroughly trained, highly-skilled expert, a master of a perfect system. He carries the joys and sorrows of his fellow creatures in his hand and he has made the safeguarding and prompt delivery of those destinies his life work. It is a v orthy business and well done.
When the postman comes to the end of his route he is not finished with his work for the day. He goes back to the post office, and, after the inside men have sorted the letters into his particular route, he gives them his own and final sorting, so that when they go into his bag they are in perfect order and there is no necessity for him to do more than glance into it to know whether or not he has mail for a certain house. If his route takes him through a business section of the city, his walk may be perhaps not more than a quarter of a mile. If it takes him through an outside, sparsely-settled suburb, it may be as long as twelve miles. In either case he knows his route perfectly and will haye developed then the quickest and most efficient method of delivering his letters.
The postman’s business is one of many sidelines and during his years of service he is continually schooling himself in the art of being human for, in order to follow these sidelines successfully, he must be above everything else, human. Registered mail is his greatest responsibility, for it is the pride of the service that registered matter is never for a moment left unguarded and during transit every man who handles it gives or gets a signed receipt. The carrier, then, who makes the final delivery must develop a quick, keen observation.
A Vancouver postman delivered a letter to a woman at a certain house on his walk. As he was going down the steps he heard a gruff voice from the hall ask:
“Is that it?”
“No, it isn’t,” replied the woman to whom he had given the letter.
“Well, let me see it,” demanded the masculine voice.
“No,” answered the woman doggedly.
•The postman had reached the bottom step when the door slammed and a muffled scream reached his ears and there was the sound of a heavy thud as though someone had been thrown against the door. He stopped, turned and began to ascend the steps again. But no, it was not in the regulations that he should protect defenceless women against their husbands; it was not his business. He proceeded on his route. Neither was it in the regulations that he should remember the incident, but that nevertheless was his business. Several weeks later he carried a registered letter addressed to the woman to the same house. He rang the bell and the man came to the door.
“I’ll take it,” he said, when the carrier presented the letter.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot give it to you,” replied the official.
“But I am her husband,” argued the other. “I have a right to it. I demand it.”
But the letter carrier, the incident of a few weeks before still fresh in his mind, was resolute.
For five days he carried that letter to the house and each time was confronted by the husband, more irate than ever.
Nearly a week later he was able to present the letter to the woman to whom it was addressed.
“I can never thank you sufficiently for keeping that letter for me,” she told the postman.
“My husband has been waiting for weeks for it. It is cash that I needed badly and he would have appropriated it.”
Courtesy Run Riot
/COURTESY and patience are part of the business of a postman. A letter carrier on a western suburban route, where letters, are collected as well as delivered, tells how his good nature was tried.
“Every morning an old lady on my route gives me a letter to her son in Belgium and every morning she asks me to lick the stamps. I hate to lick stamps and nearly always she pays the five cent postage in one cent stamps. At first I refused to do it but she burst into tears and
said that she could not write to her son then, because she could not lick them and there was no one else to do it. She would never tell me why, but I think that it had something to do with her reh'gion. So I go on licking stamps. I have licked 5,000 stamps. If she stays on my route another three years I suppose I shall have licked another 5,000.”
One of a letter-carrier’s most valuable assets is his sense of humor. Without such little incidents as this western postman cites he would find the day long and wearisome.
He had climbed to the top of a long flight of stairs and as he rested for a moment at the top a woman to whom he had just delivered a registered letter began to talk to him of the elections. “I’d vote for the labor man,” she said soberly, “if I thought there was a chance of him getting in, but I don’t, so I guess I won’t bother.” A little further down the street on that same morning the letter-carrier was asked if the polling booth at the corner was where the Liberals voted.
The public are alwa; s ready to blame, to grumble if their mail is late, but sometimes they are not overanxious to co-operate. A Toronto employee had a heavy load and at one place where he had a registered letter to deliver he received
no answer to his ring at the front door. He went to the back door and rang the bell there. Still there was no answer, so that the carrier twisted the bell, slowly, unceasingly and persistently. After a lapse of several minutes an upstairs window opened and somone called out:
“Did you ring the bell?”
“No,” answered the “postie” seriously, “I tolled it. I thought you were all dead.”
The mail service has become an established part of the daily routine of the civilized world. Because the breadwinner knows that his office mail will be waiting for him on his desk at the office when he gets there in the morning and again three or four times during the day; because his home-maker knows that a certain time after breakfast every day she will hear the knock cf the postman and again after lunch and once more before dinner, it is taken as a matter of course just as the rest of office and household routine. Little thought is given to the human factor behind the regular and accurate deliveries.
Perhaps the more serious difficulties, the greater obstacles encountered by the out-of-town mail men, if they were known, would bring the human struggles and
strivings which are necessary to maintain the service a little more clearly to the public eye. For their experience, their battles, their struggles are with Nature rather than with humans. Instead of walking city streets they mush over frozen trails; rather than argue with an irate public they battle ice hummocks and swollen rapids; their experiences, their trials are more colorful, more vivid, more daring and picturesque; they value their lives less than the mails they handle.
Longest, Loneliest Route
CANADA claims the longest, most lonely, mail route in theworld which extends 3,500 miles from Fort McMurray to the settlement of Aklavik in the far North. Five relays of dog teams are used by the mail “musher” tomake the trip there and back. The mails that go to the northmen scattered along the Mackenzie, Slave and Athabasca rivers are often heavy and the dog teams can carry only a certain load. Upon one occasion the contractor for this most difficult mail route in Canada weighed his sled to find it several pounds overweight. Without comment he threw his tent and other comfort equipment from the load and faced the long, lonely journey through the North without them. For weeks he battled through terrific snowstorms that blinded him, drove into the teeth of biting winds that stabbed like needles through his heavy clothing, cut his way through great ice hummocks that blocked his path. All day he broke trail for his team and at night he curled up in his blankets on the snow with his dogs gathered around him for warmth. These difficulties and hardships are only a part of his business to bring into these sparsely settled inhabitants of the far North the news of civilization for which they have been waiting for months.
These mail contractors, picked men in every case, think less of their lives than their mail. They think little of risking their lives that their charge may be safe-guarded and every opportunity to get through the dangers that beset them is taken.
In Quebec a mail carrier braved the ice in a break-up to get the mail across the river which cut his route. He put out in a stout skiff but the boat was crushed beneath him in the jamming ice. As he was thrown into the icy water he seized the mail bag and clung to it with frozen fingers until another boat was able to battle its way out to him. Numbed to the bone with the cold and scarcely able to speak, he felt the hands of the rescuers upon his collar. “Confound you!” he chattered, “let me alone and get this mail in first.”
Such is the code of our Canadian mail carriers.
In some parts of British Columbia, up in the old Fort George districts, ancient stage coaches are still used to carry the mails, for many of the roads are too steep and precipitous for even a Ford to climb and the streams and ■ swamps too deep and treacherous to be tackled by anything less human than a horse. In other parts of British Columbia, too, there are places which can be reached only by water— places that are too rocky, rough and dangerous for regular boats to venture. But conveyed by tug" and by skiff and even by canoe through the rapids and white waters that have taken a heavy toll of life, His Majesty’s service, through the pluck and persistence of th e carriers, reaches these outposts of civilization safely.
Once, after a heavy snow storm in Northern Ontario, all the roads were blocked. The people snowbound along the rural route knew this and became resigned to the fact that there would be no mail for some days. But the mail contractor snapped his fingers at the storm, tied the mail securely to a farm tractor and battled his way successfully through the drifts. TheContinued on page 48
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mail was not only delivered but delivered on time.
In the lower Kennebecasis when all other modes of transportation failed him the carrier tied barrel staves to his feet and crossed the rotten ice between Kennebecasis Island and Rothesay with the mail strapped to his back and a pike pole in his hand«.
There are one or two places in Canada, however, where even the Canadian postal service cannot always reach. The Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of them. Here, owing to ice conditions, there can be absolutely no connection with the mainland between Christmas and April. However, the prevailing winds are towards the mainland and the people of the island constructed a strong barrel, put a small sail on it, enclosed the mail and set it adrift. The barrel with the mail arrived at its destination on the other shore and was picked up.
Though the Post Office is unable to get in contact with this out of the way spot, it has not failed in its service and it has provided a weekly wireless programme so that the people may know, in a general way, what is going on in the outside world.
Speeding Up the Service
ALTHOUGH the deeds of these men, the experiences, their battles are more desperate, more exciting than those of the city officials the same spirit of loyalty, enthusiasm, patience and cheerfulness plays its part behind the scenes of the city post offices from coast to coast. It is that same spirit, the same esprit de corps of postal employees throughout the whole of Canada, that is striving day and night to better and speed up the service.
To-day, the swift service between Montreal and Toronto is taken as a matter of course. Those who are being benefited through that service do not know, perhaps, that a staff of men are working all night on both the east-and west-bound trains sorting these mails so that they are ready for immediate distribution and delivery as soon as they reach their destinations. They never go through the city post offices.
Forty years ago, R. A. Aymong, now a head official in the Toronto office, made the trial trip. He left Toronto for Montreal to ride back in the train and make the Toronto sorting en route. At that time the roadbed of the Grand Trunk Railway was not as smooth and even as it is now. Rocketing up and down in the close stuffy quarters of the mail car, Mr. Aymong became the victim of train-sickness. Before he reached Toronto he was so weak and ill that he could hardly stand, but all the while he worked and sorted. Just before the train pulled into Union Station he flicked the last letter into its proper place and collapsed as the carriers filed aboard. But within two minutes the letters he had struggled to sort were, on the street. It was not until nearly twenty years later, however, that the system of train sorting between the two cities was perfected.
The everlasting patience of postal employees, their extreme good nature prompts them to struggle cheerfully with an unreasonable public and to keep their heads and manners when the public is losing theirs.
It led an eastern postmaster to reply kindly and courteously to the following letter:
“To the Post Master,
“I would be ever so much obliged to you if you would kindly locate a cousin of mine. I believe he is in Quebec, or somewhere in Canada.
“I was told that he has a very large milk route and is quite popular there.
His name is---—. He probably has
changed it. When you do locate him please send me his address and also what ever name he goes under. “Thanking you in advance, I am Yours truly,
An unreasonable request born of ignorance is forgivable. But the good nature of even post office authorities may be sorely tried at times and I imagine that a man who presented himself recently in an eastern office did not perhaps receive as
much consideration. He carried with him a letter that had come through the mail. In the corner the stamp was cancelled with the usual date mark and the words “place stamp in upper right hand corner.”
“Why can’t you put ‘please’ in that request?” he demanded angrily. He was informed that the cancellation stamp would not hold enough letters to permit of the extra word being used.
“Then if you don’t make it bigger and put ‘please’ in it I tell you right now that I will place every stamp I use in the bottom left hand corner.”
Humors and Tragedies
A PARCEL addressed to England was brought to the postal “hospital” with some slimy fluid leaking out of it. It was opened and found to contain a bottle of maple syrup, a dozen eggs and a plaster figurine. They were all carelessly put in together without any packing whatever.
“I like scrambled eggs,” said the man whose business it was to do his best with the parcel, “but I’m dashed if I like ’em mixed with plaster paris all over the office floor!”
Every day the men behind the wickets of the general post offices exert the human factor to lighten the load of the public with whom they come in touch. The official who looked after the weighing of parcels in a Toronto office took a heavy square box from an old woman a few days before Christmas when the rush was still at its height.
“Eighty-three cents,” he remarked as he wrote it on the package. A flash of disappointment passed over the old lady’s white face and her withered cheeks colored. There was a line up at the wicket but the official took time to note her consternation.
“What’s the matter,” he asked kindly. “I have only twenty cents,” she admitted.
The man thought a minute and then: “The boys are always flush around Christmas. Leave it with me; it’ll go all right.”
The dim eyes filled up. “God bless you, sir. It’s my boy’s Christmas cake. I’ve never failed him these four years.”
As the wicket man shoved the parcel aside he noted the name and address more carefully. Its destination was a penitentiary in the Middle West.
In another eastern office a man called at the general delivery wicket every week, and every week he received a letter in the same handwriting. To the clerk’s knowledge the man never received any other letter but that weekly message, until one day a letter came in another handwriting. The man took it and opening it walked away from the wicket. Half way across the floor of the post office lobby he fell in a dead faint. The letter had contained news of his mother’s death.
But there is a humorous side to life behind the wicket, too. A man by the name of Goodeve had been getting his mail for several months from the general delivery wicket of a city post office. Because of his regular calls he was known by the employee who served there. A new man came on late one afternoon when Mr. Goodeve called for his mail.
“Goodeve,” he said to the clerk with a pleasant nod.
“Good evening,” replied the clerk and busied himself with his pigeon holes. “Goodeve,” replied the man outside. “How’d’y’do?” replied the new clerk, and walked across the little office space.
“Goodeve!” shouted the man again impatiently. “Goodeve! Goodeve!” “Good night!" replied the exasperated clerk. “What the—? Oh! Well, why didn’t you say so at the start?” and he handed him his mail.
The public is not always ready to be convinced that more often than not, it is the cause of postal delay. The head of one of the biggest and most influential firms in Toronto, went to Montreal and from there wrote a letter to the home office. Then he went on to Ottawa and returned two days later to find that his letter had not yet been delivered. He went to the Toronto post office, furious at the shockingly poor service and insistent that the letter should be found. The next morning the letter was laid on his desk. In his own hand writing it was addressed to his own firm, Ottawa. And the men and women who sit all day long in the directory departments puzzling out queer addresses and locating people of whom they have never heard are human, too.
Towards the end of a long day when
the patience of that particular department of the Toronto post office had been nearly exhausted, one of the girls struggling with the carelessness of the public picked up a lost letter that lay before her. It was addressed to a street which she promptly recognized as being in Windsor owing to the fact that she had just spent her holidays there.
“Such needless mistakes,” she sighed wearily, as she crossed out Toronto in red ink and wrote Windsor on the envelope. As she was about to throw it into the pile the name on the letter caught her attention. It was the name of the friend with whom she had spent her holidays. Another glance and she discovered with a severe shock to her pride that it was her own letter, which she had written to her friend, shortly after her return.
The human factor, so apparent in this particular department, asserts itself to such an extent that perhaps the greatest part of the work is done without the aid of books or directories at all but merely common sense and rapid calculation. A letter addressed to the Town Clerk, Ontario, was beyond the ken of the Toronto staff but when a letter addressed to George H. Ham, Canada, came to them it was dropped without hesitation into a Montreal bag and found its way immediately to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Putting Memories to the Test
JUST a few days ago a letter came to this department addressed to a girl at Sunnybrae Farm, Ontario. The man to whom it came for discovery of the proper address immediately and without any reference wrote across it care of So and So and addressed it accurately to a small town post office just out of Toronto.
“How did you know that?” inquired another employee who happened to notice.
“Happened to see in the paper last night that the girl married this chap and it told where the farm was situated. The names are unusual and it just happened to stick.”
But there are greater stickers than that. When Billy H. Ramsay, of Toronto, a boy scout, addressed a letter to his uncle in Lakewood, Ohio, completely in flag code he failed to “buffalo” the Canadian post office officials. Without missing a mail the letter was delivered. Ten minutes after that letter slid down the chute it had been deciphered and was on its way to Lakewood.
The man who worked it out knew nothing whatever about the code;—had never seen it before—but he got his key letter from the prefix which, consisting of two characters, he naturally took to be “Mr.” Beginning with a fairly certain knowledge of these two letters and working by the process of elimination he had little difficulty getting the name and address, though it looked formidable enough at first. Nothing, however, is too formidable for the post office to tackle and nothing becomes “dead” until every possible means of investigation has been exhausted.
When letters are gent to the dead letter office they are opened in the hope of finding either a clue to the party for whom it is intended or a return address. The letters are seldom read through but sometimes, in scanning the pages, the “openers” are given a glimpse of the tragedies and the joys of their fellow creatures. Perhaps it is a word of pleading from a mother to a son of whom she may never hear; perhaps the news of death, of birth, of marriage; perhaps it is a business proposition from one legitimate business man to another; again it may be a code message from one crook to another; perhaps it is a proposal of marriage. But whatever message found there it remains forever in the confidence of the reader. All these things and thousands more go to the dead letter office and are opened, returned to the sender or destroyed. When they are not delivered the public blame the post office and wonder why. But all the time the general public is coming to know more about the postal service they are receiving and in consequence the staff in all parts of Canada is receiving greater co-operation and only 2,000,000 letters were received at the dead letter office at Ottawa last year as against 4,000.000 the year before.
A well-dressed woman presented a large, bulky but light parcel at the wicket of a western post office a few days before Christmas. It was wrapped in delicate
white tissue paper and tied with red and green holly ribbon.
“We can’t accept that parcel that way,” declared the clerk.
The woman’s eyebrows lifted.
“And why not?”
“Because it will probably never reach its destination.”
The woman beamed on the clerk.
“Oh, yes, but you see, it’s a charity parcel so you wouldn’t mind taking a little extra care of it, would you? I want it to look nice when it arrives. It’s a bow and arrow for a little boy, who may get nothing else.”
The clerk refused it but the woman dropped the parcel in an outside box. The morning sun shed golden glory of Christmas cheer over a narrow street, sparkling and clean for the moment under freshly fallen snow. But it failed to bring cheer to a baby boy who lay on a bare floor through which the cold stabbed bitingly. But the little body that shook convulsively did not heed it. Mummy had promised that the postman would bring a present from Santy this year sure and the post man with his Christmas day delivery had passed on down the street. His step was light as he walked hurriedly over the frozen snow and the church bells ringing out their song of gladness filled his heart with joy, but within the tenement which he had passed the choking sobs of the bitterly disappointed little ones filled the breaking heart of a mother with sadness and perhaps a little bitterness.
The gayly-painted bow, the graceful arrows with their tufts of feathers, the Indian headdress that would have been the pride of the little aching heart lay, badly demolished, in the “morgue” of the “dead” parcel office. A mere remnant of the white tissue paper, in which it was wrapped, remained.
The Postal Morgue
VISITING the “morgue” where the unclaimed parcels go I gazed at the conglomerate heap before me—diamond rings, automobile wheels, a bow and arrow, drugs, bottles, canned goods, hats, clothing, bicycle parts, knives, cut glass, milk bottles, pumps, buckets, musical instruments—these were some of the things that struck my gaze.
“Why, that’s nothing,” exclaimed the official in charge who seemed surprised that I should be amazed at the collection. “We’ve got nothing much here now. Last week we had a frog. We rescued him from a disastrous fate. He was encased in a tin box addressed to England. He went home with the office boy and is leading a gay life in his back yard.”
There was a stir on the shelf and a big tabby cat rose, stretched itself and jumped to the floor where it sat washing its face, quite at home and quite as if the post office was run for its special benefit.
“He’s grown some since I pulled him out of a two-by-four box, half-starved and nearly choked to death. The address had come off him, that’s why he came to me. He was rescued in this room and he seems to like it and spends most 'of his time here. Lizards, pumps, chickens, even crocodiles have been shipped through the mails. Those rubber boots there were filled with whiskey. In fact there is nothing that you can mention that hasn’t gone through at some time or other.” Hoping to stick him, I asked: “Human beings?”
He laughed. “Yes, but not in Canada, though a baby was once sent parcel post in the United States.”
There is an investigation. department of the post office that is really a detective service. Much of the illicit mail traffic is discovered through the dead letter office or in other accidental ways. Though the post office holds the right to open any parcels that go through the mails this prerogative is not often exercised. Not long ago, however, a parcel addressed to England was opened in order that the customs declaration blank might be filled in. On the top of a card board box a long letter had been written. It began this way:
“I know writing on parcels is strictly against the law but I guess I’ll get away with it this time.”
A new department in the Canadian post office within the last year is the C.O.D. and it is now possible to send letters that way. It has become a popular service and has proved of great value to firms not using catalogues, to repair firms, general retailers, manufacturers and jobbers. If,
for instance, a farmer in the busy season breaks his mowing machine he can wire or telephone for a new part and speed up the whole transaction by paying for it on arrival. Eggs are delivered C.O.D. perhaps more than any other article. At first the service was used by merchants to try to collect bad debts. A man once bought a five dollar article and the bill enclosed was for fifty, for the purchaser owed the merchant the balance. This is contrary to postal regulations now.
The department where mail is handled most swiftly is the special delivery department. As soon as a letter is dropped into the special delivery box a never-ceasing elevator carries it directly to the special delivery department, and it is sent out immediately by special messengers.
Care of Valuables
MAXIMUM consideration is given to valuable letters and registration makes them as safe as it is possible to make them. When a letter is registered a numbered receipt is given for it and the same number is stamped on the letter. From that time until the letter is delivered a complete record is kept of its handling.
In addition to all its other departments the Canadian Post Office carries a complete banking business in the money order department. The recording and checking system of this department at Ottawa is done absolutely by machinery. Cards punched with holes are so systematized that when they are put through another machine the figures which they represent are automatically checked. Next they are sorted and filed by the same system. Perhaps the most fascinating part of
the process to watch in a post office is the sorting of newspapers. The sorters stand in the midst of a pile of newspaper and throw them into the different bags. The opening are not much more than a foot square and so close together that they are separated only by the material of the bags, but the sorter, his eyes as keen and steady, his hand as sure and fast, as the eye and hand of a circus performer who drives knives around a human head, drops his rolled papers with the utmost accuracy, precision and speed into their respective bags. The throw is often as much as thirty five or forty feet.
Newspapers are carried by the post office at a distinct loss, but it was so decreed by Parliament in early days in order that the country might link up, progress and advance through thefrequent and wide circulation of Canadian and foreign newspapers and periodicals.
The post office was one of the first and perhaps the most important national undertakings. It has not only been connected with the progress of the country but has in a sense led it.
The journeys to many points were hazardous and lonely but the carriers made it then as they do make it now— cheerfully and bravely.
One of the Montreal office employees is totally blind. He visited the Ottawa post office recently and during the course of his visit asked one of the members of the staff to direct him to a certain building.
When he had received instructions as to how to go there he replied cheerfully, “Oh, that’s easy. I could find that with my eyes shut,” and went out with a grin.
That is the spirit that is conducting His Majesty’s Mail to-day.