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Column: You got mail - at least you did back in 1934

WORTHINGTON -- You may have seen Plymouth Rock, that seaside boulder where it is said the Pilgrims first stepped ashore in America. The year was 1620, which is carved into one side of the rock. Carved in stone.

Visitors to the Black Hills this summer report they can see no progress in the mammoth image of Crazy Horse being carved from Thunderhead Mountain. Carved in stone.

I notice there is a polished stone on Worthington's new fire hall with the year 2012 carved into it.

It is not hard to find names carved in stone, of course. Stop by any cemetery. Through all the earth there are images and figures carved in stone, or carved from stone, in town squares and city parks. It is mankind's way of honoring the great and remembering important dates.

Archeologists poking around Worthington one day may puzzle at the names they find carved in stone in the ancient Turkey Capital. Henry Morgenthau Jr. and James A. Farley. If these names puzzle you, check the cornerstone for the stately old Worthington post office building at the corner of 11th Street and Third Avenue. Also carved in stone is the information that Henry Morgenthau was U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and James Farley was Postmaster General. The year was 1934. The post office was a New Deal project authorized to put people to work.

It was a great old post office. The mail carriers -- oh, Lawrence Nystrom, George Goodell, Rudy Sprink, among them -- set out on their routes twice each day, morning and afternoon. There were no vehicles. Henry Bisch met the trains with a truck to unload large items; Henry was an employee of REA, the Railroad Express Agency.

Loretta Harper -- Mrs. Harper -- was postmaster in 1934. A woman working as postmaster gave Worthington a rare distinction. Ray Darling was longtime assistant postmaster.

You could buy a penny postcard. Many people did. Stamps had images of George Washington year after year.

There was a story from that time -- a woman came in and ordered six stamps for six invitations she wanted to put in the mail. The clerk -- maybe Glen Swanson, maybe Ray Shore -- gave her the stamps and she asked, "Should I put them on myself?" The clerk replied, "You can, but they will get to where you want them faster if you stick them on the envelopes."

I never liked what the Congress did to the postal system. Until 1971, the postmaster general was a member of the president's cabinet. USPS was considered a basic service to the American public, not a business. If stamp sales did not cover all expenses, Congress voted the necessary funds.

Through the summer past, public outcry made the Congress back down on the plan to close hundreds of U.S. post offices. But nothing is certain about what a new year may bring.

It's puzzling. The U.S. military could be counted a business in the same way USPS is now counted a business. The military sells its surpluses, everything from boots to ships, the same way the post office sells stamps. No matter. Congress freely votes multi-hundreds-of-billions of dollars for the military every 12 months.

Worthington had a military surplus store in the years following World War II. The surplus store was on 11th Street, roughly across from the old YMCA and a small stone's throw from the old post office. The Worthington store was one of several in the local region.

(Somebody said there still are military surplus stores in the region, but all the uniforms and accessories are camouflage now. You can't see them.)

Many veterans scorned surplus stores. They had enough of GI boots and wool overcoats. But the Worthington store was popular. People bought metal ammunition boxes and duffel bags. Fatigue pants were popular with hunters. Men and boys in fatigue jackets and Navy pea coats were a familiar sight along every street.

There are some military sales pending. You can place a bid for a 1949 U.S. railroad tank car, 10,000 gallon capacity. You can also bid on a 40-inch, four-wheel adjustable stretcher. You might take the stretcher when you're shopping. If you get tired, it would be great for a nap.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.