The digital medium has created such a decline in post office business that thousands of local offices are doomed. There will be meetings; angry postal customers will deride regional managers explaining economic realities, but it is a done deal and we all know it.
You can buy stamps anywhere and there is no reason why you must go to a post office to use the postal system.
Contracting postal services is nothing new: Until the recent past, postal “Star Routes” were contracted for mail delivery and mail has moved via rail car, bus and airline.
One way to be certain a letter is read is to send a hand-written letter. I occasionally receive a note written by hand and I tend to keep it.
Block printing and the computer keyboard are supplanting cursive writing as the preferred method for personal communication. A generation or two may produce such a diminution of cursive writing that it will take some expertise to read it.
I own a number of family handwritten documents approaching 200 years old. Some different characteristics appear, like the leading “s”, which appears when two of them are in the same word together. For example, “cross” is written to appear as “crofs.”
It takes a while after reading very old hand-written documents to understand the style.
While we’re at it, we take it for granted that many people signed documents with a mark, often an “X,” but many literate people also used a mark rather than signing their names.
The earliest writing pens were feather pins, known as quills, preferably from a goose. Everyone owned a small knife for sharpening the pen known as a “pen knife.” My grandmother kept her penknife in an apron pocket, but probably never used a quill.
Quills were replaced by durable steel pen points and in my first few years of school our desks still included a hole in the upper right corner to hold the “ink well.” Students stuffed all kinds of things into that hole and none of us knew its original purpose.
When my grandfathers were students they practiced letter forming on “slates,” sort of miniature blackboards upon which they wrote in chalk.
Some documents from the 1860s were obviously written with a poor quality of ink.
The reason, I believe, is that commercial ink was expensive, if available, and rural people made ink substitutes by crushing pokeberries, producing a purple ink, or they used soot from kerosene lamps, which faded easily and today appears faint.
If you believe experts cursive writing is on the way out. Penmanship is not an important subject in school these days, if taught at all.
Flowing, artistic handwriting is so rarely found that you have to hire someone to address important invitations.
Our forefathers and mothers would be appalled.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.