Mail Call

by Harry T. Roman


“I am the Merry Mailman…..ring-ding my bell will ring…..that’s my very special ring……”

Remember that little tune sung by Ray Heatherton (beautiful Joey’s [sigh] dad) to open his Merry Mailman TV show. It sure made getting mail exciting, and I loved to get mail—still do.

People laugh now when I tell them we used to get mail twice a day in Newark----morning and afternoon; and if there was an important piece of mail or a check, the mailman rang the bell and handed it to you personally. If you were expecting something special, just let the mailman know, and he would keep an eye out for it. You didn’t have to walk to a street corner mailbox to mail a letter, just leave it in your house mailbox or hand it to the mailman and it was off on its journey. By the way, how many corner mailboxes have you seen lately?

This was all before our modern zip codes. We were “Newark 7” NJ for our mail designation, which later became 07107. Try and get mail twice a day today!

The mailman I remember best was Lenny Caposiena. I went to school with his pretty daughter Kathy. Lenny always had a smile, a big hello, and some words for everybody. He was a regular part of our neighborhood, just like the paperboy (and his brothers) who grew up delivering our Star Ledger. Those old neighborhoods were a true community.

During the summer, I would enjoy getting the Weekly Reader newsletter series with all sorts of science and current events inside. It would come every Thursday like clockwork, put out by the Scholastic Services Company…… still very much alive and kicking today. They were the same folks who used to print those small reading books of popular titles you could order through your school class. I probably have some of those books still around in my library here at home.

How many of you out there filled out cereal box special offers, then mailed your envelope off; and then literally waited by the mailbox everyday to get your big prize? Can you remember what you actually received? I tell you that mailbox was a magic place where stuff just seemed to appear. Nothing more mysterious than seeing a postmark from way out of state---“Holy cow, who was sending that all the way to us!?”

When family and friends took a long vacation to some remote part of the country, those exotic post marks came on a letter or a postcard with a picture you probably still have somewhere in that shoebox filled with old black and white family pictures.

A huge surprise came for me when I was about 10 years old. My Uncle John was a physics professor at Carnegie Tech College (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, and knew that I was developing an interest in the sciences and engineering. I had written to him asking if he had some old books that he might be able to send me. Not too long after I mailed the letter, a special delivery mail truck arrived one summer morning, and a huge box was carried into the living room. Uncle John had sent me a treasure chest in an old grapefruit box---all sorts of science books that I simply went ape over. It was the best mail I ever got. Like those old Scholastic books, they remain in my library…..very special to me.

Mailmen carried leather bags then, lugging them all over their routes. We were able to tell the time when we saw the mailman, usually between 9:00 and 9:30 and 3:00 and 3:30. It was a regular rhythm nestled between the other neighborhood happenings like the milkman, paperboy, horse cart vegetable peddlers, knife-sharpening man, insurance man, dry goods merchants, and often a patrolman walking a neighborhood beat. When was the last time you saw a police officer walking around a residential neighborhood?! If you do remember, can you recall his name? [Remember Mike the cop on the old Abbot and Costello TV Show?]

Think I’ll check the mailbox. I’m feeling lucky.

Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: