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