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Not all home deliveries live only in memories


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 26, 2001

I remember when milk was delivered to our homes. My father was a milkman and delivered the glass bottles of milk and cream in a horse-drawn wagon. When I was a child in Denver, a bread man came once a week. Even as recently as 30 years ago, Charles Chips would bring big cans of potato chips to the door. I also remember an old man who lumbered down the street once a year, offering to sharpen scissors and knives. I'd really like to see him pushing his cart toward my house today.

Some home deliveries never change. Newspapers, for one. Mail, for another. Both are luxuries and a big part of my day. As an old operating room nurse, I am compulsive about preparation, so before I go to bed, I set up the coffee pot for breakfast. I still wake at 5:30 a.m., go downstairs, punch the Mr. Coffee button, let the cat out the back door and go out the front door to find my St. Petersburg Times and Wall Street Journal ready and waiting.

Breakfast is my favorite time of day. Husband Dick and I sit with coffee or cereal and read the paper silently -- or aloud when we find something to laugh at, something outrageous or just plain interesting. We have good discussions and good times at the breakfast table.

Having the paper delivered is an old-time service that we are lucky still to have today.

The mail delivery is similar. I look forward to the mail each day, hoping for something special, a personal letter or a writing acceptance. Usually I get catalogs that go out the back door as fast as they came in the front door, but that doesn't stop me from expecting excitement the next day.

I never get used to the fact that I can put a fragile paper envelope in the slot in my front door, and it will be delivered to my sister on the West Coast in three or four days. The letter will be carried by hand. It will travel in a truck and on an airplane, be sorted and again hand-carried to the curbside mailbox in front of her house. Of all the millions of mailboxes in the country, it goes to the correct one -- for 34 cents! You can't even buy a pack of gum for 34 cents. It seems miraculous to me that this complex transition still occurs so efficiently.

My mail carrier, Seward Sinclair, says he walks about 10 miles a day . . . enough that he doesn't need to look for an exercise program. As he walks, Seward looks out for the neighborhood. One day the neighbor's dog got tangled in the Christmas tree light cord. The tree was knocked over, and the dog could not get loose. Seward could hear him complaining and saw him through the window struggling with the cord.

He came across the street and asked for help. Luckily, I knew where my neighbor worked and called her. She came home and rescued the dog . . . and the Christmas tree. When I told Seward he was the Mother Superior of the Neighborhood, he just laughed at me. I guess he considers it part of his job.

Every time I go to the post office, it seems as if someone in line complains about having to wait or about the price of stamps. They're in for it. I give them my post office speech. In spite of so many changes in these transitional times, some things do stay the same.

- Write to Niela M. Eliason in care of Seniority, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; or send e-mail to

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