RES students learn about post office history

After completing a mini unit on The Pony Express and the United States Postal Service, on Jan. 11, Bob Ralston letter carrier for 21 years, now working as a postal clerk and the father of student Sean Ralston, visited D. W. Johnson’s second grade class at Ronceverte Elementary School. Ralston discussed his former and present responsibilities and the many duties of a letter carrier. He also addressed the history of the postal service, which the students had been studying in class.

Ralston informed the students that when he was a letter carrier he walked between 8-10 miles a day and had close to 500 houses on his route. Due to this amount of walking, he replaced his special shoes once every three months.

“Most people think Christmas is the busiest time of year for letter carriers, but actually it’s October and November,” stated Ralston. During these months, businesses send out their catalogs, which can add an additional 10 to 20 pounds to a carrier’s bag, which may already weigh 65 pounds. “This job can be very hard on the shoulders,” said Ralston.

Students learned that the U.S. Postal Service still used The Pony Express symbol unit the 1960s. They were called the United States Post Office Department, and then in 1971 changed their name to the current United States Postal Service. The U.S. Postal Service is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution. The United States Postal Service employs some 617,000 workers, making it the third-largest civilian employer in the United States behind the federal government and Wal-Mart.

The U.S. Mail traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, where Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin’s operation, elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872, and transformed in 1971 into the U.S. Postal Service as an independent agency under the Postal Reorganization Act.

Mr. Ralston reported that each day, over 20,000 letters addressed to President Obama are screened for threats and then sent to a nondescript office building in downtown Washington, where hundreds of volunteers and staff members sort the mail into categories. That does not include emails, faxes, texts and other forms of communication. Each night aides randomly choose 10 letters to deliver to President Obama to read. He prefers handwritten letters to e-mails, believing them to be more thoughtful, with better stories.

At the end of his presentation, Ralston provided a question and answer period for the students and gave each student an activity book and three pretend stamps to use in their book. He also impressed upon the class the importance of education and how he used math, reading and writing each and everyday on his job. “Due to Mr. Ralston answering each and every question my students had, I will now have to go back and revise the Power Point I made for my mini unit to include information on the USPS mail recovery center (Dead Letter Office), located in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to information (and pictures) on the first issued stamps. Until 1869 only the faces of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were found on the face of U.S. Postage,” stated Johnson.

RES students learn about mail -- old stamps 1 RES students learn about mail -- old stamp 2 RES students meet the mailman