Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rail Post Offices

July 26, 1958, Appleton Post-Crescent

How often have you seen trucks on the highway that say "US Mail carrier" on the trailer?  Perhaps it's not as evident anymore because of security, but today, mail transportation by motor carrier is the norm.  But go back fifty or more years and you enter a then-declining age of railway post offices or RPOs, which were railroad cars that were normally operated in passenger service as a means to sort mail en route, in order to speed delivery. From the middle of the 19th century, many American railroads earned substantial revenues through contracts with the U.S. Post Office Department to carry mail aboard high-speed passenger trains. In fact, a number of railroad companies maintained passenger routes where the financial losses from moving people were more than offset by transporting the mail.  I'm sure you've witnessed scenes in many old movies of a train "grabbing" a leather or heavy canvas sack of mail from a hook hanging on a track-side mail crane at smaller towns where the train did not stop.  That was just one, though memorable, aspect of railway postal service.

The article above describes the RPO that passed through the Fox Cities in the late 1950s. When the Post Office Department made a policy change in the 1960s to process mail in large regional "sectional centers," mail would now be sorted by large machines, not by people, and the remaining railway post office routes were phased out of service. In September 1967, the Post Office Department cancelled all "mail by rail" contracts, electing to move all First Class mail via air and other classes by truck transport. This announcement had a devastating effect on passenger train revenues; the Santa Fe, for example, lost $35 million in annual business, and led directly to the ending of many passenger rail routes. Enjoy this nostalgic ride from another era.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Deck the Streets

November 16, 1977, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern
I have a tendency to remember that Christmas preparations weren't such an early affair, but photos like this seem to prove a guy wrong. I'd have bet good money that our town's decorations didn't come out until Thanksgiving or so, but there you go.  This writer more or less admits that the trend is ever increasing...and that was 1977.  No sooner was Halloween over this year than my local stores started putting out the Christmas merchandise.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How Paper is Made

November 12, 1982, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern
Another cool field trip to local industry.  I wonder how many students were intrigued enough to set their sights on a career in paper after attending events like this.  I was intrigued by the one student's honest comment that while she had set her sights on college, the tour still had helped her understand the economic aspects of paper production.  Strong words for somebody who could have had the day off like everybody else.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


November 5, 1980, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern
Students come out en masse to the old Menasha square to get voters enthused for the 1980 election. 

Monday, November 13, 2017


November 17, 1966, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern
I could have saved this post for Flag Day in June.  I'm not sure why the state flag hadn't been flown before along with the U.S. flag at local high schools.  But in order to distinguish it from the many other blue U.S. state flags, Wisconsin's flag was modified in 1979 to add "Wisconsin" and "1848", the year Wisconsin was admitted to the Union. All Wisconsin state flags manufactured after May 1, 1981 were required to use this design.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day

November 12, 1976, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern

November 12, 1982, Neenah-Menasha Daily Northwestern

Two Veterans Day observances, held only six years apart, yet spanning generations.  Grizzled veterans and fresh-faced young people.  Please take a moment to remember the sacrifices of all the brave men and women who have given of their lives to keep us all safe and free.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Election Celebration

November 10, 1900, Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
While there was an election this past week, it wasn't a large-scale election as in the Presidential year of 1900.  Perhaps it was just a sign of the times, when rhetoric and lectures were a form of entertainment, that caused such a focus by the populace on politics and such an outpouring of enthusiastic revelry upon election results being released.  Nowadays, such enthusiasm might be channeled negatively into street riots, or at best, loud demonstrations against one or another candidate's politics.  And in the political climate of today, it's hard to see Democrats and Republicans coming together to agree on anything.