Imagine being a mail carrier between 1863 and 1922. I’m sure that you are wondering why those dates would be so important. Well, they really are. In 1863, the United States Postal Service began what they called Free City Delivery. This service brought about the beginning of home delivery of the mail, at least in the cities. I suppose it also brought on the need for the mail carrier. What it didn’t bring with it was a large degree of efficiency. The mail carrier was required to go to the door of the patron receiving mail, and knock. Then they waited patiently for someone to answer the door to take the mail. That is about the strangest idea to me. The person would either need to be home every day at the time the mail carrier was supposed to be there, or somehow know the date something was coming…an impossible task in those days, or have someone else there to watch for the carrier. It was estimated that the carriers lost over 1.5 hours a day, waiting on the patrons to come to the door.
As early as 1880, the post office began to suggest that people put a letter box on their door, so that the mail could be left at the house, even if no one was home. The Post Office wanted wall-mounted mailboxes to the outside of the houses instead of mail slots. They wanted them to be mounted at the height of a standing man. The plan was that the carrier would not have to bend over to deposit mail, and the outgoing mail would stay dry. People are notoriously slow to accept change, and I’m sure this situation was no different.
By 1916, with little change in the situation, the post office began working on a plan to achieve the compliance they needed. The deadline was set. The homes were to have a letter box by March 20, 1922. After that date, the mail would be held at the post office, if no letter box was in place. As we look back now, it seems strange to think that anyone would fight the letter box plan. It’s such a simple way to get your mail, and it does not involve a daily trip to the post office. I can’t imagine why anyone would want the hassle that not having a mail box at your home would bring. I think they probably felt same way after they had one for a while.
It’s like taking a trip down memory lane…going back to Forsyth, Montana. It’s the town where my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family comes from. When our girls were little, we took them to Forsyth every summer for a visit with the family that lived there. In those days, we saw Bob’s grandma, Vina Hein, and her husband, Walt “Grandpa” Hein, and his Uncle Eddie and his wife, Pearl Hein and their family and Butch (Bernard) and his son, Scott. Then later on, we got to know Bob’s grandpa, Andrew Schulenberg, who had been the sheriff of Rosebud County for a number of years, and Bob’s Uncle Butch (Andrew) Schulenberg. After Bob’s dad, Walt Schulenberg’s passing, we talked to his brothers, Eddie, Butch, and Butch. Those were sad phone calls, but as often happens in these situations, when one door closes, another opens. Such was the case with my father-in-law’s passing. As sad as it was, it opened a door that has allowed me to get to know his brother, Butch Schulenberg, his wife, Charlys, and their family. Finding out that they are on Facebook was an added blessing, because we have become quite close. I think my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg would be very pleased.
Yesterday, brought Bob and me full circle…back to Forsyth, Montana, and back in tough with the uncles and their families. As an added blessing, the Uncles are friends, even though they Eddie and Butch Hein are not brothers with Butch Schulenberg. That simply hasn’t mattered. Butch and Eddie worked together at Peabody Coal, so they were friends for years. We all went out for dinner and had such a wonderful time. We talked about everything from their Peabody days, to the old days with their families. When my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away, and my mother-in-aw, Joann Schulenberg went into the nursing home, I knew that things would never be the same. That door had closed. Our lives had taken a turn in a new, and unfamiliar direction. It was not especially a direction I had ever wanted to take, but here we were, and we could not go back. Dad was gone now, and Mom’s mind is quickly slipping away.
Coming back to Forsyth was a journey into the past to a degree, and I wasn’t sure hour it would turn out, except that I knew that I loved the people we were going to visit. It had been a number of years since we had seen them, especially Butch and Charlys Schulenberg, but when we arrived, it was like we had seen each other every day for years. While one door, the one with my father-in-law, had closed…another door, the one with his brothers had opened…or rather, re-opened. It never really was closed, but we hadn’t stepped through it, I guess. Now, I can’t imagine not spending time with the Forsyth family again. Each one is a special blessing to me. I find myself feeling so thankful to know these wonderful people. Time slips away so quickly, and I don’t ever want to take that time for granted. I don’t want to find another door closing only to find that I didn’t go through it to spend time with and really get to know the precious people there.
Not every great grandmother is so blessed to have a really close relationship with their great grandchildren, and it is even more rare with the youngest of twenty great grandchildren, in which the oldest one is twenty four. My mother, Collene Spencer was a very blessed woman. Her relationship with her youngest great grandchild, Aleesia Spethman, who is my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s granddaughter, was one that was the rarest of the rare, and just as blessed for both of them. Aleesia has three older brothers, and at two years of age, taking her to all the activities the boys are into is difficult. That works our really well for my sister and it also worked quite well for our mom, because they got to see the baby often.
For Aleesia, the two relationships were different, even though they lived in the same house, and spent the time together. She loved both her grandma and her great grandmother, but the relationships were very unique. Aleesia decided that Mom would be called GiGi. Aleesia is too young to know that our mom was her great grandmother. The name GiGi seemed very fitting to my sister, because Mom was, after all Aleesia’s great grandmother, or GG. Aleesia loved coming over to GiGi’s house. Every time she came over, she would run in calling for GiGi. Then she would run over to see her. Aleesia trusted GiGi implicitly. Every time she was there, she would pull Mom’s walker over to Mom’s chair and climb up on it. Then she would jump from it into Mom’s arms. It never occurred to Aleesia that Mom wouldn’t catch her…she knew her GiGi would always catch her. It was a relationship that was so sweet to watch.
When Mom went to Heaven, the family and especially Aleesia’s parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and my sister, Cheryl, were worried about how Aleesia would deal with that, especially since Cheryl would continue to live in Mom’s house. She has done pretty well. She asked about Mom often at first, then she seemed to understand that GiGi wasn’t there, but even a two year old Aleesia is not immune to those ton of bricks moments. The other day, as Aleesia and my sister, her grandma, Cheryl were coming to the house to spend the evening at Mom’s house, Aleesia ran up to the door excitedly like she used to before, and knocking on it she said “We see GiGi?” Then she stopped and looked down, like she realized something. She turned and saw Mom’s car parked on the street, and with a really sad face, she said, “She’s not home.” Such a sad thing for a little two year old to have to try and understand, because her GiGi has always meant so much to her.
So many times, we are so busy taking a picture of someone or something, that we fail to notice the little things happening just beyond the center of our attention. Most often, they are not really important things, and they will continue to be fairly unnoticed later on too. Things like a bird or dog or even a car on a nearby road, are just coincidences that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We just overlook them as we look at the main subjects of the picture.
Nevertheless, there are things, that when they are placed in a picture, can change the picture in a bigger way, and in reality, add to its depth….give it character and add a touch of humor to it for all to see. It’s not something that usually invades the picture, but rather someone who invades it, and often that someone is a child. Yes, you get the occasional inattentive person who is off in their own little world, and so they walk right into your shot, but that is not what I’m talking about here. Those shots are simply annoying, because they ruined the shot by their careless act of indifference.
No, I’m talking about the watchers. Usually little kids who are so excited about the picture being taken or the people who are in the picture that they stand at the window or in the doorway to watch the proceedings, and since the photographer wasn’t looking at the window, even though it was right behind the subjects they are photographing, they get the little watcher in the picture too. I love those kinds of pictures, because it is just so typical of little kids to want to see what is going on, and they have no idea that they have inadvertently stepped into the shot. It’s just all about the fact that they are curious about what is going on.
I don’t think these watchers ever ruin the shot, like the inattentive passerby does. The watcher is more like the bird or the dog who gets into the shot when it was not in the plan for them to be there. They just like to see what is going on, and so, there they are at the moment you snap the picture. They don’t ruin the picture, but rather add that little bit of humor, character, and even depth to the shot, and speak to the very nature of kids. “If you aren’t a part of it, just be near enough to catch what is going on.” And, “Oops!! I didn’t mean to be in the picture!!”
I was talking to my Aunt Sandy yesterday, and she was telling me some things she found out about my grandparents, her mom and dad, that she had never heard before. It made me realize just what amazing people they were. And yet, you would never have heard my grandparents tell of any of the deeds they did, because they weren’t in it for the glory…they were in it because there was a need, and they couldn’t bear to let someone be in need and not help out. Even their own kids didn’t know, and they were right there!!
This was during the Great Depression, and many people found themselves out of work, and in a lot of trouble, because if you had no money, you and your family just might starve to death. During those years, many an extra mouth was fed at my grandmother’s table. It was well known to those who were homeless and broke. They would show up at the door, and as some have told it later, my grandma would simply add some more water to the soup, and a little more of what she had, usually potatoes, and pull up another chair for that stranger in need. It was an act of kindness that most of us wouldn’t dare do today, because you never know what kind of person they might be, but as I said, times were different. People…even the homeless and desperate had values and morals, they would never bite the hand that fed them, nor the hands of their family.
The kids knew about the help given to a stranger in need, but they didn’t know about the family of children, whose parents drank away the paycheck, and had nothing left for food on the table. Giving money to the parents would do no good, so my grandparents bought bags of groceries and took it over for the kids. These kids were friends of my aunt, and yet neither they nor my grandparents ever told of the secret supplies they had received, or where they came from…until just recently, when one of those kids told someone else, and my cousin overheard, how their lives had been saved by those acts of kindness. There was no public knowledge of those supplies. Those kids didn’t have to feel embarrassment or shame about what their parents did, or how they all stayed alive…because only those kids and my grandparents knew anything about it.
My grandparents didn’t have much money back then…nobody did, but they still gave to those in need!! And the real miracle here is that my grandparents and their own 9 children always had enough to eat. They never went hungry!! How can that be? The food on their table had started out as enough for the family, and then food was added as needed, but from what? They didn’t have a lot of money to buy extra to keep feeding the many people who came and went from their kitchen in those tough years, and yet somehow there was always enough. Well, I don’t know what you think, but I think God had found two people who were willing to be givers in this earth, and He partnered with them. He said, “If you are willing to give to the needy…I will provide whatever you need to meet their needs!” Yes, my grandparents were known for their acts of kindness…all the way up to Heaven!!