COBWEB CORNERS: The first mail deliveries
By Mel McFarland
Something I've wondered about for a long time is when the post office started delivering mail house to house in Colorado City. I was quite surprised to learn just when it was. It started mid-year in 1909. Before that happened, people had to go to the post office to get their mail. Two trains a day east, and two west carried the mail, plus what came over from Colorado Springs in a wagon. It was divided by priority. The first train carried mainly first class, the next one everything else (in those days there was virtually no “junk” mail). Mail was carried in heavy canvas bags on the train. If the train was not scheduled to stop, the postal employees on the railway post office car would throw it out on the station platform. Mail going out was hung on a special pole, and picked up using a special hook. RPO cars, as they were called, had mail slots on the side. You could put mail directly on the train using that slot. The city post office would pick up the mail at the railroad station and put it in the boxes in the post office. There were rural mail routes and, in the larger communities, city routes.
The delivery system took some trial and error and problem-solving. There were recognized problems, like how far could a carrier walk in a day. Other problems were found only as they popped up in the daily workings. The one big problem was in the boxes used by customers to receive the mail when it was delivered. This was before there was a standard to go by. Virtually no house had been built with a mail slot in the door, and the post office asked its customers to provide some sort of boxes. Some put cigar boxes out, but those were not very reliable. Some hung canvas bags and other delightful objects by their door for the carrier. If you had nothing to put the mail in, it would not be delivered, and you had to go to the post office.
It was also at this time that better street signs and house numbers became most important. As I collect old post cards, I see that in Colorado City addresses were often not even shown. The assumption was that everyone knew where someone lived. At first there was just one carrier for the mail, and I guess he knew, but not once things got busier!