I've been a fan of the US Postal Service since I was a kid. It could have been the uniforms that got my attention. In my working class neighborhood, uniforms were a rarity. The men, most of them laborers like my father, wore nondescript "work clothes," usually in olive drab or khaki; the women wore housedresses and aprons.
The mailman, however, wore a snazzy blue-grey outfit with an Eisenhower-style jacket—banded waist, two pleated-patch breast pockets, and buttoned cuffs. The round patch on the sleeve, of a pony express delivery, couldn't have been cooler. A matching safari-style hat topped it off. What was not to like?
My sixth-grade teacher also contributed to my interest when he assigned a special project: We were to write a "business letter" and ask for information through the mail. The who and the what were wide open, leaving us to our own imaginations. (Thanks for that, Mr. D.)
I'd certainly never been on an airplane, but for some reason I chose to send a request to an airline for information about becoming a stewardess. Pre-Google, who knows where I got the address of an airline? The important thing is that it was my first foray into research and it worked! I still remember the package that arrived a couple of weeks later—the requisite application forms, with my name and address on the large envelope! Colorful pamphlets toppled out also, all showing the glamorous life of a waitress at thirty-thousand feet. I took the package to school and impressed all my friends.
After that, I couldn't be stopped. I sent away for all kinds of things, just to receive letters or packages with my name on them. "Send for more information" was an invitation I never refused. As a result, I acquired such items as brochures from the army, kits for home improvement, pamphlets on family health, and brochures for colleges and universities all over the world. When the pen pal craze hit, I was there.
Since that time, I've had many jobs, from research physicist to novelist, but one of my proudest tenures was with the USPS as a temporary sorter during my holiday vacations from college. My only regret was that I didn't get to wear the uniform.
My latest tribute to the men and women in whom we put our trust to take care of our communications is my new series: the Postmistress Mysteries.
Meet Cassie Miller, Postmistress in a small town in western Massachusetts. She wears the now red-white-and-blue uniform proudly. She has mail to deliver and crimes to solve.
The first in the series, DEATH TAKES PRIORITY, was released this month. In it, Cassie takes on the mysterious disappearance of two hundred phone books and the murder of an old high school beaux. The book is topped off by fun facts and stories about the USPS. Haven't you always wanted to know, for example, that the ZIP in ZIP codes stands for Zoning Improvement Plan and that there are nearly forty-two thousand zip codes in the country?
I hope you enjoy Cassie as she hoists the flag every morning over her own small USPO.
Camille Minichino (aka Margaret Grace, Ada Madison, and Jean Flowers) has written more than 20 cozy mystery novels as well as short stories and nonfiction. A retired physicist, she teaches science at Golden Gate U. in San Francisco, and writing in the SF Bay Area. Visit Camille at www.minichino.com