Hilarious, it could
be. Pathetically true, it is. Fail-safe, it isn't! It is the mail
delivery system. And the journeys — all of them — of the illustrated
cover just about sum it up.
postmark of the Manila, Philippines, Air Mail Section shows that the
journey started on Jan. 30, 1974 when the postage of 1.80 pesos was
noted in ink in the upper right corner and the two 50s Imelda Marcos
and two 40s Gen. Malvar stamps were affixed, and this letter from
Frank Stanfield, the Manila dealer, to Carasan Company in Culver
City, Calif., was ostensibly on its way.
The letter got as
far as the "Returned to Sender" stamp on the annotated date of Jan.
31. The sender was told to pony up an additional 5.70 pesos of
postage. This postage was affixed to the back of the cover, and the
Manila Air Mail Section again used its canceller, this time dated
Feb. 5, 1974.
Then, off goes the
cover to Culver City, where it is received and backstamped Feb. 9,
1974, just a few feet away from the post office box of the
But wait — hold it!
Can't you see the notice on the front? "Return to Sender." It's an
airmail envelope, all right, but it clearly states it is 5.70 pesos
short on postage; so, send it back by boat.
Weary, torn, tired
and all but unglued, it arrives back in Manila on May 9, 1974, where
"J.M.C." applies paper bandages on three sides, initials and dates
the top bandage and stamps it twice: "Received in Bad Order."
No wonder, after a
nonstop flight from Manila to Los Angeles, then no rest before a
three month boat trip back to Manila, including several trips
through sorting, canceling, and packaging machines.
After the emergency
first aid, the Manila Air Mail Section most efficiently notes the
re-arrival by backstamping with a May 9, 1974 date.
Perhaps the reader
is wondering at this point, "What goes on here?" And so is someone
in the Manila post office. A large question mark is penciled on the
face, underlined for emphasis. It's time to get this thing unraveled
— and that is what "L.M.M." does on May 10, 1974, noting initials
and date in the upper right corner, just below "J.M.C.'s" notation
of the day before. "L.M.M." does the unthinkable: checking the
postage affixed against the "Return to Sender" requirement.
Let's clear away
the snow and sleet and gloom of night and get this thing on it's
appointed round. Just one thing left to do: cross out the "Return to
Sender" notice, since it had been satisfied a full three months
Clear and forceful
action is in order, so clear and forceful it is: a red "Forward" and
directional arrow to Culver City are boldly written on the face.
At 8 a.m. on May
21, 1974, the letter is unceremoniously dropped into its intended
port, Box 2003 in Culver City. Two transoceanic flights and one boat
trip halfway around the world, 111 days later this "first, fast,
reliable" airmail letter arrives at its destination.
journeys shed light on why the last registered letter took seven
months by surface mail from Bangkok to Culver City and why an
airmail parcel from Baltimore took but five weeks. With all the
recent postal rate increases, three or more trips can use up money
much faster than just one.
And it also helps
the pinched airlines and merchant marine.