Prior to the advent of the modern electronic era, the arrival of the day’s mail always generated palpable expectations in the denizens of any institutional residential setting, whether it be summer camp, the military, or college. As a matter of expense, pay phones provided by the AT&T monopoly were not dialed up regularly by college students. So the mail primarily connected us to those living in the rest of the world. The mail provided not only a social medium, but was used by the College to notify us of good and bad grades, Dean’s List or academic probation, etc.
In this, as in so many things, we benefitted directly from the vision of our forefathers, the Founders of the United States. The mail service came about as the result of the Second Continental Congress and Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin.
As freshmen our boxes in Baxter Hall brought the mail to us. After assignment to residential houses, when we moved along to other dorms or into the house itself, the house was the delivery point for the mail call.
Of course, a letter from home was always good, but a letter from a honey was much better-unless it was a shoot down, either for a big weekend, or, much worse, forever. And a student who remained connected to a girlfriend back home might even faithfully write to her every day.
A special time in the school year was our return to campus after the New Year or spring break. We eagerly anticipated that an accumulated pile of mail would await us then, even if some was merely junk mail. Romantic fantasies might have grown exponentially over the break, and a letter from a certain someone might clarify the status-indeed, even survival-of a relationship that had been cultivated earlier in the year.
Of course, a letter laced with the intoxicating and seductive scent of perfume wafting through the envelope was definitely a positive sign, sending the right signal even before the letter inside was opened. In the absence of this clue, it was necessary to quickly open and carefully scrutinize the contents of the letter, including any declarative pronouncements it contained as well as every hint and innuendo.
Undeniably, the lifeline of yesterday that was the mail delivery service has been relegated to a semi-anachronism today, but we will never forget how it helped shape our undergraduate existence in a small town in the northwest corner of the Commonwealth of Masschusetts.
Click here for the Marvelettes’ original version of this classic song.
Click here for the Beatles’ cover of this classic song.