Our gift to you this holiday season is a remembrance of a Christmas in the 1950’s by Harold C. Miller, known to many of us as “Uncle Bud.” We know it’s a bit long for the usual post, but we’re sure you will find it a special read. Uncle Bud titled this memory he wrote and shared with us in 1999, “The Christmas Eve I Helped Santa”:
“The majority of Christmas shopping in the 1950’s was done with mail order stores. Sears Roebuck & Co. and Spiegel’s in Chicago were the big ones. The people were not educated until later to do their mailing, early, they were hard to convince. Christmas week, parcels and cards arrived at the post offices with the help of extra hired trucks. Substitute letter carriers were allotted hours to help during the late Christmas rush. I usually delivered two carloads of parcels a day by returning from my route into upper town, to the office for the remaining route parcels.
Nature did not always cooperate. One of the worst deep snow, ice, and high wind storms hit the mid-west and a few days later the east coast. So bad that Pennsylvania Railroad trains were blocked off or off schedule. Mail trucks from the Harrisburg terminal arrived, dumped a few bags and were gone. The day before Christmas dawn came with sleet, rain, falling temperatures, and roads turned to glassy ice. Mothers and fathers met me at their mailboxes asking me such questions as “Are you sure my Christmas parcels are not laying in the post office?” or “What will I tell the kids?”. Back at the office after 4 p.m., my eyes brought me to a stand still as I saw the corner of the office piled high with parcels. Trains were back on schedule and the post office had hired additional trucks and personnel to clear the Harrisburg terminal. This took some thinking for me. Finally, my decision, deliver them to-night. The office force warned of the danger of ice especially dirt roads which included the most mileage on my route. They did not agree with my decision. But I sorted, loaded, and went home, with my wife also opposing my going alone. But after I asked her what she would tell our two children if our tree was lacking Santa’s visit tomorrow morning, she gave me a lecture on how to drive and agreed. I grabbed a handful of cookies, two flashlights, and left.
I had to go to the extreme southern part of my route, Mud Run Road, and then up to the northern most at Fickels Hill and the edge of Beales Swamp, less some side roads and retraces. Problems arose blowing people out to me and when they came up to the car they sometimes had a kid along or the children were looking out the window. Time was wasted for a decision where to hide the parcels. I arrived at Ervin Harbold’s home and drove up the bank to the end of the porch. Mr. Harbold came out and decided to hide them in the milk house but had to get a hat and coat. Meantime I got out to arrange the parcels. When my feet hit the ice, I went down full length on my back and gained speed until I landed on the road. Now a problem, how to get to my car. I carefully made my way to the barnyard fence which led to the ashed walk. Now the hills north of Latimore that had me worried but my tire chains took me over the tops, no problem. Arriving home around 10 p.m., I walked into a warm house greeted by my wife and aroma of hot food in the oven with my two children snug in bed dreaming of sugar plums and Santa, I suppose. I was as jolly as Santa ever was and I did not have any soot on my jacket.
This past holiday season, after twenty-two years of retirement, as I sit here reminiscing of the Post Office Christmas problems during my career as a letter carrier assigned to Route One, York Springs, its a pleasing satisfaction to me knowing I made the right decision that night and was responsible for turning a bleak and sad Christmas day into a merry one for dozens of kids and their families.”