I believe the statue of limitations is now past so I can divulge details of a Federal Offence which occurred some years ago.
The entire time my family lived in
Hinckley, our address was P.O. Box 119. Box number 119 was the very highest numbered box in the Hinckley Post Office. The boxes were brass with combination locks with letters instead of numbers on the dials. The old Hinckley Post Office was a tiny, wooden building painted red, white and blue which sat on the east side of Main Street. Sometime since then, Hinckley has built a new, modern, brick building that now sits three blocks south and on the other side of the street from the old site.
During my childhood my Mother rarely went to the Post Office, she usually sent me or my brothers to collect our mail. One summer day, probably right after Mark was born, Jim and I were sent on this errand and found ourselves at the Post Office during the lunch hour when the post master’s window was pulled down and no one was around. We opened our box and then, I’m not sure why, we started trying to open some of the other 118 boxes. We found out very quickly that if you turned the dial while pushing against the little release knob, you could feel when the combination ‘clicked’. Within about 20 minutes, Jim and I had every single mailbox opened. We had the rows of all 119 little, brass doors standing straight out and had just stepped back to admire our work when Mr. Hardy, the Post Master, returned from his lunch break.
I don’t think we realized that we had done something really bad, but it certainly was a big issue to Mr. Hardy (normally a very congenial and kind man). He began to berate us mercilessly. He yelled at us that no one except a certified mail carrier is allowed to handle the
mail and that it was a FEDERAL CRIME for anyone else to mess with it. We pointed out we hadn’t touched a single letter; we had just opened the boxes. He continued to rebuke and reprimand us while we stood silently and took his verbal abuse. US
He made us close all the boxes, turn each dial, and then promise to never try that again. Jim and I took our own mail and returned home with our heads hanging down. You never saw such a pair of contrite federal offenders.
After that, whenever I had to get the mail, I grabbed it quickly and dashed out of the post office. My fingers itched to turn those other dials and open those boxes to show how easy it was, but I showed restraint and kept my promise and never opened another person’s mailbox again.
Perhaps next time you are in a post office, you can look at those wanted posters and if you flip back some years, you’ll come across an outdated page with 10- and 7-year-old faces of the federal mail criminals who broke into over a hundred mailboxes in their scandalous career one summer day in 1972.