Talk About Snail Mail: Letter Arrives 57 Years Later
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The Fiscal Times
June 12, 2014

It was written more than half a century ago, when people still penned “hard copy” letters in elaborate script – and when receiving a letter in the mail was sometimes the only way to connect to the outside world.  

Now it has finally been delivered by the U.S. Postal Service – with a 3-cent stamp on top.

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Steve Spiller of Redlands, California, received a letter this week that was written from Kennebunkport, Maine, on June 14, 1957 – a time when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, Elvis had just bought Graceland, and Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley committed the cardinal sin of agreeing to move his baseball team out to faraway L.A.

The letter, a paper shard of history, shared hotel rates and other lodging details about a Maine inn called the Bonnie Brig Team Room, in the Cape Arundel area of Kennebunkport.

The letter wasn’t addressed to Spiller, though: It was addressed to the previous owner of the post office box that Spiller has been using for the past 33 years. That man was Winslow H. Randall, an orange grower who passed away in the 1980s.

Randall, it turns out, was “this phenomenal bridge player,” Spiller told CBS in Los Angeles – someone who had been “elected president of the American Contract Bridge League, a national organization with 85,000 members at that time,” reported Redland Daily Facts.

Winslow, who no doubt traveled for bridge tournaments or related business, had reached out to the local Chamber of Commerce for lodging details. In the letter, two rooms were quoted as costing between $8 and $10 a day.  

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“Above prices include breakfast,” the letter said, according to Redland Daily Facts. “We are located near hotels, beaches and within 1/2 mile of shopping circle, churches, artists studio, etc. Thanking you for your interest in the Kennebunk area and hoping to see you.”

As luck would have it, Spiller is a museum director and collections manager and cares about preserving American history, so it’s no surprise that the idea of donating the letter to the Redlands Historical Museum Association has already been floated.

But the reason for the letter’s 57-year delay is curious, or infuriating, depending on your point of view. Stamped in red bold letters on the envelope’s front was this message from the postal service: “Delayed due to incorrect zip code.”

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Managing Editor Maureen Mackey oversees scheduling and work flow and also writes and edits features and reports. She spent more than 20 years as a senior book and features editor at Reader’s Digest.