Wherever the Road Leads

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

My little town of Bethlehem Georgia becomes a popular and busy spot at this time of year.

Here is an article published today in the Atlanta Daily Liar.

BETHLEHEM – Despite the iPads and the Kindles at the top of wish lists this season and increasing ways to send virtual Christmas greeting over the internet, the old-fashioned Christmas card is not going away.

In the Barrow County town of Bethlehem, namesake of the birthplace of Jesus, thousands of greeting cards get postmarked by a machine that dates back at least 60 years.

At the United States Postal Service branch on Christmas Avenue, a small team makes sure the holiday tradition runs smoothly year after year, allowing patrons to get the “Season’s Greetings from Bethlehem” postmark and, if they choose, a red or black hand stamp in the lobby.

Kim Camp, who has been a clerk at the Bethlehem branch for eight years, said traffic isn’t slowing down.”We have processed 89,000 cards since the day after Thanksgiving”, (November 22nd fer all y’all ferrners), Camp said, “and this year we’re hoping for 150,000.”
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the USPS expects to process 17.9 billion pieces of mail – cards, letters and packages. Tuesday alone, it expected 658 million pieces, compared to the daily average of 528 million.
For Bethlehem, this means manually feeding the Christmas cards – many of which are placed in a blue box inside the lobby, the others outside in a drive-through lane – through the old flier machine. In order to ensure spare parts are available, the post office owns three just like it.

Postmaster Ada Czajkowski said the number of letters post-marked per minute depends on experience with the machine. “I can do only about 10”, she said, “but the more seasoned employees can do about 100.”

Getting the postmark is a coveted holiday seal of approval that can’t be duplicated online. Some people send packages of letters to the post office just for that postmark. Others, such as Jerri Farriba of Cartersville Ga., 80 miles away, make the drive on a rainy day wearing a colorful, festive sweater for the occasion.

“I think my friends would be disappointed if we didn’t do them,” Farriba said. “We would hear from a lot of people. It kinda makes me feel good.”

Farriba and her husband came Monday with about 115 cards to stamp and send. They first heard about the Bethlehem post office when they lived in DeKalb County. But even with the long drive each year since moving away, they keep coming back.

Julie Davis lives much closer in neighboring Winder. She started sending her cards from Bethlehem a couple of years ago. She brought about 70 cards with her on Monday.

“It’s cool to say that your Christmas cards come from Bethlehem,” she said.


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