Post Office Lags Behind Rest of U.S.- Can the Pony Express Find Happiness Today? By NOEL GROVE (NEA Staff Correspondent) WASHINGTON — Machines that read handwriting, letters sent electronically within seconds, and a corporation to replace a government department. That's the talk in the United States Post Office these days, where a long-tardy revolution in the mails is toddling in its infancy. Everyone, including the postal people, concedes it's about time. In a period when the air industry has advanced from the Spad to the 707 and personal hygiene" has progressed from Grandpa's Lye Soap to five- day deodorant, the U.S. Post Office has gone from sorting mail by hand to ... sorting mail by hand. And PO officials feel that neither rain nor sleet nor increased mail rates are likely to change things much, under the present structure. Their present hopes lie in the proposal by Postmaster General Lawrence O'Brien to turn the Post Office Department over to a government-owned corporation. Though generally well-received, the proposal, now under study by a presidential commission, has also been widely misinterpreted by many who thought "corporation" meant private enterprise. There's no talk of an industry-owned postal system, assure postal efficials. Forget the possibility of postmarks touting slogans such as "Better Mailing—Through Chemistry." "We're speaking in terms of a government-owned corporation resembling TV A," said the postmaster general in an NEA interview, "but I really don't like to use TVA as an example because it's a much smaller 'operation." One advantage of a corporation, O'Brien suggested would be the availability of funds now badly needed for modernization, through the issuance of bonds to provide a capital fund. As it is now, Congress makes all appropriations to the department, but revenues from postal rates go directly into the Treasury, not the Post Office. And in these times when the hue and cry for federal purse- tightening is at its loudest, extra funds for postal reform are hard to come by, although a record amount for research and development was allotted by Congress this year. "Say we need $1 billion a year for modernization of facilities across the country," O'Brien said. "Congress isn't going to allot us an extra $1 billion when they have all the other departments to account for." Some of O'Brien's strongest critics agree that' managing the mails is one of the most frustrating jobs in the government. But many still oppose the corporation idea on the basis of practicality and-even sentimentality. "There are a number of laws which do not allow O'Brien to move the mail in the most efficient manner," said a mail users' lobbyist. "But I doubt that Congress is going to divest itself of a constitutional authority it has held throughout the history of the Post Office." Sen. Frank Carlson (R-Kan.) says his main objection to the corporation is sentimental, although he questions the practicality of it as well. Painting a verbal picture of local Post Offices as folksy, community gathering places in America's hinterlands, the senator said, "A corporation sounds like such a cold- blooded type of operation. There's such a feeling of warmth between the local postmaster and the people under our present system that you just wouldn't have if he was working for a corporation. "And what about the rural mail service which pays only 30 per cent of costs and is 70 per cent public service? Would a corporation continue to operate such a service?" Corporation or department, the Post Office is headed, for an avalanche of letters, par eels, cards and flats. Already, the nation that constitutes only six per cent of the earth's population staggers under half the world's mail. And predictions are for a 20 per cent increase Times Herald, Carroll, la. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 1967 in that burden within a few years. Meeting it will take money and modernization. Employes flipping items of mail in cubbyholes can only result in more fiascos such as the eight million- piece pile-up in Chicago last Christmas. , Ideas for advanced technology in the Post Office exist, but participants in that technology are scarce. The department has turned to private industry and universities, asking their help in postal research. Mechanical needs include equipment such as a high- speed culler for separation of letters of assorted mix. Already installed in several large cities are machines capable of reading -typewritten zip codes and advanced development of the same machine that can read handwritten addresses is slated for 1971. Zip code itself has helped but not enough. A mass advertising campaign has resulted in a 74 per cent usage of all mailed items, according to an O'Brien aide. In the way-out department, basic research is beginning on facsimile mailing, in which letters would be sent electronically. After being deposited at the Post Office, they would be opened electronically, transmitted to the desired location and reproduced there on another piece of paper, which would in turn be electronically sealed in an envelope. Letters could be sent thousands of miles within seconds and the contents never seen by the human eye while in transit. Though such thinking is more in step with the modern world than manual handling and five- day delivery, facsimile mail is still in the postal dream world. For now, that Pony Express rider on the Post Office Department's official seal seems more a trademark than a historic memento. Postmaster General . . . Lawrence O'Brien, who would like to turn his department into a government-owned corporation, looks over some of the hardware he hopes will help modernize the postal system. 4-H News Activities of Carroll Area Boy*, Girls Clubs (Times Herald News Service) MANNING — Diane W e i 11 was hostess at the November meeting of the Manning 4-H Clovers. New members initiated were Carol Struve, Marlis Stoelk, Jane Hacker, Nancy Fogleman, Luann Miller. President Irene Stangl conducted the business session. Twenty- one members answered roll call with "My Favorite Book and Author". Talks given were: Movie Manners, Diane Weitl, and Little Brown Church, Linda Eickman, Jody Heithoff reported on attending a music convention. Suggestions were received for next year's program, and names drawn for a holiday exchange. Mary Felker adjourned the meeting. Lunch was served by Diane and her mother. WORLD'S OLDEST BEER GAEVLE, Sweden (AP) — The engineer Leo Oppitz thinks he owns the oldest beer in the world. 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