Friday, November 20, 2009

Has Santa gone South, or what?

First, a turkey tale ...

A wild turkey in New Jersey decided to take his fate into his own hands (er, "wings," as the case may be). Whether it was a case of turkey-cide or simply trying to assume a lower profile identity, he played a game of "chicken" on the New Jersey Turnpike, running in and out of the high speed traffic. Of course, maybe he was just trying to cross the road. (Just in case you are too young to remember WKRP in Cincinnati - turkeys CAN"T fly.) Maybe he was just trying to run away from home over some sort of family squabble (or would that be "gobble"?) In any case, authorities were able to catch him alive and move him to a "more appropriate" location. Let's just hope it wasn't someone's oven. After all that effort on his part, old Tom Turkey deserves a break. (He's already gotten a few "brakes"!)
Now, back to our promised feature ...

Is the Post Office closing down the North Pole?

For years (since 1954), thousands of children's letters addressed to "SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE" have found their way to the Alaskan town of North Pole. There, a team of volunteers opened thousands of letters each year. Their replies to the children were hand-signed by "elves" and were postmarked "North Pole." (Perhaps you received one of these as a child.)

Of course, the sheer volume of letters meant only a small percentage (thousands, though) actually made their way to North Pole, Alaska. Others were handled in side branches throughout the large post offices around the country. At those satellite locations, volunteers opened and read letters to determine true need and when such was found, made efforts to deliver packages to those children - packages signed by "Santa" and his "elves."

Unfortunately, the state of the times caused the postal service to begin restricting the policies of the program known as Operation Santa in 2006. At that point, they began requiring volunteers to show identification in order to participate. Then, last year, a volunteer in Maryland was identified as a registered sex offender and activities in a number of the satellite "Operation Santas" were suspended. (This person was identified and eliminated from the program before he had access to any personal information concerning a child.) The Post Office was forced to institute further regulations concerning the implementation of the program.

This year, Post Office branches wishing to participate In Operation Santa must redact all information identifying the child's last name and address from each letter. This must be replaced with a computerized address code, known only by the Post Office. It is a labor intensive and costly effort. Budgets and labor forces have been cut. Many Post Offices can't do this. The Anchorage Post Office (headquarters for the North Pole, Alaska branch) has determined the restrictions are simply not feasible due to cost cutting efforts. The North Pole Post Office will not be doing Operation Santa this year.

Back in North Pole, where light posts resemble candy canes and streets bear names like Kris Kringle Way and Santa Claus Lane, the elves (town folk) are outraged! Their Mayor, likens it to a Dr. Seuss tale, "It's Grinchlike that the Postal Service never informed the little elves before the fact. They've been working on this for how long?"

The 2100 residents of North Pole pride themselves on their Christmas ties and spirit. One of the tourist attractions is Santa Claus House that sells over 100,000 letters from Santa, postmarked "North Pole." They have a store that features everything Christmas, year round. Visitors to the Post Office get a hand-stamped "North Pole" postmark on postcards and packages. All are devastated by the news. Further upsetting the elves is the fact that out-of-state requests for "North Pole" cancellations will now be handled in Anchorage - some 260 miles to the South!

***Many Post Offices around the country are attempting to continue the Operation Santa charitable efforts. It just won't be happening at the North Pole. So don't be surprised if your child's letters arrive with postmarks from such exotic Toy Workshop locations as Boise, Santa Fe, Philadelphia, or even Miami!

The residents of North Pole are appealing to their Congressional representatives in Washington to take action to save the North Pole tradition before Christmas. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Wow, this North Pole ordeal is really interesting! I think it's sad that one bad apple had to ruin the fun for everyone. Shame on you, sex offender guy!