Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, August 10, 2012

LOOK UP IN THE SKY!

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE,


IT'S THE MAILMAN!


In these days of instant messaging across the room and around the world, the mere thought of carrying a stamped letter in a prop engine plane seems altogether primitive and overly useless. But back in the 1930s, having your very own letter put in a mail sack and tossed into a biplane was a big deal, a real big deal.

In the first air mail delivery in the United States in 1793, Jean Pierre Blanchard, a French balloonist, carried a personal letter from George Washington to whom it may concern, that is the first person whom he saw when he landed. Fred Wiseman was the first pilot to carry the mail, albeit three letters, in an airplane in the year 1911. The first true, regularly scheduled air mail flight in the United States took place on May 15, 1918.

To that point, mail had first been carried on foot, on horseback, by wagon, by train and by boat. With the advent of railroads and then automobiles, mail was transported faster than it had ever been before.

It was in the years after World War I when more and more random flights into and out of Dublin began to rise, although the rare sight of a flying machine here always brought out a crowd.

Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers saw the importance of carrying mail on air plane flights both within the state and across the nation, so he declared Georgia's own "Airmail Week," in the summer of 1937.

Frank W. Hulse, the popular manager of the Augusta Airport, arrived in Dublin just before dark on the evening of August 8, 1937. During World War II , Hulse trained more than 25, 000 pilots and began to develop a network of air service among the smaller cities of the South. Hulse founded Southern Airways, which became "Atlanta's Own Airline." Hulse, an inductee into the Georgia and Alabama Aviation Halls of Fame, sold the company to Republic Airlines, which in 1980 was the largest airline in the United States with the number of destinations served.

At the crack of dawn, Hulse was warming up his single-engine, Southern Airways prop airplane. Some 75 persons got up early to see the historic event. It would be the first regularly scheduled airmail flight out of Dublin. Mayor Marshall Chapman, Postmaster M.J. Guyton, Assistant Postmaster Clifford Prince, Rural Mail Carrier D.A. Moorman, Pilot Hulse, School Superintendent A.J. Hargrove, joined ordinary citizens, P.M. Watson, Sr., Albert Hattaway, M.B. Carroll, and Moody Brown and his son as they posed for a picture with the mail bag in front of Hulse's plane.

Hulse (left) flew east into the rising sun stopping at a suitable landing strip in Swainsboro, flying north along U.S. Highway 1 to Louisville, before turning west to Milledgeville. Allotting only five minutes on the ground at each stop, Hulse made it to the end of his wild, three-hour flight in Macon.

On that first day, Louisville topped the list with some 1500 pieces of mail. Dublin was second. Postmaster M.J. Guyton and his assistants placed a 25-pound mail sack, containing more than a thousand airmail letters in special cachets bearing the mark, "Dublin, the town that doubles."

One of the thousand letters was addressed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt, the nation's most famous philatelist, possessed one of the nation's largest stamp collections, augmented in large part due by contributions of thousands of his adoring admirers. who regularly sent stamps to the beloved four-term president. Other Dubliners took advantage of the occasion to send letters to far away relatives and friends.

From Macon, the mailbags were flown to Candler Field in Atlanta, where they, along with other air mail flights originating from Alma, Folkston, Macon, Dalton, Rome, and Lavonia, were loaded on Eastern Airline planes for delivery to all of the 48 states and 26 nations around the world. In all, nearly 17,000 pieces of mail were flown in from every corner of the state.

Postmaster Guyton, competing for the highest volume of mail with other postmasters around the state, established a special box in the new post office on the Courthouse Square, but informed everyone that they could deposit their airmail letters all week in the various street corner mail boxes around the city as long as they affixed the 6-cent airmail stamp, twice the rate of the normal cost to mail a one-ounce letter.

To enhance the effort to promote airmail, Postmaster Guyton installed in the post office lobby a large gong, which was struck by a customer each time the patron tendered an airmail letter.

Dublin Mayor, Marshall A. Chapman declared August 9-16 as "Air Mail Week" and urged all citizens to support the movement.

Even the youngsters of Dublin were invited to join in the celebration. The Post Office sponsored a model airplane contest. The winners were Herbert Moffett, Jr., Clifford Prince, Jr., Billy Keith, McGrath Keen, Bluford Page, Jr., and Charles Moore. Two of the boys continued their fascination with airplanes. Keen became a bomber pilot in World War II. Page served as a pilot in the Korean War. The winning entries were displayed for all to see in the post office lobby. The Courier Herald handed out the prizes, $2.50 to the winner, $1.00 to the second place finisher, and a fifty-cent airplane model to the third place winner in each age category. Each plane had to be made in the boys' homes and cost 25 cents or less.

At the end of the week, after the echoes of a hundred bangs of the gong had died away, the total number of airmail letters stood at 1,270.

It was hoped by all that Dublin would become a regular stop in the air mail network in Georgia. Of course, it never did. The idea of a vast network of airmail flights in and out of dozens of Georgia cities never caught on. It soon became all too evident that it would be more economical to transport the mail by truck to the larger airports in the state where they could be flown to far away destinations.

But, it was during this very week seventy five years ago, when the citizens of Dublin looked up and for the very first time, saw the mailman bound into the morning sky.









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