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Eric Shackle Writes: Weird And Wonderful Letterboxes

Eric Shackle served in the Australian Army in World War Two. He has worked as a journalist on half a dozen Australian newspapers. For 19 years he was the public relations officer of British Petroleum in New South Wales, then he joined a Sydney PR consultancy.

He bought his first computer in 1999 and began writing an electronic book to encourage other seniors around the world to ride the internet's magic carpet.

Eric will be writing weekly for Open Writing. In his first column he introduces us to some weird and wonderful letterboxes.

Twenty-five photographs of strange and funny letterboxes formed one of the most popular exhibits at Sydney's Royal Easter Show this year. They were the pick of 68 entries in The Great Australian Letterbox Competition, which included images of flying pigs and rockets, golf clubs and an emu.

Showgoers were invited to vote for their favourite letterbox, which resulted in Suzy and Paul Murphy, from Sackville, New South Wales, winning a $14,250 tractor for their entry, resembling an emu.

Surprisingly, one of the best collections of Australian and New Zealand letterbox photos is displayed on a website not based Down Under, but in the US. Its webmaster, Fred Rowe says: "I started collecting pictures after driving through a small region in which
a number of neighboring families must have inspired each other to great heights. After that, I just developed a good 'road eye'. It helps that I take the time to peruse rural areas, simply because I enjoy getting off the beaten track -- nearly every one of my pictures are from rural areas.

"As I have only recently started, all pics in my collection are from either Australia/New Zealand (where I worked this past year, and to where I will return occasionally), or from the Oregon, Washington, Northern California region in which I work (Oregon) and travel with some frequency.

"Note that in Australia, they [mailboxes] are called letterboxes. Letterboxes do not have to conform to any standard, as they seem to in the U.S. Nearly every rural mailbox was unique, and it was common for a farmer to simply nail a plastic spray jug or metal drum to a post, or build a crude wooden structure.

It also is legal for anyone to put anything they choose into your letterbox, so a lot of junk mail is hand delivered locally. Thus, a lot of letterboxes have bold statements on them that no junk mail is acceptable.''

Fred's site includes pictures of a Lawnmower letterbox, The woodcutter's letterbox, Pig plus mushrooms, Plumbing parts letterbox, Sunflowers sprouting from letterbox, Knight protecting letterbox, and "a mailbox mounted on a cutely painted twig shredder -- junk mail is to be deposited directly into the shredder section."

Describing #79: Man+Dog letterbox, Fred says "One of my favorites. Every component of the man's attire (pants, shirt, belt, hat, shoes) is painted metal, i.e. there is no actual cloth or leather, honest! Cute that the dog fetches the mail in its mouth."

Another American, Sam Blomberg, displays an even larger collection showing dozens of bizarre mailboxes around the world. He says:
"I have always been intrigued by the ability of a craftsman to take a boring mailbox and make it into a thing of interest, adventure or beauty-- or simply mount it in a way to catch my eye.

If you can-- please send me 'JPG's' of the unusual mailboxes in your
neighborhood and I will display them here.''

BTW--This webpage was chosen "Pick of the Day" by Yahoo which resulted in 5200 visitors that day!

We found an interesting article by Peggy Edersheim Kalb, a Wall Street Journal staff reporter, which began:

"Charles Beaumont, an orthopedic surgeon in Woodbury, Conn., likes to show he's a nonconformist. So he adopted a "Rastafarian" look -- for his mailbox. The blue metal box, for which he paid $225, has dozens of "dreadlocks" made of spark-plug wire hanging down in 2 1/2-foot-long strands. 'This is a way of announcing a little bit of individuality," says Dr. Beaumont, whose 20-acre property also features a mailbox decorated with silver frogs and another adorned with green crickets wearing purple hats. (The mailbox he
actually uses for receiving letters is mounted on a swivel and painted
fire-engine red.)''

And in the New Zealand Herald, Philippa Stevenson quoted a Bay of Plenty rural delivery driver as saying: "For the past four or five years I've been a relief driver. It sounds as if all runs must have the same problems - terrible boxes, ditches to negotiate and traffic up your bum on the main roads.

"Some are 'Arkwright' boxes - they have springs on the doors which slam shut before you can get the mail in them. Others are 'gorilla' boxes - they're so low that when the door flaps open you can't reach the bloody thing to shut it unless you have really long arms."

Brits don't seem to go in much for detached letterboxes, but now and again they have problems with their conventional front-door models. Here'a a
report from the Glasgow Daily Record of March 28:

A PEEPING TOM PRISON

It's not the sort of thing that should happen if your name is Lucky. But this pet moggy was yesterday on his sixth day locked in the neighbour's house after he went on holiday.

Owner Tracey Venables has been posting food and ice cubes through the
letterbox of the house in Bristol to keep him going. Tracey, 31, said: 'I just hope the neighbour has gone away for a week and not months.'

She reckons Lucky slipped into the house when her neighbour left the back door open, and police say they can't help. Tracey added: 'Lucky is as daft as a brush. I just want to get him out and back home.'


LINKS

Aussie letterboxes
http://www.gdaypubs.com.au/

Letterbox competition
http://www.eastershow.com.au

Fred Rowe's mailbox picture collection http://sblom.com

Sam Blomberg's mailbox picture collection http://sblom.com/mailbox/



Copyright 2005 Eric Shackle eshackle@ozemail.com.au

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