Sunday, January 17, 2016

Misunderstandings and Irony

I have been asked by people if I plan on expanding our farm to year-around growing by trying hydroponics or growing in a heated building.  It doesn't take me very long to respond in the negative.  Rather than bore you with the financials and realities of that sort of operation, I'll give you one good reason why.

I need my January.
Pretty easy to be up in time for the sunrise in January.
While I am not particularly fond of very cold weather and I KNOW I am not pleased with the nice little head cold I landed, January gives me a chance to exercise other parts of who I am and do other things I like to do.  A critical part of staying healthy and being successful (in my opinion) is maintaining a balance.  And, simply put, year around growing is a good way to promote the farm running me rather than the other way around.

I certainly have enough to do for the farm right now as it is.  But, it sure is nice not to have to worry about harvests and all of that other stuff hanging over me every day.  Yes, we still have birds to care for and we still have chickens and ducks to sell.  Oh, and there is garlic and potatoes as well.  But, this isn't the same as having to maintain a crop, harvest it, clean it and sell it.  Thank goodness! 

So, one treat to me is that I get to play with postal history. 

I try to select things to put on the blog that might be interesting to a wide group of people without being overwhelming.  I find this one to be amusing, so I thought I'd share.

3 cents for a normal letter + 13 cents for "Special Delivery" fee
The Misunderstanding
This letter was posted by a person who probably wanted to do business with the Spencer Fire Works company located in Polk, Ohio.  You would think that someone who lives in Chicago (where this was posted) would have some idea as to the difference between Ohio and Iowa.  Yes, yes, I know.... They both have alot of vowels.  With two of the three letters in common, you *might* be able to suggest that they were having trouble with a vowel movement.  

No, no.  We shan't be punning here.  Oh, it's too late?  Sorry.

In any event, a helpful postmaster found that there was a Polk CITY in Iowa, so they added "City" to the address and away it went.  The Polk City postmaster probably rolled eyes to the sky and said, "we've got another one."  I'm guessing this wasn't the first (or last) time that something was incorrectly addressed to the Spencer Fire Works company and sent on to Polk City, Iowa by mistake.  The postmaster dutifully re-mailed the item to Polk, Ohio and a backstamp on the envelope shows that it did arrive there on June 28.

The Irony
Items like this are a bit more interesting to a postal historian, such as myself, because something didn't quite go according to plan in the delivery process of this letter.  That's why the item caught my attention when I first saw it.  I was able to purchase it for a couple of dollars and I could then take a little time to research it.

Initially, I thought it was interesting that someone would try to send something to a fireworks company in Iowa of all places.  After all, there has been a ban on the private sale and use of fireworks in this state since 1938.  By 1947 (the time this letter was mailed), I suspect most people in surrounding states might have some idea that fireworks were illegal in this state.  One could say that it is ironic that people are confusing one state with legal fireworks with another state with no fireworks allowed.

But, that's not good enough.  I like a full dose of irony when I can get it.  And, I got it this time.

In the process of confirming the date that the ban was put in place, I was able to learn some information about a key event that had much to do with the fireworks ban in the state.  Before I tell you about it - look again at the NAME of the fireworks company.  Got it stuck in your brain now?  Good.

The year was 1931 and a very dry weather was beginning to take hold of a significant portion of North America.  Have you heard of the Dust Bowl?  Well, there you are.  In any event, things were dry in Iowa, but towns in the state were still intent on celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks.  On June 27, 1931 temps were in the mid to high nineties and winds were strong.  I think you know what comes next...

There was an accident in one town.  A local retailer had a display of fireworks that was accidentally set off.  Fires spread rapidly.  By the time they died down, one hundred buildings in the center of town were destroyed.  Amazingly, no one died in the fires.

The name of the town that burned due to a fireworks accident?


And A Bit More of the Story
One major event wasn't quite enough evidently to spur the ban.  The Remsen Holocost of 1936 simply provided more impetus for change.  Legislative action in 1937 led to the ban taking effect January 1st of 1938.  This ban exists up to the present day, though the presence of large retail outlets at the border attests to a long-standing tendency of Iowans to cross the border to purchase fireworks regardless of the ban.  As recently at 2013 there were more than 25 fires started by personal fireworks in the state.

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