By Brad Dison
In February 1914, May Pierstorff’s parents prepared for their five-year-old daughter, May, to visit her grandmother. May and her parents lived in Lewiston, Idaho. May’s grandmother lived about 70 miles away in Grangeville, Idaho. In the 1910s, automobiles had not yet become the predominant form of transportation in Idaho. Most people traveled on or were pulled by horses if they were traveling within a short distance from home. May’s parents decided that May would travel to and from her grandparent’s home by train due to the distance of the trip. For some reason, probably the cost of train tickets, May’s parents could not accompany her on the trip.
The cost of May’s ticket was more than the family could afford. May’s parents looked for a loophole. Surely, they thought, they could purchase a discount ticket due to May’s age, but the railroad offered no such discount. Maybe, they thought, they could get a discount due to May’s weight, which was 48 ½ pounds. They got lucky. This was the loophole they had been looking for. May was just a pound and a half below the 50-pound weight limit.
On February 19, May’s parents pinned something on May’s coat and dropped her off at the train station in Lewiston, Idaho for the 70-mile trip. They watched as May boarded the train and, at the proper time, the train chugged out of the station. When the train arrived at the Grangeville station, no one was waiting to pick May up. An employee named Leonard Mochel delivered the five-year-old to her grandmother’s home.
When money is tight, all of us look for clever ways to save money. May’s parents were no exception. To save money, May traveled from Lewiston to Grangeville… as a parcel in the train’s mail car. The thing May’s parents attached to May’s coat was 53 cents in parcel post stamps. The employee who delivered May to her grandmother’s home was the mail clerk. May’s parents mailed May to her grandmother’s home. When their visit was over, May’s grandmother sent her back to her parents in the same manner, through the mail.
1. Smithsonian National Postal Museum, “100 Years of Parcels, Packages, and Packet, Oh My!” https://postalmuseum.si.edu/
2. The Pomona Progress, February 20, 1914, p.1.
3. The Long Beach Telegram and the Long Beach Daily News, February 20, 1914, p.1.
4. The Minneapolis Journal, March, 26, 1914, p.11.