Dear Kid,

Just pick a direction! DearKidLoveMom.comSnopes says it’s true. Let me repeat. Apparently, this is neither a hoax nor something I created out of thin air (although it sounds like it could easily be either one).

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as airmail, mostly because there was no such thing as airplanes. Then planes were invented and The Mail started jumping up and down saying “Take me! Take Me!” and who can resist a 50 pound sack of handwritten correspondence?

(Remind me to explain what “handwritten correspondence” means.)

So 60 years after the Pony Express ceased to Express, the postal service began airmail delivery.

The good news was that they’d waited until there were airplanes. The less good news was that they hadn’t waited for decent aviation charts. So pilots had to pretty much just take a good look and hope they guessed correctly.

Which worked pretty well during daylight when the weather was perfect, but had significant faults when Mother Nature was feeling less than cooperative.

It is worth noting that Mother Nature cannot be counted on to be cooperative.

So the USPS created the first “ground-based civilian navigation system.” It was a series of giant arrows and beacons placed every 10 miles from New York to San Francisco.

The arrows were 50 – 70 feet each and made of yellow concrete. The beacon was placed at the end of the arrow in a 51 foot steel tower lit by a million-candlepower rotating beacon. Each beacon flashed its own identifier code.
All the pilots had to do was arrow-hop (as it were) across the transcontinental Air Mail Route, and zoom! mail was delivered coast-to-coast in about 30 hours.

This incredibly advanced system allowed pilots to fly in all but the absolute worst of weather since pilots in those days weren’t hampered by things like regulations.

Eventually (and by “eventually” I mean “not too long thereafter”) someone invented maps and radio guidance and navigation and no one needed the beacons.

This coincided with The War and the beacons were ripped down in 1940s to help with the war effort. It is considerably more difficult to rip down and recycle huge concrete arrows. So the arrows were left.

Which means that here and there across This Great Nation, there are huge arrows lying around. And someday, I think it would be really cool to visit one.

Now do you see why I asked Snopes?

Love, Mom