The name of my blog, Post Whistle, derives from an era when postmen blew a blast on a whistle to signal mail deliveries. On rural routes where houses might be located a distance from the road, it sped up delivery to announce the letter carrier’s arrival by a loud tweet. That way each recipient could make the trip down his/her drive if there was mail, as opposed to the postman making trips up and down numerous drives to drop off letters.
Mailmen used to whistle in town as well, but residents began complaining that the noise woke up their babies (or themselves if they slept late). In addition, the advent of advertising circulars, junk mail and bills meant most people received mail on a daily basis so whistling to signal its arrival seemed less necessary.
Of course, some postmen simply whistled or sang tunes along their routes, the sound traveling up the block like the arrival of an ice cream truck. Musical mailmen were common enough that composers wrote jigs and sheet music about them.
But like many other customs (door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen or the Helms Bakery truck from my own California childhood), the postman’s whistle is only a memory. Unless your letter carrier still whistles a jaunty tune?
I’ll finish with a charming British short — complete with talking chairs — entitled Ever Hear a Postman Whistle? While it was created around the theme of sustainability, I like how it references the good old days as a time when postmen still whistled coming up the walk.