Picking Up Baby Chicks from the Post Office

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Why do I want to write my story and want to capture the stories of others? The connections to the past are of supreme importance to our understanding of today. Here is an example of how those connections work.

My dad told me how he and his mother would walk to the post office to pick little boxes of baby chicks ordered from a catalog. They lived in a house in Philadelphia suburbs with an empty lot as part of the property. They grew a large garden and raised chickens, ducks, and goats (for the milk) in that lot. The baby chicks they picked up were packed in soft excelsior (shredded soft wood packaging) in brown cardboard boxes with holes in the sides.

Milton Burney Portrait

My Grandpa Burney as I remember him

When I was very small, I remember going with my farmer grandfather getting a delivery of baby chicks in those same boxes. We got in the pickup and bounced down the county dirt road, named for my grandfather, Burney Road. It was always exciting to take a trip to Center Point, Texas. A grand name for a small town of only one major road, two churches (one Baptist and one Methodist), a Masonic Lodge, a barber shop, a five-and-dime store, a locally owned grocery store, a general school building that held all 12 grades with a field for football and baseball games and track. The largest piece of property was the cemetery at the edge of town.

Grandpa always parked right in front of the post office. We stepped up onto the sidewalk and walked into the post office with the walls lined with little doors which opened with a key to get mail. I remember he picked up two boxes of baby chicks, packed in excelsior, and put them in the seat of the pickup between us. Cheep! Cheep! They made a lot of noise as they drove back to the farm.

Back at home, Grandpa unloaded the boxes and carefully put them on the worktable in the garage. He had a light set up just a few inches above some metal boxes about four inches high with screens on the top and bottom and holes in the side, like the cardboard boxes. As I watched in fascination, he carefully picked up each chick and put it in one of two of the little cages.
Then, we waited for a few days—seemed like months to me—and the little chicks were ready to move to the chicken coop. Grandpa carried those boxes to the chicken coop and opened them up and the baby chicks ran out among the other chickens—raising all kinds of ruckus as they got to know each other.

I don’t need any baby chicks today—even if the post office would deliver them, but this little memory brings a smile to me today,[ and I hope it does to someone else. Connections across generations and decades.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 30, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Guess what! They still send chicks through the mail! My BFF in Georgia was surprised one day to get a call from the post office that the chicks had arrived and someone needed to come get them. Her husband had failed to mention that he had ordered chicks and, wouldn’t you know, was away on a camping trip. So Cathy spent the weekend figuring out how to take care of a full box of chicks! They survived but Don got whatfor when he got home for not remembering to mention that chicks might arrive while he was gone. I got to visit when they were chickens and one hen, Pearl Light, took a shine to me and used to jump into my lap as I sat on a log watching the chickens feeding loose in the forest. It might have been because the rooster wouldn’t bother her if she was on my lap. Clever hen. Best regards! Dhyan

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