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WQAD Throwback: Following a letter through the Moline Post Office in 1995

In 1995, there were some 20,000 addresses and 45 mail routes in Moline. Distribution clerks had to memorize all routes and manually sort each letter daily.

MOLINE, Ill. — Editor's note: This is part of a series looking back at stories out of the WQAD archives. This particular one was a piece from a "Places You Can't Go" series from November 1995, reported on by WQAD's Greg Vandegrift.

Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender" sets the stage.

Moline’s Post Office: anybody can mail a letter here but there are places you can't go.

Our address unknown? That place you can't go behind the mail slot. Let's see what the letter sees.

Lori Mitchler scoops up our letter and another batch of Moline to Moline mail. She's a 15-year veteran clerk with the paper cuts to prove it.

“Absolutely. And the cuticles of my nails, especially in the wintertime, are real bad," Lori laughs.

First the mail is sorted by size then the stamps are canceled so they can't be used again.

Then our letter and the rest are carried to the next funnel so to speak, a place where the raw mail connects with its route.

In Moline there are some 20,000 addresses and 45 mail routes.

Distribution clerks like Brian Thurman can glance at an address and immediately know the corresponding route. Let's try him… 

"1404 16th Street." “Route 6.” 

"3003 Park 16th Street."  “(Route) 41.” 

"3709 36th Street." “(Route) 47.” That's pretty good.

Thurman had very little time to memorize those routes. “63 and a half hours.” How did he do it?

“A lot of repetition, lose a lot of sleep. You ask a lot of people a lot of questions. Just a lot of studying," Thurman said.

Each day, Thurman uses that knowledge to distribute a couple thousand pieces of Moline to Moline mail including our letter this day.

Moline to Moline mail alone total six thousand pieces per day, but that's a small piece of the mail delivery puzzle here.

“Generally we'll handle about 125,000 pieces of total mail a day. That'll include newspapers, magazines, letters, parcels, everything imaginable.”

Eventually all that mail winds up on the backs of mail carriers like Mark Owens.

“I think most people think you just come in and pick up the mail and go out on the street and have a nice leisurely stroll all day. That's really not the case,” Owens said.

Owens spends a couple hours a day sorting a couple thousand pieces of mail, 600 homes await Owens. He'll fill the satchel more than 20 times.

And what about our letter? It's arrived at the intended destination: my boss's desk. Let's keep our fingers crossed for this request for a raise.

(Boss slams a "Return to Sender" stamp on the front of the envelope.)

I guess that next tax bracket is a place I can't go. In Moline, Greg Vandegrift, Newschannel 8.