Wisconsin teens take flying leap to deliver mailThe main worry for mail carriers on Lake Geneva is neither dogs nor snow. It's wet piers, poorly placed lawn furniture and mailbox doors secured shut with a rubber band — all things that might make them miss the moving mail boat and plunge them into the lake.
By: Carrie Antlfinger, Associated Press Writer, Superior Telegram
LAKE GENEVA, Wis. (AP) — The main worry for mail carriers on Lake Geneva is neither dogs nor snow. It's wet piers, poorly placed lawn furniture and mailbox doors secured shut with a rubber band — all things that might make them miss the moving mail boat and plunge them into the lake.
The U.S. Postal Service says it's the only mail delivery like it in the nation and it's been done every summer in Walworth County in southern Wisconsin since 1916.
A never-stopping boat delivers mail to the 60 or so mansions on the resort-like Lake Geneva. The carriers, usually teenagers or college students, are hired to jump off a large boat, hustle to mailboxes on the docks and then scurry back to the boat. Up to 150 people on the boat — called the Walworth — get to watch the spectacle along the 26 miles around the lake.
If the jumpers returns safe and dry, the spectators sometimes cheer. When one takes the plunge unharmed, the crowd laughs. A close call prompts worried "oooohs."
"My favorite part is getting back on the boat, just the reassuring feeling of gripping the handlebars and the hearing the applause," said 16-year-old Oliver Pringle, who is among seven jumpers who work the route.
The service runs from mid-June to mid-September in the town where many from the Chicago area spend the warmer months.
The U.S. Postal Service lost $3.8 billion last year, despite cutting 40,000 full-time positions and making other reductions. It announced earlier this month that it faces a $7 billion loss for this year and the same for fiscal 2011, and wants to increase the price of first-class stamps by 2 cents — to 46 cents — in January.
To help its bottom line, the post office has also renegotiated more than 500 supplier contracts, saving $1.4 billion in three years. But its contracts for water routes are relatively cheap so likely won't be cut.
"Those unique contracts are pretty safe. They are a good value to the postal service and a good community service," postal service spokesman Tony Barsi said.
The contract for Lake Geneva is only $1 a year and the post office extended that contract for five more years. Lake Geneva Cruise Lines, which runs the tour, gets enough revenue from tours to make delivering mail profitable. It charges $29 a person for the morning tours.
Some of the residents along Lake Geneva like to mess with carriers with hopes of making them stumble into the drink.
Pringle, of Barrington, Ill., said sometimes people fasten the mailbox door shut, put furniture on the dock as obstacles or move their mailboxes down on the dock, making the dash to and from the boat longer and more difficult.
Harold Friestad, Lake Geneva Cruise Lines' vice president and general manager, said when he was captain of the mail boat in college they would speed up the boat or swerve to make sure jumpers fell in frequently.
But they stopped that for safety reasons and these days the jumpers usually make the boat.
"If they fell in more often it would be more exciting for the people," Friestad said.
Pringle hasn't fallen in — yet. He said his parents have had a lake house for six generations and he was waiting to turn 16 so he could get the job.
"It's something I've always dreamed of doing and now I'm living the dream," he said.