MESA – Consumers today expect their deliveries to arrive within a few days – or even hours – through services like Amazon. But delivering mail cross-country wasn’t always so easy.
Billy Walker, whose father flew during the 1920s, said delivering the mail required thinking outside the box.
“They had to develop some innovative ways because they didn’t have the fancy navigational systems that developed later with GPS and things we have today,” said Walker, a pilot.
How did pilots find their way? The U.S. government installed concrete arrows they scattered across the country, from New York to San Francisco.
Arizona’s state historian Marshall Trimble said it did the job. “They really reduced the time down to about 30 hours,” he said. “They could get the mail across country, and that was pretty amazing.”
It was simple. “Just follow the arrow,” Trimble said. The arrows were from 50 to 75 feet and painted bright yellow so pilots could see them from the sky.
The government later added beacons alongside the arrows. The beacons “would project light for an extremely long way at night,” Walker said.
Prior to this system, the trips took several days by train.
Read more and see video: Arizona History: Concrete Arrows Pointed the Way for Mail Delivery Pilots