Talk about your delayed arrival.
A family in Lake Worth, Fla., says they got a surprise post-Christmas delivery in the form of two packages left at their doorstep by a U.S. Postal Service carrier. What made it truly unexpected: The packages were postmarked in 1971 and were addressed to a previous owner of their home.
Adding to the bizarre tale: When they family opened the packages, they found the shipment contained psychedelic-inspired posters — very much in the popular style of a half-century ago — promoting cocktails made with Southern Comfort, the sweet, fruity-tasting spirit.
The family members told MarketWatch that the whole scenario was almost like stepping into a time warp.
“I thought, ‘Well, something’s not right here,’” said Paul Russo, 49, who shares the home with his wife, Stephanie Bryan Russo, 46, and their son, Ryan.
The family says they made the discovery on Sunday, Dec. 26 — and confirmed via their doorbell camera that a postal-service employee dropped off the packages that day. But they didn’t open the packages until a day later, saying they weren’t in a particular rush and had just assumed they were a Christmas gift that came late.
The family is stumped as to how and why the packages showed up at their address a half-century after they were supposed to arrive. They say they spoke to their regular mail carrier, who wasn’t the postal employee who delivered the packages, but the carrier had no idea as to what might have transpired.
Stephanie Bryan Russo decided to eventually share the story of the family’s unexpected delivery on Facebook after the new year. “It took a while to sink in how monumental a find this must be,” she said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service told MarketWatch that he couldn’t comment on the delayed shipment without additional details. But he noted in an email that situations like this don’t necessarily happen because the packages have been lost in the postal network. Rather, he said, items are sometimes purchased at flea markets, antique shops or online and then re-entered into the postal system.
The postal service has faced delay issues since 2020, particularly related to budget cuts implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. At one point, more than 20 states announced plans to sue the postal service, saying the slowdowns would cause problems with mail-in ballots for the 2020 elections.
DeJoy, who was appointed to the position by then-President Donald Trump, has pushed back when it comes to criticism. During a Congressional hearing in February 2021, he declared, “Get used to me.”
More recently, President Joe Biden announced plans to name two new members to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. Such a move could be a key step in eventually replacing DeJoy.
For the Russo family, the story hasn’t ended with the delivery itself. Stephanie Bryan Russo says she made it her personal mission to learn more about the intended recipient of the packages — one Paul Feigert. She tracked down his son, John Feigert, who lives in Woodstock, Ga.
John told MarketWatch that the family moved out of the home many years ago and his father has long since passed away. He was as surprised as the Russo family to learn of the arrival of the packages, but he also guessed at what may have prompted the shipment — at least back in 1971.
His father was an inveterate letter-writer and was always reaching out to companies and organizations, John says. And given that John was known in his late teenage years to have an occasional sip of Southern Comfort with friends, John believes that may have led his father to reach out to the company.
“He used to love to write away and get stuff for me,” John said. But like the Russo family, John is confounded as to why the shipment was delayed for decades on end.
“Where the hell did this thing sit for 50 years?” John said.
Officials with Southern Comfort, which has been owned by Sazerac, a spirits conglomerate, since 2016, didn’t have any information about the posters or the artist who created them. But Charles Cowdery, a spirits expert who once worked for the advertising agency that promoted Southern Comfort, said the posters likely fit into a broader campaign by the brand in the ‘70s to encourage the public to see the spirit as the equivalent of a whiskey for use in classic cocktails.
Cowdery notes that Southern Comfort was closer in style to a liqueur, but there was more money to be made selling a whiskey than liqueur, so the brand looked for every opportunity it could create to position it as such. Cowdery’s involvement with Southern Comfort came after the posters were made, but he says he suspect they were the product of whatever previous advertising agency the brand used — likely in St. Louis, since that’s where Southern Comfort was once based. (The packages that arrived to the Russo home indeed have a St. Louis postmark.)
The posters may have some value as a collectible. They can be found on auction sites, with a seller on eBay
offering one in used condition for $99.95. The seller billed the poster as being in the style of Peter Max, the famed pop artist who became popular in the ‘60s.
The Russo family has no intention of trying to hawk the posters, however. “They’re much more interesting as a story then to sell (them) and make a few bucks,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie adds that she plans to frame one of the posters and hang it in her kitchen. And the other one? She says she’s gifting it to John Feigert, since his father was the intended recipient — some 50 years ago.