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The Margin: A delivery 50 years in the works: Florida family receives packages postmarked in 1971

Here’s a twisted tale worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode. Or a good mystery novel.

A family in Lake Worth, Fla., says it got a surprise post-Christmas delivery in the form of two packages left at its 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 the 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.

An explanation as to what likely transpired eventually emerged: It turns out the packages weren’t sitting in a post-office facility for 50 years. Instead, they were in the possession of John Feigert, a Woodstock, Ga., man whose family previously lived in the Florida home. John’s father, Paul Feigert, was the original recipient of the packages, though he has since passed away.

As John explained it to MarketWatch, he gave the posters, still in their original tube-style packaging with the old family address in Florida, to his daughter, Jessie Feigert, then forgot about them completely. In turn, Jessie recently sold the posters on eBay and bundled them together inside new packaging, according to John. (Jessie couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.)

John believes the tubes containing the posters must have fallen out of the new package, which somehow resulted in them ending up in the mail anew and getting routed to the Florida address that is now home to the Russos.

As strange as such a scenario may seem, it’s not completely out of the norm, according to the U.S. Postal Service. A spokesman for the service told MarketWatch that he couldn’t comment on the poster shipment without additional details. But he noted in an email that older items are sometimes purchased at flea markets, antique shops or online and then re-entered into the postal system — in essence, a piece of mail from years ago may appear like it was lost in transit, but it was, in fact, newly sent.

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 during President Trump’s administration, has pushed back when it comes to criticism. During a Congressional hearing in February 2021, he declared, “Get used to me.”

The postal service spokesman also noted that 99.89% of 2020 election ballots were delivered within seven days and that the service was able to beat delivery projections during the 2021 holiday season.

The Russo family says they made the discovery of the packages on Sunday, Dec. 26 — and confirmed via their doorbell camera that a postal-service employee dropped them off 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.

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,” she said.

Stephanie also decided to track down the Feigerts and tell them about the packages. When John learned initially of the Russos’ discovery, he couldn’t recall anything about the posters. But he later realized they were something he passed on to his daughter. “I have given her a ton of stuff from my father,” John said of his confusion.

As to why his father might have been sent the posters in the first place, John told MarketWatch his dad was an inveterate letter-writer and was always reaching out to companies and organizations. 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 contact the company, which, in turn, resulted in the shipment.

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 posters have some value as a collectible and can be found on auction sites. One is currently listed on eBay for $99.95, with the sellers describing it as being in the style of Peter Max, the famed pop artist who became popular in the ‘60s.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

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