1961: Bethlehem Post Office busy at Christmastime

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By Cindy DiFazio


Library receives $2,100 state grant

The Henry county library has received a Kentucky state aid grant of $2,100, Fred Thompson, president of the library board, announced Monday.

State aid for library and bookmobile service is awarded yearly on an achievement basis. This year’s grant to Henry County includes $1,000 which is received annually as a result of the successful Library District vote.

Remainder of the sum was awarded for the county’s participation in the Eden Shale Library Region, additional training received by staff members, and for meeting requirements for adequate bookmobile and county library service.

The state aid will be used chiefly for the purchase of books. Longplaying phonograph records will also be added to the library’s collection, including records for younger children suitable both for the Children’s Story Hour and general loan.

Bethlehem’s small post office
is an extra busy place at christmas

Mrs. Lee Payton is one woman who knows what hard work is. She runs the post office at Bethlehem, the small Henry County community which bears the name of the birthplace of Christ.

Bethlehem has been so named for 99 years. It was originally Mobley Stand, but was changed by Jamison Hall, postmaster, in 1962. Mrs. Payton has been postmistress at Bethlehem for the past 27 years. She estimates she postmarks up to 50,000 greetings each Christmas. The greetings come from all counties in Kentucky, all of the other 49 states and Canada. Many people send Mrs. Payton large packages of greetings to be marked with the Bethlehem postmark, plus the red stamp of three wise men (a service of her own). The busy postmistress says she puts in 12 to 14 hours a day this rush period. Mrs. Payton said the rush of mail to the Bethlehem post office at christmastime, started about 15 years ago. At that time a man from Louisville stopped in and mailed 1,200 greetings. She said the stamp collectors got wise to this, and the volume of mail has been multiplying every year since.


O, little town of Bethlehem

Bethlehem (Kentucky) has a population of about 200 people, and an eyebrow-raising actors group. Members of this small troupe are a cow, two burrows, two sheep and 36 humans. Every Christmas, they gather together to present a tableau, the “Living Nativity,” in keeping with the name of the down.

It takes 400 man-hours to put the nativity together and continue it for three days. Members of Bethlehem’s Baptist, Methodist and Christian churches donate their time to these tasks. The stable is a rustic building with plywood walls, rough pole rafters and a tarpaulin roof. Stalls are made of poles lashed together, the front left open. Floodlights are directed tightly on the scene and a hi-fi system plays recorded carols and scripture readings by church members. Bad weather is no deterrent. The actors have been on stage in rain, snow and howling winds. Three shifts are necessary every evening, with 12 people in each scene.

Within view of the nativity scene is the post office where thousands of Yuletide greetings are mailed each year.

People all over the United States send their Christmas cards to be postmarked with the word Bethlehem and a depiction of the three wise men following a star.