Overdue Postage

December 10, 2019

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

The 1-2 punch Old Man Winter dealt us early Sunday has certainly changed the landscape from drab late fall, which it technically still is, to that of winter wonderland in just a few hours. What is amazing is that it has all remained as it fell, stuck to everything. Fences everywhere look, as a dear friend so aptly described, as though they were crocheted.  It is like living in a snow globe. And what better setting to begin Christmas preparations.

This snow, however picturesque, is also not doing those Christmas trees in the wild any good. The weight of ice, snow and more ice has them all looking very Charlie Brown. I’ve had my eye on a rather skinny six-foot Jack pine since the spring. I have just the spot to for this tree and have imagined it, all decked out, since June.

I donned my tall boots and trekked off to the far corner of our vast holdings (this is where the laughing emogji goes) to check on Charlie. I found it almost upright and heavily laden, all branches hanging from the weight. I left it as it found it. Old Man Winter put the snow there, but it will take Mom Nature, of course, to remove it. It will take warmer temps and sunshine to rid it of the weight without damage. I may have to save this tree for another year. In the meantime, we are not without a tree or two…so far. Smiley with Santa cap emoji.
Now, a few words about this week’s Ghost, our local Post Office. And by Post Office, I mean the place, or places, where mail was dispensed in our town and our regard for them. I have great affection for the Clark Street PO and remember it well, even though it has been gone for a long time.

The Hall building at the corner of Mill and Main was home to the Post Office for more than 50 years by the time I came to town. The Office was poised to move from Main Street to a new cement block building on Clark Street where it overlooked the pond from the site of the Clark home, where it started. Among the amenities here was the ease of parking and the availability of a drive-up letter drop-box, a convenience not to be had on Main Street.

During the 1950’s and into the ‘60’s, mail was picked up and delivered twice daily. I remember this because Fern Berry mailed virtually all of her news, articles and items to various newspapers via the Post Office. She also relied on the mail for photo developing. For rush service, she used the Drug Store, for others, a photo service in Lansing. It was often a necessity that she sent and received mail twice daily. If Fern could not go, someone was at the Post Office twice daily for her mail. Often, and much to the admonishment of my mother, I would be the one to walk from Blevins Street to the Post Office and back to Grandma’s house. For my efforts I received a nickel. If I wanted to spend it, I had to hoof it back uptown. Mail came first.

Fern was not the only one who stood in the lobby of the Clark Street Post Office and waited for the mail sorting to finish. Those doing so chatted and spoke with others as they came and went. The arrival of the daily mail was a great social event and was where these folks met most often.

I generally received mail with my name on it once a year, toward the end of December, when Christmas packages and birthday cards came my way. It was a great treat to receive cards rather than the magazine and book club junk mail tossed my way. It was where I learned the joy of anticipating and receiving a card or letter.

The 1950’s Clark Street Post Office is my sentimental favorite. It was fascinating. The lobby was trimmed out in oak with a bank of brass mailboxes, two counter windows, closed at lunchtime behind a crinkly glass window and bars, and two high oak counters with pens and wet sponges for ease in addressing and stamping.

Between the two service windows was a display window where one could see new issue stamps and photos of former rural carriers. Across the lobby was the bulletin board where the FBI’s most wanted notices hung, as did the notice for the Army recruiter’s visit. It was truly a Marion place, where everyone knew your name, or at least the folks behind the counter did.

We have not had a post office box in a number of years and I must say that I miss my daily visit. As you see, the Post Office has always been a favorite place for me, beyond the prospect of what may be in the mail.  This was the only place I saw Ed Kirkby on a regular basis and I miss his smiling face. We occasionally meet in the grocery store, but it is not the same. Perhaps he would tell us the tale of his first visit to Marion if I got to ask him about it every day over the junk mail basket at the Post Office.

By the way, portions of the Clark Street Post Office, including some boxes, mail drop slots and one of the service windows may be seen at the Marion Area Historical Museum.  

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