Monday, August 3, 2009

The old post office

(This is my Aunt Lewis at 92, still an active postmistress)

I grew up in a small, coastal community. I come from proud but poor stock. Generations of my family made their living from the sea. My paternal grandmother had a dairy cow and acreage, but she fished and crabbed and fed her family the best she could. Daddy came from a large family, and as you might expect, they all ended up living near Big Mama.

When I came along, there was a pile of cousins to play with, but still not so many jobs for the adults. We were lucky enough to have a post office, though, and several of my aunts ran the post office. The last one to run it, Aunt Lewis, even got on the Tonight show as the oldest living postmistress.

One of our great delights was riding our ponies bareback down to the bluff to get the mail. Lewis watched for us, with small blocks of sugar for our horses. She even affixed a sturdy bolt into the oak tree at the front door for us to tie the horses while we visited with her. It was a time rich in memories.

(Here's a pic of the PO last fall. As you can see it's quite small and in very bad shape.)

My aunt died in 1995 at age 97 of a brain aneurysm. The postal service closed down our small post office. The building which had loomed so large in my childhood memories was actually not much bigger than a shed. It had no running water, no heat.

Last fall my brother who inherited the land where the post office still stands came down to try to salvage the building. Tide had undermined the back supports. Trees had grown thick around it. All the materials you'd find in a PO were still there, fliers about postal rates, zip code books, posters, and so much more. The windows had long been broken out and this place was a mess.

(NOTE: in this pic, you can just barely see the two-hundred year old oak at the front door)
The whole family pitched in, shoveling, scraping, sawing, sweeping. We got it emptied out and stabilized the rear. The tiny place needs a new roof. Maybe my brother will talk his wife into it, maybe not. They don't live nearby and have other more pressing demands for their limited discretionary funds.

It was such a trip down memory lane to work on the cleaning up process. Like stepping into a time capsule where the most pressing thing on my mind was if I would trot home or gallop.

Happy memories, all!

Maggie Toussaint

a southern girl


J L said...

I wish I could ride a pony to the post office! Sounds idyllic!

LK Hunsaker said...

How wonderful, Maggie. I wonder if the local historical society would help fix it up?

Celia Yeary said...

MAGGIE--my favorite kind of post! I absolutely love old things, and the old days--nostalgia. Your story almost brought tears to my eyes--and to find old original papers and flyers inside that old place is fantastic. I was born in a one lane village, but we had a post office--the railroad came through there--the PO was also the gas station (the kind with the glass container where you read how many gallons you took), the feed store, and a small grocery. I loved to walk down there--my blind uncle I wrote about walked me down there to "mail" my order for the Sears and Rosebuck catalog. I never got my order--probably the postmaster couldn't read 4-year-old crayon writing.Celia

Maggie Toussaint said...

Thanks for stopping by Loraine!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Your story is so sweet, Celia. I can just see you writing a catalog order in crayon!