Post Office

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I loved this image of a tiny post office and I think I would have been quite happy to visit it to do my regular postal business. We have to assume that they were serving a relatively small community at the time considering that tiny letterbox affixed to the front to capture those off hour missive mailings. If you look carefully at the sign above the door there is a faded sign which for all the world appears to offer Pork Dolls, but is I believe an older version of the Parkdale sign.

I expected this to be a small photo and instead it is a mid-century version of a photo postcard. There is a stamp (six cents) and cancellation on the back from the morning of May 27, 1968, but must have just been sold that way at the post office as an item since it isn’t addressed to anyone. The photo is a bit timeless, a woman we assume is our post mistress, with her cat, a good size striped kit, long tail and ears back. Parkdale turns out to have remained a fairly remote community and seems to be best known for a recreational park area there.

I don’t know why, but I always liked going to the post office as a child. It was always a thrill. We had two on our regular errand route and I was equally fascinated by both. My parents rented post office boxes at each, one in Sea Bright and the other in Rumson. They were quite different in feel, although probably constructed at about the same time. Each had those wonderfully elaborate, decorative cast iron set post boxes and were in large part responsible for my fascination I think.

The Sea Bright post office was light filled and airy, as befitted a beach community. As a result sun generally cascaded through the cheerful windows of each of those boxes, enabling you to quickly see if you had mail. Sometimes there would just be a chit which meant you had to go to the window for a package that was too large for your box. Of course I just loved the little doors that opened to a code my mom or dad had memorized. That post office existed much the same until hurricane Sandy nearly wiped out the town a few years ago. It was eliminated in the post-Sandy renovation it seems. It is shown below, courtesy of the internet, more or less as I remember it however.

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Meanwhile, the Rumson post office is a more substantial brick building and darker, although still with those wonderful decorative windowed post office boxes. It was the post office we frequented most. When I got older I had a friend whose father was a postman. He was ill tempered, or so it seemed, and I was somewhat afraid of him. I associated that post office with him, and therefore liked visiting this post office less over time as a result. The family lived in a gracious, old brick house almost next door however and even as a child the convenience of being so close to work struck me as very desirable. (I grew up to walk to work almost every day for the better part of 30 years at the Met so I internalized that well.) This post office survives in a somewhat expanded version of its original brick structure and appears to service the communities of both Rumson and Fair Haven.

I am sorry to say that as an adult I find visiting the post office here, the one on 85th between Second and Third Avenues, more of a chore than a thrill. Perhaps because we do not have a PO Box? (These are also those charming old metal ones and perhaps if we availed ourselves of one I would like it better?) Our mail comes to our apartment building; packages are held by the doormen who recently began recording them in an electronic tracking system. So much for the romance of chits waiting in tiny windows – instead the thrill of an email announcement I guess. Kim visits the post office more than I do as he is frequently mailing off artwork, books, films etc. to folks. I cannot say he seems to enjoy it, although he takes a book to read in line patiently waiting. There is one agent who is a comic book fan who recognized him and that is about as close to small town postal intimacy as we have achieved here in Manhattan, to date anyway.

I was unable to find an address for a post office in Parkdale now. The closest one, also tiny, appears to be in a town called Swink. It is a small building with two other, unidentified commercial tenants, adobe facade. So I guess the folks in Parkdale head over to Swink now for their postal needs, the tiny building, their postmistress and cat long gone.

 

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Wisemen’s

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This fails to be a proper Mother’s Day post, but Mom figures large in my memory of this childhood haunt, so it is with that nod to her that I proceed. Memories of Wiseman’s store have bubbled up a couple of times recently and it nibbled at my mind until I decided to record and share a few thoughts and memories of this iconic establishment of my childhood.

I think most of us born prior to 1970 or so have a Wiseman’s in their past. For me and my family it was a dusty miracle of a store in the neighboring town of Sea Bright. That town is a tiny landspit of a peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Shrewsbury River to the west, within walking distance over a draw bridge, from the house I grew up in. This narrow beach community can be traversed at its widest point in a brisk 15 minute walk. From any elevated point, such as the second story of a building, you can see the river and the ocean at the same time. It exists in a sort of infamy for its well publicized tendency to flood, and most recently Hurricane Sandy almost wiped it off the map. (Although in my childhood it was a Hurricane Donna that everyone referred back to as a literal high water mark, when the ocean and the river met on the main drag, Ocean Avenue. Strangely, photos show the water from each different colors.)

However, as it has evidently done repeatedly over the decades, it has slowly rebuilt and re-emerged. The specifics of the town are different from my childhood – a huge pizza establishment and bar where my mom had a store and the Post Office once were for example – but the bones and general outline remain the same. A full service restaurant where there was once a (superb) pizza place where I worked one summer – polyester uniform and all. The hardware store, church and laundromat have persisted. The Foodtown has become something called Andy K’s. 

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The church here has remained throughout. This appears to be a fairly recent photo.

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The Foodtown during it’s morph into what is now Andy K’s.

 

Still, it is another layer that I need to pull back to place Wiseman’s. It was on the same block as the belated pizza place as I remember. It was down from a store called Sy & Art’s which carried everything you needed for the beach, from high end bathing suits to towels and basics. Sy & Art’s lives in a sort of miasma of late 1960’s/early 1970’s psychedelic color and prints in my mind’s eye and although we might stop in occasionally, it was more for tourists who forgot their beach towels or tanning lotion than locals. (Wiseman’s would have been about three buildings down the block from the photo at the very top – that corner most prominent was where Sy & Art’s headquartered. Try as I have I cannot find a photo of it or the building, still standing, that Wiseman’s was located in.)

Wiseman’s was a old fashion soda fountain, stationary and newspaper establishment. I do not remember consuming any food at the counter, although mom when asked seems to remember that the occasional ice cream cone was had there, this despite a rather memorable amount of dust, dirt and grime we both seem to remember. (They must have had take-out coffee as well, but this was before the ubiquitousness of coffee to go. I won’t say I never saw my parents drink take-out coffee, but it wasn’t the daily thing it is now. It was more something you did while traveling.)

Mom vaguely recalls that Wiseman’s was owned by two elderly brothers and agrees that I have spelled it the right way, having once herself been corrected by one of the brothers on the subject. My parents religiously purchased their weekend papers at Wiseman’s in the days before we had home delivery of those. It was my go to for a variety of items which included, but were not limited to, comic books, candy and even an inexpensive sort of toy which could occasionally be wheedled out of the paper purchasing parent in question. Most often it was comic books – my parents exhibiting a bit of rare squeamish about the more exotic candy offerings such as wax lips and odd tubes of colored sugar in numerous forms.

Wiseman’s was a strange and exotic territory for me, full of promise, and I never missed an opportunity to tag along on a trip there. It seemed surprising when we made the rare, unscheduled weekday stop, perhaps for a stationary item which they also carried, because it was a weekend destination in my mind. It would be quieter on those weekdays, without the bustle of a Saturday or Sunday when it was the center of the universe for a certain kind of local activity. It was a somewhat cramped dusty space, despite a very high, old tin ceiling, but narrow. There were ancient cheap toys, Halloween costumes, packages of outdated invitations and the like on the higher shelves, while the items that turned over frequently such as candy, magazines, comics and newspapers, were at an easy grab to the door. I remember looking up and being fascinated by the possibility of what you might find there. That promise remained unfulfilled alas; it was a realm I was never allowed to explore.

As I got older my purchases morphed from Archie comics into Tiger Beat, followed by Teen and eventually Seventeen. I could be wrong, but I believe Wiseman’s may have disappeared before I got to Cosmo, but perhaps not because I do not know where else I would have purchased it. (This was before magazines would have been sold in the always crisp smelling Sea Bright Drugstore, or the Foodtown which took care of almost all of our other ongoing needs and supplies as well as the daily papers.) I seem to remember Wiseman’s closing while I was in high school. Alas, it was not there when I waitressed at the pizza establishment, nor when I was employed by the French cuisine restaurant further down the street, both during college.

Someone mentioned it to me the other day and perhaps that’s why it came to mind last week when I was writing about the toy cowboys and horses I used to get by the bag as a small child. That was the nature of the toy you would get there. In my mind the weekend mornings merge together, the smell of the newsprint and dust, the anticipation of comic books, candy and all sorts of unexplored possibilities. I can imagine the sun slanting through the door and dust motes playing, as if knowing that it was a memory being minted even then.