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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Mr. Frank, In the Dog House

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The writing at the bottom appears to say “Interesting” Big Tree Park on Redwood Highway 222-Art Ray. May we assume that the dog in residence is indeed Mr. Frank? His tidy little house is evidently constructed of some of the castoffs from the redwoods in question and he looks like quite the official resident. My guess, after an internet stroll, is that this is probably from the Big Tree Drive-Thru, Avenue of the Giants in California, where according to Roadside America today you can still drive through a tree today. It features such entertainment as the step through stump, drive-on tree, immortal tree and world famous tree house. Let’s put those aside however and instead contemplate for a moment what was probably a similarly touristy, but somehow more charming and decades older version of the Redwood Highway stop, one where you would meet Mr. Frank and stop for a cool drink or picnic, perhaps as a break from a longer journey.

However, for me this photo brings to mind a doghouse from my childhood. I arrived at about age six in a suburban neighborhood with a fully formed, roaming hoard of kids and pets. In addition to sort of a dozen kids ranging widely in age, it also included numerous cats, and canines, including our German Shepard, Duchess. (I also remember a Dalmatian, aptly named Chief, who actually belonged to a child-free neighbor, but whose boundless excess energy urged him to routinely run up and down the length of many yards.) All of this chaos and claptrap ground on the nerves of our next door neighbor, a loudly proclaimed child and animal hating Mr. George Smith. To his oft lamented chagrin, he had the honor of being wedged between our house and another house chock full of kids, the Jakes family – who had as many kids and pets as we did, the three roughly the same ages as us. One day I may write more about that neighborhood, and George in particular, who was a well-known science fiction writer. He drank heavily and made no secret of his dislike of the kids and animals which encircled him and his wife on a daily basis. To the extent possible, we avoided him and his adjoining yard. The cats and the dogs could not be urged otherwise and he threatened them with buckshot.

The yards were unfenced and generally Duchess lived inside with us, although the cats were free range at the time. However, at some moment my parents were seized with I don’t know what inspiration (perhaps 3 children in a rather tiny house also sporting several cats and said large dog meant that moving anyone or anything out of the house was desirable?) and they built a pen for Duchess outside. Then, somewhere (I suspect a garage sale) my father acquired a gently used, quite sizable, wooden doghouse which was an unbelievably good match for our own green shingled house. He installed it in the backyard with the intention that Duchess should spend time out there. To our great surprise, shortly after George Smith brought over a tiny wooden tv antennae that he had constructed and painted silver. One couldn’t say he didn’t have a sense of humor. It was installed atop of  the doghouse, where it sat proudly for a number of years. Alas, Duchess hated the doghouse and I have no memory of her ever in it. (Instead she preferred wedging her 60 or so pound self between my parents on their bed, where she had nestled as a puppy.) I was somewhat fascinated by the doghouse, even if she was not, however we left it behind when we moved several years later.