I have these pictures from 1990 in Humboldt. This post is just about the two post offices that existed at that time. Since then they have torn down the old post office. There’s probably nothing that exciting about talking about post offices. In Humboldt, it is a bit of an exception.
In a small town like Humboldt, everyone has a PO Box instead of having it delivered to their house. Because everyone one needs to pick it up, everyone has the possibility of bumping into other residents. From this point of view, the post office becomes the social hub of the town.
I have quite a few memories of the old post office in Humboldt. The strongest memory is of a postal worker named “Rusty” that worked at the post office for many years. He was a friendly guy, but could turn grumpy pretty fast if things weren’t going too well that day. He must have had red hair at some point but by the time I knew him in the early 70’s he was already really gray.
Grandma and Grandpa used to send their grandchildren to get the mail and believe it or not it was always a highlight to walk up to the post office to see what came today.
One time I went with Grandma. Rusty and Grandma talked for a bit. Towards the end of the conversation, Rusty gave me an Native American arrowhead that had been found in the area. The old post office had lots of stuff that would not normally be there. For example, he had lots of things that would be considered “junk”. Truthfully, some of it was really interesting. I remember there being quite a few glass insulators used for the old telephone and power lines. They were strangely beautiful to look at with the different clear colors.
The only time getting the mail became a hassle was in the winter time. It was just too cold to walk so people would use their cars instead. Cars would be parked outside the post office and left running while the person would run in and out of the post office. The image of running cars with steam shooting out the exhaust is still clear in my mind. When it gets really cold, the steam lasts a long time and it starts to look like clouds are forming around the post office.
I’ve only been in the new post office a few times. It seems to have a bit less character than the last one but it certainly is well equipped and professional.
The post office played a very import role for my Grandpa. He loved getting mail. It didn’t matter what kind he got. He signed up for all kinds of contests and sweepstakes. His theory was that you have to play in order to win. Fair enough. I was always amazed with the volume of mail that Grandpa would get. I would guess that it could easily reach at least 20 letters a day. He would sometimes give me some of the prizes that he won. For years I kept a digital watch that had a built in calculator that he gave me. Surprisingly, it ran far longer than any other watch I had with one battery. It also had an alarm that would go off every morning at 5am. It was packed away in a drawer so I rarely heard it but when I did I would think of the watch and then think of Grandpa as well.
Another way of thinking about it is that the post office in Humboldt is the portal to the outside world. Things have changed with the introduction of satellite TV and the Internet, but the true value still lives with access to real mail from the real world.