Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taste of Portland [Maine]

Mid-2011 once again finds Portland, ME's Station A targeted for closure. The office was first slated on the Consolidation Hit List, and has been named on USPS's new Village Post Office Study List.

(I should really get on that huge news soon, shouldn't I? You've read about it, I'm sure. I do have some insight and inside info.)

In any case, this Going Postal blogger teamed up with two juggernauts of post office visits and postmark collecting to visit post offices on the shores and some islands of Maine: ferries and all. Add yet more posts to pend.

For now, I'll present the stations of Portland, Maine:

First, the Main Office:

Yet another beautiful office from the '30s. Adjacent is the facility that comprises the Maine District Office [the Maine Office, next to the main office?], which is responsible for post offices of all northern New England: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

The Portland Main Post Office, Station A, and Downtown Station are unusually close: a trip encompassing all three offices can be accomplished with 0.9 miles of total travel:

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Station A is about 2,000 feet from the Main Post Office, and the Downtown Station is about half a mile from Station A.

Now, onto pictures!

Portland, ME: Station A

Portland, ME: Downtown Station

Portland, ME: JET Video CPU

The Downtown Station is part of a building and open area known as Post Office Square. There's also a nearby Post Office Plaza. JET Video is northwest of downtown, and features a video store, ice cream counter, and the CPU. It's actually near a second, nondescript CPU in a Rite Aid -- the second I've been to in such a setting. (The first being the Whitestone CPU in Queens, NY.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

DPO'd: Newark, NJ

The inevitable has finally happened: the two 'Hit List' post offices in Newark were discontinued July 1, as per yesterday's Postal Bulletin. One was the Washington Park Station, which I documented in this Going Postal entry back in May. It's a shame, but honestly not surprising; that post office was open just four hours a day [11-3], and didn't serve any immediate residential or commercial community.

The other discontinued station was Riverfront Plaza, which was housed on the first floor of a large office tower. I walked to Riverfront and the Midtown Station post offices once I discovered that my car had been towed in downtown Newark. That's a story I can explain later.

Here's the office tower from afar.

Below is the Riverfront Plaza post office. I was cautious due to a security station and cameras around, but no one saw me take the photo. I'm glad I got it as no one else will be able to henceforth!

There was suitable traffic at this location, which will now be squeezed and distributed amongst the Midtown Station and the Newark Main Post Office.

Speaking of the Newark Main Post Office, my car was towed as I debated for 40 minutes with the Newark Postal Police Division whether or not they could confiscate my camera / memory card for taking photos of the exterior of the building, from public property. 30-year Postal Police veterans, they were rather adamant about their position but the answer came back that no, you CANNOT confiscate someone's film without cause. They told me that I might be confronted by U.S. Marshals (the building does double as a courthouse, after all), but while I was actively sighted from one angle I was not further hassled.

In any case, if you Google hard enough you'll find some views of the place. Actually, you don't even have to look very hard: Street View has a really nice up-close look at it! And if it's legal for Google to publish then it's legal for me. So now, you can look HERE and find two photos as well! What a grand building, isn't it?

Going Postal Goes First-Day

The author has had the pleasure of attending two USPS First-Day stamp issuing ceremonies in the New York area during the past month.

Pioneers of American Industrial Design: June 29, 2011
Held at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, near the Guggenheim in Manhattan, this elegant set of 12 stamps commemorates 12 giants of industrial design. The ceremony was attended by many relatives and descendants of the designers featured.

Here I am answering a call:

Afterward I finished up my visits to all the post offices of Manhattan south of 110th Street. My friend, a Linn's Stamp News editor, got his First-Day program covers cross-canceled at Macy's to validate that these were obtained in New York, and not in Kansas City.

U.S. Merchant Marine: July 28, 2011
This set of four Forever stamps was issued at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The Kings Point post office was discontinued in May 2009, but continues as a private mailroom. The Academy's mail is handled by the Great Neck post office. Still listed on USPS's Post Office Locator tool, the 'post office' for Kings Point is listed as being at Great Neck's Old Village Station. There is no Kings Point postmark available. The ceremony's First-Day cancel stated Great Neck, and the ceremony was run by New York's Triboro District -- even though it is, indeed, slightly beyond the geographic confines of New York City.

The audience was regaled by musical performances by the USMMA Regimental Band, which is composed solely of USMMA Midshipmen. Here are the Colors:

David Cochrane detailed a history of USMMA ships and their contributions to wartime supply and peacetime transportation efforts. A USMMA pin was presented to stamp artist Dennis Lyall by the Honorable David T. Matsuda.

Below: The unveiling of the stamps. Left to right, visible: James Cochrane, VP: Product Information, USPS; USMMA Midshipman, Captain Laurellee Kopras; the Honorable David T. Matsuda, U.S. Maritime Administration.

Below: Prof. Joshua M. Smith, Interim Director of the American Merchant Marine Museum [which I visited afterward; it is pretty interesting, and on the Kings Point grounds!] noted some of the connections between the U.S. Merchant Marines and American postal development. For example, merchant mariners informed Ben Franklin of the Gulf Stream; by charting it, Franklin was able to expedite mail service across the Atlantic.

He looks like a comedian in this photo. His speech was quite engaging.

A Great Neck Plaza Village Trustee announced that its Mayor had declared July 28, 2011 to be U.S. Maritime Heritage Day.

Afterward was a program-signing ceremony by the speakers. The guys were all really friendly and fun to chat with!

Philatelic services and stamp sales were provided by a table outside the auditorium. The Flushing Mobile Unit, a "Post Office on Wheels" that is often found on Flushing's Main Street and Queens Boulevard, provided additional sales support. It even had its own postmark, and I got my programs cross-canceled there.

Here is the Flushing mobile post office:

Friday, July 22, 2011

DPO'd: Freehold, NJ Postal Trailer

I was a little struck by this USPS Local News announcement published a couple of months back: Freehold Lafayette Postal Trailer will be closing. Set to close next Friday, July 29, I had to head down to Jersey to check it out.

Fortunately, the author had to head from New York to Philadelphia earlier this week to check out some apartments, and so had an excuse to spend a couple of days racking up more New Jersey post office visits. I learned a lot and got a couple of fantastic stories, some of which will be set forth in future GP entries.

Freehold is a township of nearly 35,000. I first visited its main post office, pictured below. Its architecture was relatively interesting, considering its blandness. It's located in a large shopping area west of the center of town. The office had many clerk stations, but only two were open. Neither clerk knew philatelic regulations and she who I had to deal with had a notable and condescending attitude. Fortunately, the supervisor approved a standard postmark request and I was on my way to check out the postal trailer.

Freehold, NJ MPO:

The postal trailer is where a main post office should be: in the center of town. Unfortunately, the trip from this location to what will be the only Freehold post office requires crossing two major north-south arteries and makes for an obnoxiously long commute, considering it's "only" a 2.4-mile drive. I didn't quite know what to expect, but it's literally a large trailer, specially made for USPS, plopped in the middle of a parking lot. Interesting.

There are two ramps along either long side of the trailer -- one for employees and one for patrons and box-holders. Banners hung on those sides stated: "Freehold Boro Temporary Post Office" and "Welcome to the Temporary Post Office in Freehold Boro". The front states the hours of operations: M-F 8:30 to 4:30; Sat. 9:00 to 1:00. Here's the USPS listing.

That temporary operation, Lafayette Station (as it's located at 13 Lafayette Street), has been in place for 8 years. Previously, downtown Freehold postal operations were handled by a CPU (date of closure unknown to the Post Mark Collectors Club). I think a new CPU would be apt for this location, but who knows? Let's get to photos already!

Freehold, NJ: 'Lafayette' Postal Trailer; customer entrance side

Inside, the experience was more pleasant than Freehold Main: the clerk was friendly and readily gave me a postmark. The dater used at the trailer is identical to the one used at the Main Post Office, so it wasn't so exciting; still, it's something. The trailer is a full-fledged post office: There are hundreds of PO Boxes and two window stations operating the standard USPS POS (Point of Sale) computer retail system. I was curious how the hard-wired machines were set up, so I bought $1 of stamps to get a receipt, which states "Freehold Downtown Station".

As in most instances, I find this closure to be disappointing. Three teenagers had just walked over to buy $60 of stamps for their mother, and there were two other people using the office while I was at the facility.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Sometimes, it's unfortunate what the weather conditions are when you're on the road hunting down a nice four-bar cancellation in some obscure part of the country. So, here are some of my post office photos that have never seen the light of day, partly because the light of day was obscured under torrential downpours of rain at the time.

1. Counce and Pickwick Dam, TN:
I stayed the night at the Pickwick Dam State Park. I also remember leaving that hotel just after 09/09/09 09:09:09! The Pickwick Dam post office has tons of P.O. boxes and a new PMR who was wary of postmark collecting. Of course, it was his first week and he'll probably not see another collector for another 20 years. Fortunately, the Postmaster at Counce (just a mile away) helped out, and I got both postmarks. Let's have a look at those victorious photos.

It was really not possible to open that back window without enabling the backseat of my car to subsequently become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Later that day I visited plenty of nice Tennessee post offices, including Shiloh -- of the Shiloh Civil War battlefield.

2. Kissimmee, FL: Oak Street Station:
I spent the 15 minutes I spent in line at this office regretting walking outside in this mess. Among the worst rain I've seen. Which means I really had to protect my cancellation collection under my jacket. That's Florida for ya!

3. La Push, Washington:
Ah, this was a fun one. As with Neah Bay, Washington, the trek to this post office was 16 miles one way to the shoreline and post office, and 16 miles along the same route back to Forks. (If these names sound remotely familiar, think the popular tween Twilight series.) Only 16 miles? Sounds good to me!

When driving cross-country I had wanted to either set foot in the Pacific Ocean at Neah Bay (too dark) or here in La Push. Unfortunately the rain was completely horizontal and I couldn't open the car window a mere crack without getting drenched. Eventually, I found the post office (and lovely Postmaster) and snagged this photo.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taste of Salem, OR

So, before I headed off to Hawai'i for two weeks back last March, I visited a friend at Willamette College in Salem, OR and revisited Portland. Driving to Portland was also good prep for renting a car.

Salem I toured one day by bus, visiting all of its stations east of the Willamette River, all of its CPUs, and its DCU. I finished off its branches and West Salem Station while visiting 24 post offices in one day, mostly in the Portland area. So, let's see what we've got:

Salem, OR: Pringle Park Plaza Station

It was raining the day I set out in Salem. First I visited the Pringle Park Plaza Station, which had, interesting enough, a postmark that said "Pringle Park Station" and "Pringle Plaza Station". That's the post office nearest Willamette College and the Oregon State Capital (a really cool building).

In the drizzle I set off on bus #1 to the Liberty Ave. Station. I got out and caught the same bus on its return run 10 minutes later, transferring to another line to get to the Vista Station. Another bus over to the Salem MPO, where I met a friendly woman (the former philatelic clerk) who offered to mail me back my card with the Postmaster's autograph for my collection.

Now off to the eastern Salem CPUs: Southeast Station, which I got to by walking and got some photos nearby of crews working on power lines; and the Oak Park Station (the subject of another post), next to the Oak Park Lockbox [P.O. Box] Unit, which I got to using yet another bus. The Oak Park CPU had seen another collector six months prior to myself, whom I can only assume is another member of the PMCC.

I then walked two miles to the Hollywood DCU [Detached Carrier Unit], which does indeed have its own cancel. On the way I chatted with a crew that was installing a red light camera system. They explained to me that not only does the camera take photos of your car entering and exiting the intersection from the back, but it also does so from the front, along with video cameras that monitor the driver and speed of the vehicle. There are no excuses when this thing catches you. A ticket in Beaverton, OR could cost $400, and could also entail a moving violation -- two of which negate your license.

Another bus later and I was getting drenched near the Hollywood Station, so I went in and got a sandwich at a newly decorated Subway. The clouds had not left, but diffuse afternoon light enabled some nice photography of the Oregon State Capitol and Salem's flowering cherry trees.

Like I've always said, good things and interesting adventures happen when you Go Postal.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taking Pity on Google, Part II

Here are some further edits to postal markers the author has made:

Pawcatuck, CT: post office was unlisted. Now it is correctly placed.

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Wakeman, OH: post office was shown to be west of Monroeville; the marker was nearly 20 miles away. It is now properly placed.

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Northeast U.S.: Carrier Annexes

Ever curious where a Carrier Annex is? Wonder no more: every marker point on this map is a new edit / addition [edit-ion?]. This one's not an easy task.

> Some were listed as being full-fledged post offices, which is misleading (Trenton Carrier Annex; Madison, NJ Carrier Annex; Elmsford, NY Carrier Annex).

> Others were the site for carrier and retail operations, but have still split; those listings had still read 'US Post Office' though they are now just carrier facilities: Springfield, NJ Carrier Annex; Brooklyn, NY: Ryder Carrier Annex.

> Still more were just not shown at all, partly because USPS reveals very little information about them and because they aren't open for customer retail operations in any case. Here are some brand-new listings: Guilford/Madison [CT] Carrier Annex; Great Neck [NY] Carrier Annex; Revere [MA] Carrier Annex.

I'm still working on them, so there will be more to come.

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There are many more to fill in to the Boston area; this is a start:

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Youngstown, OH: I removed the listings for the East Side and South Side Stations, which were closed earlier this month and covered in this GP entry.

Taking Pity on Google, Part I

So, not many posts lately. I'll explain. The next paragraph might seem irrelevant, but it leads to the explanation.

Google Maps is rather handy when you're mapping out 25 post offices to visit one day. Unfortunately, from experience, I've found that map placement is not always accurate; some listed post offices have closed; or some aren't even listed! That's likely because, while USPS once provided a full docket of information for Google to use, some addresses are un-mappable and no one has the time to validate all the information. Well that's not cool!

Enter yours truly. I've basically been, shall we say, providing Google with free labor. Over the past two weeks I've taken to Google Map Maker (a really cool tool) to validate post office listings and map placement. Changes show up on Google Maps for searches once they are approved by other users. I've modified about 400 listings. Hopefully they make for a good reference for interested parties -- especially those who want to tour offices like moi! Here are some highlights:

1. The Poconos, PA

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Okay, before I got to them, these listings were PAINFULLY inaccurate. Absolutely no post office within the map parameters above was properly placed. Mountainhome didn't have a listing at all; Canadensis was placed where Cresco is; Cresco needed a new listing. Tobyhanna was listed as being on Rt. 311; it's really off on Main Street. Pocono Manor needed re-placement; its marker is now placed on the lodge that houses it.

In the Scranton area, I removed the listings for Dickson City and Elmhurst.

So now, EVERY post office in that window is spot-on. Although I haven't yet been to Scotrun, so I don't know about that one.

2. Southwestern Massachusetts:

Corrected many mis-placed tags, including that for Mill River, MA.

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3. Queens, NY:

I added a listing for the new Broad Channel CPU.

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JFK's post office and Air Mail Center were hopelessly misplaced; they were shown to be in the passenger terminal when they're really on the outskirts of the airport. Finally, their location is properly shown:

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In short: I really should be getting paid for this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

DPO'd: Valley Falls, RI

The Pawtucket branch post office in Valley Falls, RI lies just 1.2 miles to its nearest companion in Lincoln, RI. Still, it's a shame to see a post office with nice old P.O. boxes and a friendly Clerk-in-Charge disappear. Valley Falls is the historic part of Cumberland, RI. Think old mills. The community is working-class and when I visited the office on Tuesday, residents seemed very disappointed to see their place on the map vanish.

Today, July 8, is Valley Falls's last day. The post office was the only one in Rhode Island that kept its name on the SBOC Consolidation 'Hit List'.

For perspective, here is a map of Valley Falls with respect to Pawtucket, RI and Providence:

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Valley Falls shares a ZIP code with larger Cumberland (post office: 3 miles north); but I was disappointed to see that the signage on the building itself actually does say Cumberland on it, as opposed to Valley Falls:

USPS has a lease on the building for two more years... so of course they're shutting it down now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beautiful Post Office: Prides Crossing, MA

For the July 4th weekend I visited my friend in Massachusetts. For Independence Day itself I took the afternoon to visit the post offices of Cape Ann. The fantastic main office and stations of Gloucester, MA, will be covered in another post.

I was especially pleased with two other offices I discovered, one of which I deem among the most photogenic I've seen, with its patriotic bunting. Introducing the post office of the wonderfully named town of Prides Crossing, Massachusetts:

Another post office with a great name and a great sign was Rockport, MA's Pigeon Cove Station:

The post office is about one mile from Rockport's main post office, but served a pleasant and distinct community. Its official address is 165½ Granite St.

The general positions of the communities are highlighted on this map: