Thursday, February 21, 2013

February Pictorial Postmark / Post Office Tour

Featuring a handful of postmark images and information from U.S. Postal Bulletin #22357. In our last post we visited a wonderfully remote corner of the country with Valentine, Texas. Valentine offers a pictorial postmark for which people submit their mail for cancellation from around the world.

For those who might be a little less well-off romantically speaking, there's an apt pictorial postmark available from northeast Oklahoma by way of the Broken Arrow post office. This 20,000-square-foot post office building has been occupied by the Postal Service for 30 years.

Broken Arrow post office

The Broken Arrow Station postmark can be sent for at the address at right, and is available for 30 days as of February 14.

Broken Arrow, OK pictorial postmark

USPS introduced its Rosa Parks stamp with two first-day ceremonies in Detroit on February 4. However, Rosa Parks Station pictorial cancellations are available from both Oklahoma City and the small town of Newtonville, New Jersey, which lies 45 minutes southeast of Philadelphia. Why there? The pictorial is sponsored by the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, which lies in Newtonville. The pictorial postmark is available for 30 days beginning February 9.

Newtonville, NJ pictorial postmark

The Newtonville post office is rather isolated for a New Jersey operation: the closest post office lies nearly seven miles away. The post office building is rather nondescript, sharing residence with, well, an actual residence!

Newtonville, NJ post office

However, the sign along the road is distinct and nice:
Newtonville, NJ post office sign

One of the nicest pictorial designs I've seen in a long time comes courtesy the Tucson post office, or, more precisely, the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, discussed in this previous entry. If you think that state appears to contain the states of Arizona and New Mexico, well, there's good reason for that!

Arizona Territory pictorial postmark

The Campton, NH and Plymouth, NH post offices are offering pictorial cancellations tied to the release of the White Mountain National Forest quarter (February 21). Campton and Plymouth both lie near the southern end of the forest. The Plymouth post office is a large WPA building with interior mural.

Plymouth, NH pictorial postmark

Plymouth, NH post office

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Postal Tour: Rapid City, SD

In southwest South Dakota, near the Black Hills, Badlands, and the monuments of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, lies the local metropolis and gateway to the region -- Rapid City with its roughly 69,000 residents. Despite its comparatively small size it's the largest city within a 350-mile drive, which means that the city's mail processing operations are not slated for consolidation at any time under USPS's Area Mail Processing (Network "Rationalization") plan.

Rapid City's postal footprint is distinct in that while the city could accommodate one or more classified postal stations, there are only five numbered contract stations beyond the Main Post Office / P&DF.

Here's a map of the area:
Rapid City, SD postal map

Our tour begins with the former site of the Rapid City Post Office: a stately 1912 building now known as the Rushmore Professional Building (housing law firms and other such organizations). The Main Post Office moved to its present site during the mid-1970s, from the west end of downtown to the east.

Old Rapid City, SD post office:
Rushmore Professional Building / former Rapid City, SD post office

The present site fits with one's expectations for the design of a 'modern' Processing and Distribution Facility.
Rapid City, SD post office

Flanking the MPO along a roughly straight eight-mile corridor are Rapid City's five CPUs. This framework is beneficial in one respect: there are five postal operations open on Saturdays and four on Sundays -- one until 11 p.m. each night -- in the area. Most Dakotas District operations -- including CPUs -- are very keen on learning and obeying rules and regulations, and I found each operation to be friendly and competent. From west to east, presenting the five CPUs of Rapid City:

Rapid City, SD: Sta. #6 (Family Thriftway Center CPU)
Rapid City, SD: Family Thriftway Center CPU

Rapid City, SD: Sta. #4 (Boyd's Drug West CPU)
Rapid City, SD: Boyd's Drug West CPU

Rapid City, SD: Sta. #7 (Medicap Pharmacy CPU)
Rapid City, SD: Medicap Pharmacy CPU

Rapid City, SD: Sta. #5 (Boyd's Drug East CPU)
Rapid City, SD: Boyd's Drug East CPU

Rapid City, SD: Sta. #2 (Don's Valley Market CPU)
Rapid City, SD: Don's Valley Market CPU

Until next time!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine, Texas

It's February 14th, and we know what that means. We get to either discuss the joys of love, the lack thereof, or discuss some post office related to the name Valentine. I stand by my decision.

If you'd like to view the definition of the middle of nowhere, you need not look much further than Valentine, Texas. The town, according to its 'City Limits' sign, maintains a population of 217 people. Located in the state's southwest panhandle along U.S. 90, the town is closer to Mexico (25 miles from the Rio Grande) than from any neighboring town (the arts community of Marfa -- 35 miles -- or the I-10 motel stop of Van Horn -- 38 miles). In fact, these distances place Valentine far enough away from any other community that its post office must remain open at six hours a day according to USPS's POStPlan. By the new terminology it becomes a "Part-Time Post Office" (PTPO) that reports to the local postal District (in this case, Rio Grande). If the distance were less than 25 miles to either post office then Valentine's would have been reduced to a two-hour operation. In fact, the Valentine post office was threatened with closure under USPS's ill-fated Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI) back in 2011.

Here's a satellite view of the situation:


Welcome to Valentine:
Valentine, TX sign

The most interesting facet of the landscape lies about halfway between Valentine and Marfa to the Southeast. Ten miles out a massive, round object protrudes from the horizon, one so unexpected that you wonder if you've teleported the 200 miles north to Roswell. As it turns out this is one of ten U.S.A.F. Tethered Aerostat Radar System sites along the southern borders of the United States. Located at sites from Yuma, AZ to southern Florida and Puerto Rico, these blimp-like objects rise and scan for aircraft and surface-level intrusions from abroad. Who knew?

Marfa TARS:
Marfa TARS

Beyond this (and an art installation just west of town known as Prada Marfa) the land is peppered with ranches. Train tracks parallel U.S. 90 and bisect Valentine. The landscape is flat though hills are visible in the distance. As we might say in urban areas, the sky is big.

Here's a view east of town:
Landscape east of Valentine

I was pleased to find a beautiful stonework Public Library in Valentine. The building has been maintained beautifully (though, to be fair, it was dedicated in 2009) and even pays homage to the main branch of the New York Public Library with two lions out front!

Kay Johnson Public Library; Valentine, TX

You can read more about the Kay Johnson Public Library and its dedication here and here, respectively.

The Valentine post office was established Jan. 22, 1886. Here the post office is a big deal. Heck, the Valentine post office is big all over the place. The post office offers an annual pictorial cancellation with which senders the world request their Valentine's mail to be postmarked.

Valentine, TX post office:
Valentine, TX post office

Valentine's 2013 pictorial features two 'love birds' sitting on a ranch landscape fence. To order a cancel (whose requests must be received within 30 days), send your request and items to be postmarked to the address at right.

Valentine, TX 2013 pictorial postmark

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Beautiful Post Office: Willows, CA

About 85 miles north of Sacramento off I-5 lies the town of Willows, population 6,000. At the center of town lies a beautiful post office dating to 1918. It features a grand interior and a vaulted portico that might not be too out of place at a cathedral in Europe. I took several photos of the location last summer.

Willows, CA post office




The Corinthian columns and carved stonework are uncommonly ornate and, fortunately, appear to have been well-maintained.