Welcome, BBC viewers / web-watchers!
When my NPR radio segment aired a month ago, I was approached by the BBC and challenged to find them a quaint little post office in the general D.C. area. They would interview me there, show me getting a local postmark, and film a bit of bantering with the Postmaster. I chose Ladiesburg, Maryland, a town NNE of Frederick and an hour and a half outside D.C. Its post office is one of 42 in Maryland that could be closed in the near future as part of the RAOI "Expanded Access" initiative. While I hadn't been inside, I had passed by the building late on a Saturday so I knew it was quaint, and I also knew the Postmaster was friendly and familiar with the history of the town.
Fortunately, permission to film was granted and we were set for a Tuesday. I drove down from Philly to Silver Spring and stayed with family friends the night before.
Let's get a geographic fix; you can pan and zoom out within this map to get a better sense of scale for the area:
In the corner of a house, the Ladiesburg post office represents the last business in this small Maryland town. There are tracks behind the building and the town used to have a station, a general store, and several other goodies. Now, the post office is all that's standing between Ladiesburg's present stature as a community and a happenstance cluster of houses.
The official local story has it that the first eight residents of the town included seven women alongside one man. Hence, Ladiesburg! I love origin stories such as this, and if you don't know a local historian, the Postmaster can be your best bet to discover how a town got its name.
Let's look at some pictures!
Ladiesburg, MD post office
The hand-stenciled sign:
Yours truly having the honors of postmarking my cards (and thus making USPS some free revenue) -- technically, and this is in the Postal Operations Manual, one can be allowed to handle a postmarking device if it's under the supervision of authorized personnel:
A slightly disheveled me with Postmaster John T. ("Tom") Chuvala. This was at the end of the media session, which lasted two hours. Somehow I was still energetic after four hours' sleep, though I think here I was too exhausted to smile fully!
The Ladiesburg post office is open 8 - 12 Monday through Saturday. Postmaster Tom has headed the office since 2006. On Saturdays his Postmaster Relief (PMR) fills in. Both are veterans; as Postmasters they are continuing their service to their communities and toward binding the country together.
Two miles down the road lies the town of New Midway, another morning-only office that's under study for closure as part of RAOI. Here I found another photogenic office along with a wonderful Postmaster and some unique P.O. Boxes whose manufacturer I have never seen before.
New Midway, MD post office; taken on a sunnier day:
New Midway featured a train station as well, and this office is right alongside the tracks. Across the street is, of all things, a piano shop. [Link: Kramer's Piano Shop.] How cool is that? It's something I definitely hadn't expected to see in such a small town. The local elementary school is here as well.
Hope you enjoyed this small slice of America.