Losing a Zip Code

Yesterday was July 26, and on that date in 1775 the U.S. postal system was established.  Ol’ Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general and a Post Office was started in his home.

According to this story, Ben’s Post Office was selected for possible shutdown yesterday with several thousand other Post Offices across the United States.

It had to be done and it was something I wrote about earlier this year.  The United States Postal Service (USPS), as well as our Federal Government, is broke.  The Postal Service lost about $8 billion last year; the Federal Government is $14 trillion in the red.

Way back in the days of my youth (I am a little younger than Benjamin Franklin); the little town I grew up in (population of about 35) had a Post Office in a corner of the town’s only general store.  I still remember the zip code, which was 64662.

There was a big wood stove in the middle of the store and the floors were wooden (and dark stained with oil) and they creaked as you walked down the aisle.  Kate was the store owner and Mildred was the Postmistress – and these two ladies knew everything that was happening.  They were kind of like Google before there was Google.

So almost every day people would stop by the store to check for mail, grab a few groceries, a cup of coffee or bottle of pop – and more importantly catch up on the gossip from Kate and Mildred.  The local general store with the Post Office was a destination and 64662 was our identity.

Sadly the general store closed and the Post Office moved to its own building.  As an 11 year old, I spent a summer taking care of the yard for the Postal Service.  Mildred paid me well – a lot more than my other clients – which as I look back may have been a clue that the Postal Service would go broke some 40 years later…

That Post Office closed several years later and the town lost its identity somewhat when they lost zip code 64662.  They still get their mail six days a week, but their zip code is now from another town (64673).

Yesterday the USPS released the names of around 3,700 Post Offices (click HERE for the state by state list) that may be closed.  Some may be replaced with a “Village Post Office” which the USPS says, “Village Post Offices would be operated by local businesses, such as pharmacies, grocery stores and other appropriate retailers, and would offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.”

So it may be a little like the Post Office in the old general store from my childhood – without the post office boxes – and the floors probably won’t make a creaking sound when you walk across them.

The Postal Service has come a long ways since the days of Benjamin Franklin and the Pony Express.  To survive they must change with the times and do it economically.  Here’s hoping the elected officials will allow them to make the changes needed to survive and compete in the global marketplace.