The Old Coot marks the final end to an era

This is the 13th anniversary of the demise of the mailbox at the corner of Front and Ross Streets. The crumbling, leaning cement post it once hung on, fell down after all those lonesome years and was removed just a few days ago. The following is what I wrote when the mailbox was removed in 2009.  

She’s gone! You could see it coming. She knew too much, too many secrets. Two burly guys came by in the afternoon, wrestled her to the ground, threw her in the back of a van and took off. Now, all we have left is a stone monument, slightly askew, marking the spot where she proudly hung. The little blue mailbox on the corner of Ross and Front was taken from us. Ripped out of the neighborhood. Ripped out of our lives. No longer efficient, a victim of changing times. 

I don’t know how long it was there. They don’t keep records on that sort of thing. I asked postmaster Dave Clark. He didn’t know. He said that it wasn’t used very much; some days there was nothing in it, some days just a few letters, never more than a handful. One neighbor said it was there when he was a kid. Another thought some sort of mailbox had been at that location for 100 years or more. I know for sure it was around to collect letters from loved ones to soldiers in Europe, Africa and the South Pacific, fighting the war, the big one, WWII. 

“Dear Billy, I hope this finds you well. We’re praying for you. The scrap drive was a big success. We collected 100 pounds of copper. Dad ran out of gasoline coupons so we didn’t get out to the farm to see grandma this week.”  

If only it could talk. What stories it would tell! But it is no more. Modern technology made it obsolete; lack of activity forced it into retirement.

A few neighbors used it faithfully, several times a week. Now I watch them walk down the street to mail a letter in a box that isn’t there. They stare dumbfounded into the empty space on the pedestal for a minute or two, wondering, “What the heck?”  

The mailbox sat outside my kitchen window, in a direct line of sight from my perch in the kitchen, a perfect set up for a nosy old coot. “There’s Mrs. So-and-so,” I would yell to my wife. “Must be they are back from Florida.” Or, I’d report, “Mr. Been-around-a-long-time just mailed a letter. He was walking pretty well, no limp. Looks like he’s fully recovered from his hip replacement surgery.” 

It was more than a blue chunk of metal. It was the neighborhood “watering hole,” a place where we caught up with each other, a place where we exchanged snippets about the grandchildren, the latest round of aches and pains, and tips on where to get the cheapest gas in town. It was more than a mailbox. And, we miss it.

It’s where we put our letters to friends and relatives; it’s where we paid our bills and filed our income taxes, back when everyone did their own. Electronic filing, electronic bill payments and e-mail put our mailbox out of business. It’s a done deal! It’s gone and there is nothing I can do about it. Except complain! And that isn’t getting me anywhere. Everyone I complain to says the same thing, “GET OVER IT!”  So, Good-bye Old Blue!

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