Saturday, August 22, 2020

U.S. Post Office Remains in the Headlines, Stimulating Thoughts
of Our Own Silver Lake Post Office



Whenever stories of the U.S. Post Office come on the TV, radio, or computer, a flood of memories and of storied history obsesses my mind and I am once again thrilled by one of the oldest institutions of our country--as a matter of fact--older than our country. The original Post Master General was Benjamin Franklin, from whose daughter our family evolved. Abraham Lincoln also served as a Post Master General for a while. Both knew the value of running it as the service it was intended to be verses a business.

Equally important to me was my grandfather Ed's total career which he spent as a clerk in Postal Station D of South Buffalo, just a short walk from my great grandfather August's Dry Goods Store (no longer there--established in 1884 and sold in 1944) on Seneca St. at the Swan and Emslie Sts. intersection. Today, my granddaughter delivers mail near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

When I was SLI Treasurer, I and other Institute-related folks were present for the meeting in Koinonia a number of years back where the subject was our Silver Lake Post Office. It was a trying experience because the people representing the District Post Office were not giving us much reason for hope. It seemed like the prospects for being broken up into two rural routes--one out of Perry and one out of Castile would most likely be our fate--utilizing the two zip codes: one for Perry (14530) and the other for Castile (14427). 

One or two banks of outdoor postal boxes would have to be installed and accessible to Perry Avenue (the only public road through the Institute). As questions were raised, the post office representatives offered an alternative to the rural route concept. They suggested that a bank of post office boxes on the south end wall of the post office lobby in Perry be reserved for the former customers of the Silver Lake Post Office and labeled as such above the reserved boxes along with the old zip code designation of 14549. 

They obviously thought that our beloved 14549 would be such a powerful draw that we would easily accept the concept of running to the Perry Post Office every time we wanted to pick up mail, deposit mail, send a package, or purchase a stamp. Although we gave it serious consideration we also talked about the elderly and those who had neither cars nor the ability nor desire to walk or drive that far and back, particularly in bad weather.

At the time we had a full time office at Silver Lake and we were indeed spoiled for the amount of mail and limited purchases. So a third concept was explained to us: a part time post office, perhaps 2 or 3 hours a day and a willingness to make a serious attempt at increasing our local post office's sales of products--particularly postage and number of pieces mailed. 

We were told that a big part of the decision would be based on how much money was taken in and how many mailable items were sent through our PO. These would obviously help to cover the expenses of the building and its employees which included the truck and driver that had to stop here each day. We were reminded that there was no income attributable to the rental of mail boxes which were offered free because of no house to house delivery.

As you know the decision was made by the higher-ups to go with the part time post office with the community's willingness to attempt to increase our post office's sales of products. Amazingly, as time has passed, many found it easy to forget the second part of the verbal agreement, and this is the main reason for my writing today.

This is a reminder that we best not wait for another run at closing our post office. It's time now to talk about our post office's future because the current part-time decision was not given the designation of "permanent." It was designated a trial period to see how the financial balance sheets look after a few years. I am told that we do not receive any reports as to how our post office is doing--not once in a while, not any at all. Its fate for all practical purposes is currently in our hands.

Do we buy our Christmas Card postage at Silver Lake before returning to our homes? We should. Our post office desperately needs our business if we hope to prove its value to them. Our annual tax bills are sent with Silver Lake postage as are the Waterfront and Marina leases. The return payments should be made with Silver Lake postage. Any packages that could be brought and mailed from our local post office would also help to increase its sales. Check out other products here which might be useful to you and helpful to our PO.

We must remind ourselves that the District Post Office pays a hefty rent for use of our little post office building, as it does to keep the heat, lights, and phone lines on every day for building safety, package safety, and electronics equipment safety, not to mention our comfort and convenience when picking up mail or purchasing postal products. Our discussions should prepare us for another postal meeting which might require us to have an alternative in mind for placing the post office in a different building--one in which the Institute owns and one for which the District Post Office would not have to pay rent or utilities. Is our PO worth that much to us?

Once upon a time, the question of whether to purchase the current post office building came up. A one-man decision was made that the owner wanted "too much." It was never discussed and I think we might agree that what one person considers "too much" another person may not. Or would we consider converting Stoody Hall? Who knows--we haven't talked about it. Or would we consider placing the post office in the basement of Epworth Hall? Who knows--we haven't discussed it even on a concept level.

We have done very well "getting ahead of the game" when it comes to the paving of roads by having an annual amount in the budget for maintenance. Why not "get ahead of the game" by at least talking, discussing, or even just exchanging dreams about a post office alternative for the future--before the future imposes its will on us.

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