The government is expected to shut down at least 3,000 post offices — and one hobbyist who visits post offices around the country has taken notice.
Evan Kalish collects hand-cancellation marks and blogs about it on “Going Postal,” where he posts photographs of each location.
Kalish, who’s also a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania in geospatial analytics, started his hobby right out of college — and he has run up an impressive tally of how many he’s visited: 2,745.
Kalish says he got into his hobby after having an “aha” moment while traveling in remote northeast Wyoming.
“I got off the interstate and I took a really remote road through some really remote towns whose post offices are indeed in danger,” he tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “That’s when I first began to feel connected to the service. It was part of an overall experience, but at that point I began to make more of an effort to explicitly go out of my way to visit more remote post offices because I thought it would be a worthwhile experience.”
Kalish says some of his favorite post offices are those that were built during the Depression era by the Treasury Department as part of the Works Progress Administration program under Franklin Roosevelt. His favorite is the one in Greenville, Pa., which takes up most of a city block.
“In terms of sheer grandeur and pride that’s visible in its construction, I would say it takes the cake,” he says. “It’s tall. It’s got beautiful granite columns with an orange tint. It’s got a beautiful marble interior. It’s got marble columns. The counters that are still there from the ’30s have carved metal lions. It’s all unbelievable.”
As for a tiny post office, Kalish says his most memorable experience was in Rozet, Wy., near Devils Tower.
“That postmaster was responsible for servicing a set of special limited edition pictorial postmarks, which he told me where actually done on top of Devils Tower — this big massive rock formation in what is otherwise the middle of nowhere,” Kalish says. “I’m told he carried the sack of mail to the top — he did this hand cancellation of envelopes — and he saved a special set for himself and he gave them to me. So I thought that was very generous and it’s still meaningful.”
Kalish’s passion has turned into a campaign to protect the endangered post office since the government is expected to shut down at least 3,000 of them.
“I do hope that doesn’t happen,” Kalish says. “I’m not so convinced that I could say save any given post office. But honestly, if I can’t save the post office, what I would like to do is at least memorialize the post offices. And the other thing I would like to do is hopefully save some of the stories that go with these post offices before they’re lost to history.”