It's Friday February 12, 2016
Where are the old-timey post offices in Pamlico County? Oriental, according to a town motto, is the “Village of Leisure Living.” That’s in addition to being the sailing capital of North Carolina.
But not all of the people that move to Pamlico County have sailboats. Some are drawn to this area seeking just a simpler, calmer life. They are looking for a village of leisure living.
Perhaps a post office can provide a window on the character of life in a particular village.
I grew up in Arapahoe. There you went to the post office every morning about ten o’clock. It provided more opportunity for news, gossip, and rumors than a trip to a barbershop or beauty salon. While you may get a haircut every few weeks, one gets their mail every day.
For those seeking an old timey post office in Oriental, you may be a bit disappointed. The old red brick post office on Broad Street is now the Village Veterinary office. The new post office (built in the mid 1990’s) is smooth and efficient – not unlike the style and ambience of a typical post office anywhere in America. The Oriental Post Office is no place of rustic charm, but instead an array of aluminum, plate glass, and computerized counter services.
Above, Linda Caroon retrieves her mail from the Oriental Post Office. Below, Richard De Charms sends priority mail at a priority looking counter.
So where do you find an old-time, rustic village post office?
Ride just five miles west to Merritt. There the post office is still in an old building, a vintage 1950’s gas station and mom & pop grocery store.
But wait, go inside.
All those old post office boxes with combination locks have been recently replaced with the shiny aluminum ones like those in Oriental. It is a stark contrast to the quaint charm of the outer facade.Olivia Boyd shows off the door from one of the old PO BoxesBut you can take a bit of that old timey charm home. Post Mistress Olivia Boyd is selling the old combination-lock doors which once adorned the interior of the Merritt Post Office for the tidy sum of $8.00. I borrowed $8.00 from Richard DeCharms so I could hang on to that vision of the disappearing village charm of Pamlico County.
Four miles west to Stonewall – the old post office is still in the same building with what used to be Lupton’s Grocery. But now, Danny Lupton is not selling milk and eggs like his father did – no, he’s into high tech electronics. I didn’t have the heart to venture inside the Stonewall Post Office, figuring it had gone high tech also, just like Oriental.
On to Hobucken. When I was growing up, when I first heard of Hobucken, I asked Mama where the place was. She replied, “That’s down in the lower end of the county.
There’s some of the past in Hobucken, and a bit of the future.
A few decades ago, the Hobucken folks got their mail from this building, now where old appliances are growing in the yard.
When current post master, Joe Phillips first took the job in Hobucken 23 years ago, he dispensed mail from the building pictured below.
When this building fell into disrepair, the Hobucken Post Office moved. It then moved again when tides from a recent hurricane deposited 27 inches of water under the shelves of old post office boxes.
Joe Phillips is in a new post office now, selling money orders to Goose Creek Island postal patrons.
Now look where the village post office is in Hobucken (photo above), part of a sprawling metal building complex which houses a Goose Creek Island Civic Center.
But hope springs eternal for those seeking a true old-timey village post office in Pamlico County. It’s in Lowland.
Look at this post office, been there for more than fifty years.
And if that’s not enough to convince those seeking the real “village people,” check out Post Mistress Sharon Rice.Sharon RiceSharon is in her thirtieth year selling stamps in Lowland. She is not a true native; she was already thirteen when her daddy moved his family to Lowland. She can claim semi-native status because her daddy was a Lowland native. Bless her heart! In the Lowland village post office, only 32 box renters can greet you and share gossip every morning after the mail is up.
That Lowland Post Office gets the prize for most character in our county post office tour.
I hope it gets to stay that way.
As well as directing PR for Pamlico Community College, Ben Casey is a photographer and photo essayist. You can learn more about Ben and his books at www.bencaseyphotos.com.