About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

The Small-Town Post Office:
Address Unknown?

If you're a person who still writes letters, you could address a letter to me at Susan Maricle, Bruno, Minnesota, and chances are I'd receive it. 

Because once the letter arrived at the Bruno Post Office from Duluth or the Twin Cities, a postal worker like Bev or Dan would say, "Ohyeah, I know where she lives."

The Bruno Post Office.
Neighbors knowing neighbors makes a post office unique to small towns. The post offices in Kerrick (population 79) and Bruno (population 102) are on the list of 117 Minnesota post offices under consideration for closure. It's not a done deal, as residents are signing petitions and contacting their state legislators. But the fact that specific post offices (I refuse to use the term "retail outlets") have been identified is reason enough to act.

The Kerrick Post Office.
A frequent objection to closing small-town post offices is their significance to senior citizens, their role as a meet-and-greet with old friends before breakfast. If the Kerrick and Bruno post offices close, seniors who rent post-office boxes would have to either switch to at-home delivery or drive to a farther post office. If you're a senior on a limited budget, and are apprehensive about driving on icy winter roads -- Highway 23 can be treacherous -- you've just lost a treasured morning ritual. And the local diner has lost the breakfast income that follows the ritual.

From my own point of view, a small-town post office is a go-to place, a where-do-I, who-do-I, how-do-I place. When I left the Bruno Post Office this morning I ran into Sparky Nelson, who administers the food shelf and volunteers at senior dining. I asked her who I would contact to rent the Bruno Town Hall across the road. She directed me to Doug Blechinger, the mayor who lives down the road. Stand outside in front of a small-town post office with a question. Before long you'll have the answer. 

A Secret Santa and Mike the Mailman
In the event of a post office closure,  those of us with rural route delivery would receive our mail from a more distant post office, perhaps Askov or Wrenshall. I'm sure the postal workers there are great people, but I wouldn't expect them to know everything that goes on in our little corner of east central Minnesota. Like the anonymous benefactor who would buy a small Christmas present for each young child in Bruno. The toys would show up in mailboxes on Christmas Eve with a return address of the North Pole. Or when "Mike the Mailman," as neighbors called him, would leave a dog biscuit in the mailbox at every home on his route where a dog lived.

The Collectible Toy Post Office
Eight miles north on State Highway 23, the Kerrick Post Office resembles a toy building in a collectible tabletop village. Terri Stadin says an older gentleman comes up from the Cities once a month to buy a book of ten stamps because he admires the tiny building with its neatly manicured grounds.

The Kerrick Post Office was fashioned from part of the old Kerrick Hotel in the 1970s, says retired Postmaster John Wenzel. (Wenzel's own home is also a piece of history: it's a refurbished church that you'll recognize if you've seen the movie Iron Will.

The bulletin board outside of the post office is another reason why small-town post offices are the go-to place. You'll see notices for free will suppers, informational flyers about utility payment assistance, and assorted business cards. The bulletin board is a 24/7 news service for those who don't have the Internet, and provides local context for people like me who are too busy dashing here and there to notice what's going on.

Address Unknown,  A Connection Lost
The dominoes are slowly but steadily falling. A post office is probably next after a school in giving a town its identity, and Bruno and Kerrick lost their local schools to consolidation long ago. A desire for smaller government can lead to a greater disconnect among neighbors and communities. Is that really the outcome that we want?

Listen to the Minnesota Public Radio report: 

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