My heart raced as I clicked the link I found at newok.com, The Daily Oklahoman’s website. I quickly scanned the list of Oklahoma post offices that are being studied for closure. I hoped against hope that I wouldn’t see Calvin, Okla. (pop. 279) on the list. I nervously read the list several times before I was convinced that my hometown post office was not one of the 100 or so listed.
It may seem irrational to get so emotionally involved in this. I haven’t lived in the 74531 zip code in 17 years. And while my mother still receives her rural mail deliveries from the Calvin post office, the emotion goes deeper than concern for my Mom’s mail.
I really loved the story of the first “Cars” movie. One major plot theme centers around the hard times facing the fictional town of Radiator Springs. The once thriving town had been bypassed in the name of progress. Forgotten. When the story about the town reaches its saddest point, we hear James Taylor sing the powerful, melancholy song, “Our Town,” written by Randy Newman. The song acknowledges that many things have changed and ultimately that it is difficult to find a reason to stay. However, the song concludes with the words “But it’s our town, Love it anyway, Come what may, it’s our town.”
I thought of my town all through that movie … especially during the song. And while I currently make my home in the big city of New Orleans, I still love my hometown. I miss my hometown. I miss the things that are gone. I miss the grocery store and the Dairy Mart. I miss Amos Chapman’s gas station, Pete Little’s Greenhouse and the Talk of the Town restaurant. And I still remember how bad it felt when the train companies decided to bypass Calvin.
All this emotional baggage … thoughts of things already lost … filled my mind as I read through that post office list. You would have to be from a place like Calvin to understand that kind of emotion. For some odd reason the validation that comes from having a post office in Calvin is still important to me.
Even though my town was spared, the list was still shocking. A few of the offices listed are in large cities where the next nearest post office isn’t that far away. That’s not a big deal. But most were small towns and communities. I was familiar with many of these towns and I am sure that the losses will hurts. Quite a few post offices are closing in the western-most county in the Oklahoma panhandle. The county’s population is shrinking at a dramatic rate. The town of Gene Autry, named for the famous cowboy actor, is also on the list. I’ve been to Gene Autry, just a few people, a historic name and a post office. Most shocking to me was seeing my Granny’s hometown of Gotebo on that list.
The closings came really close to Calvin. Atwood, just five miles west of Calvin, is on the list. And lists like this are being created for every state. There are some 3,000 small town post offices throughout the nation that are facing closure. Don’t get me wrong … I understand the financial realities behind these decisions, but that doesn’t make it any easier to digest.
I’m thrilled my hometown post office is safe, but I feel the pain of Atwood, Bowlegs, Felt, Gotebo, Kenton and the list goes on through Oklahoma and our nation. Rural America is shrinking and that’s a loss for all of us.