Monday, March 9, 2015

A little something to keep you posted: The country's smallest post office of Ochopee, Florida

 Postmaster Shannon Mitchell, at your service

 It really is a living, breathing post office

 One of the friendly neighbors along the mail route

 There is a glorious 264-mile stretch of Florida's old Highway 41 that runs from Tampa to Miami that is, appropriately enough, known as the Tamiami Trail. Predating the Interstate, it's still dotted with old fashioned tourist attractions and the kinds of oddities we eccentric roadside attraction fans pine for, not the least of which are real, live alligators you can see from your car window along the roadside canals. The Everglades stretch of the Tamiami is also the home of a magnificently unexpected roadside treat: the smallest post office building in the entire USA. In the early 1930s, the tiny town of Ochopee, about 36 miles southeast of Naples (Florida, not Italy, silly) was settled as a tomato farming community and once had a general store with a post office inside it on Route 41. In 1953, a fire destroyed the building, but quick-thinking postmaster Sidney Brown removed the postal records before they were damaged and set up shop in a nearby undamaged 7 x 8-foot shed formerly used to store irrigation pipes and hoses and the post office has remained there to this day. It's just large enough for one postal employee to sit and tend to the postal matters at hand, which include processing mail for a 132-mile mail route across three counties, and taking care of walk-up customers and curiosity seekers. We were lucky enough to catch postmaster Shannon Mitchell hard at work. She cheerfully answered our inane questions (Where do you use the rest room? Across the street at Joanie's Blue Crab Restaurant. How long have you worked here? Nine years. You must like all your coworkers, don't you? nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.)  She sold us a commemorative postcard with a one-of-a-kind cancellation for the low, low price of a dollar, too. Lots of tourists drop by to take pictures to make their friends back home envious, which does our hearts good and just goes to show you that good things really do come in small (postal) packages.

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