Another small chorus in the song of the city has begun to go silent in the nation’s neighborhoods, as the U.S. Postal Service continues its removal of their iconic blue collection boxes from street corners throughout the country. It’s been going on for six to eight years, now, as the decline in first-class mail usage, the ubiquity of email, increasing competition from Fedex and others, internet bill-paying, and the cost of collecting a dwindling number of hand-mailed items has made the post office collection box increasingly obsolete. First installed in the 1850s alongside post offices and on street corners in large cities, their final delivery will certainly be to the Smithsonian Institution, the reliquary of America’s memory in Washington D.C.
Like the neighborhood service stations of old which ballyhooed the cleanliness of their award-winning bathrooms, rang out with the industry of double service bays, and produced both a uniform-clad window washer and pump jockey as cars drove in over the black rubber hoses announcing each arrival with a distinctive “Ding-Ding” bell, the corner mail box was a part of the strains of neighborhood life. (more…)