Hard Times: America’s Post Offices

As post offices around the country face an uncertain future due to budget cuts, part of the conversation about what stays and what goes is taking place in Horatio, South Carolina and its LeNoir Store, considered by some to be the oldest family-run business in America.

Interviews by Bob Krist
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    A proud legacy

    "My family has operated a country store in Horatio for over 200 years now, and the post office was established in 1900.... My father before me operated it, and that was his lifeblood. He didn't hunt, fish or have any hobbies, but he loved that country store."—Steve LeNoir, postmaster

    Though the U.S. Postal Service announced plans on May 9 to preserve rural post offices, the LeNoir Store remains on shaky ground. According to LeNoir, the new USPS proposal would cut the location's business hours to just two a day, with low salaries and no benefits for workers.

    "It would be impossible," said LeNoir. "I couldn't stay here for two hours a day. I can't afford to."

    LeNoir hopes to rally supporters and convince Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission to make a push for more hours.

    Service with a smile

    "People gather here and exchange news, find out what's going on around town by going to the post office. I have many elderly customers that—a lot of them don't drive too much. They'll call and say 'Do I have any mail today?' And a small office like that, it's not a problem to check and see if they have any mail."—Steve LeNoir

    More than a mail center

    "The post office, and Steve, and Beverly, the lady who runs the store portion, have actually been my way of introducing myself to the community. Since I'm not from around here, I'm kind of shy. Everybody's already known each other, been here for years, and the store really acted as a leaping point for me to find friends."—Mary Miller, moved from Los Angeles to Horatio four years ago

    An indispensable place

    "A lot of people get their medicine here at the post office. I'm one of them. I'm a disabled veteran. I've had many problems, health problems, and I'm 100 percent, totally and permanently disabled. There are others in the community, and some of them don't have transportation. To go some other place, with the gas prices now, it'd really be hard on the senior citizens of this community."—Charles Miller, Sr., lifelong Horatio resident

    American heritage

    "Closing this store would be just another sign that America is moving forward and forgetting about its past. To see the railroad tracks just overgrown is sad enough, but to see a building like this—you know, when buildings are left to sit, they go and they atrophy. And I would hate to see this piece of history lost, considering it's National Register. And I really think that the business doesn't just keep the community alive, it keeps that building alive."—Mary Miller

    From father to son

    "I grew up in that store, walking on those wooden floors barefoot as a little boy. It means everything. It's hard to describe, but it's a feeling of community, a sense of community we have here. A very tight-knit community."—Steve LeNoir

    What Horatio stands to lose

    “If the post office closed, and the store closed, there would be nothing here for anybody to have a memory of Horatio. And that would be devastating to the people in this community. We look forward to coming here every day… If the post office isn't here, then it'd be like the community has died."—Charles Miller, Sr.

    Watch the residents tell their story:

    Video produced by Bob Krist.


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    Your Comments

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/DACQGJQ2YWTYILICCHUZH5B3PM James

      The comments that I have seen are all missing the point.  Our Congress is on a mission not to abolish the Post Office.  What they want want to do is keep some of its high-priced executives to run the show while they try to convert this business to a minimum wage outfit,.  This will not only increase the Postal Service’s profits, but will also ensure that Congress will receive its huge amounts of monetary tribute that it has received for years.  At the same time, this will severely undercut competition like Fedex and UPS.  This may prove difficult because the Postal Service must go to such competitors as these for its overseas and out-of-country mailings.  So, they will probably raise their prices so that they can afford to be “competitive”with the FED-UPS of our country.  Like New Zealand, who curtailed rural delivery and innovated with cluster boxes for all, as well as beer delivery.  If our postal service is privatized, what will become of the postal inspectors?  Recently, in Toledo, Ohio, a Fedex truck was found to have delivered a fifteen pound box of marijuana to a home that was under the care of city employees.  I can visualize Ben Franklin turning over in his grave, but then, he was a statesman and a signer of our Constitution, not a Congressman with questionable principles. It brings to mind the Broadway show “1776″. where General George Washington writes to a reticent Continental Congress from Valley Forge, where our Continental Army lacks food, water, clothing and gunpowder to face the approaching British.  In his letter he asks: “Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?”

    • dee

      My daughter is a Postmaster in a small PA town.  She is in the position of being forced to retire. Where does someone 52 years old find a job to keep her going until SS kicks in for her at 67. My feeling and possibly a lot of other people feel the same way: If the government would have stayed away from taking over the Post Office, things could possibly be alot different It seems the government can ruin everthing and everybodys lives.

    • Anonymous

      Small town post offices provide a valuable service to those who live in rural areas – been there, seen that.  The USPS looses billions a year because they provide an underpriced service to junk mail senders and have an unrealistic mandate to fund their pension plan out 75 years.

      Eliminate the bulk-rate service, make all mail first-class.  The net result should be less junk mail and perhaps the same revenue on the lower volume, and use a realistic business model for pension plan funding.

    • think people!

      I totally agree with “get real”.  The goverment in general and the Post Office in particular should not have to be responsible to provide a small community with a social center.  If that community needs to have one then they should provide their own via a church organization or some other community effort.  When you read people’s comments on closing small Post Offices they are almost alway emotiona reasons.  That is just not smart business.  The Post Office will still deliver their mail – just not in a Postal building.  It will be in a mailbox like almost all of the rest of us get our mail.

    • Ivy

      Rural post offices account for only 3/5 of 1 percent of the USPS budget.

    • get real

      It’s not the U S Postal Service’s responsibility to provide a community center.

    • Simmy1029

      Yes, they might be sad to see the local post office go but, as they say, nothing lasts forever. And, unfortunately, the time for post offices in small towns is passing. I grew up in a very small town and understand the feelings. But with the post office system losing BILLIONS of dollars, it is time to face reality. Over the last three plus years a lot of businesses have closed, so why the anxiety over closing post offices? The only reason I can see for politicians to be against the closings, is to garner votes come November. As is usual for politicians, they are not thinking of the long term (and the billions that will be lost) but only short term for them to be re-elected. If it was left up to politicians, we would still be using horses for transportation and plowing fields.
      Sorry, but it is time to move on!