Both of Indiana’s U.S. Senators, Vance Hartke, and Birch Bayh, attended a 1963 event in Stilesville, Indiana, a town of approximately 300 residents located on Highway 40.
Imagine the kind of small town event that could have featured such important guests.
Answer: the dedication of a new post office.
Founded in 1830, Stilesville had a postmaster who provided mail delivery to the town and the farm community that surrounded it as early as 1832, but it wasn’t until 1963 that the postal service moved from the east end of Hampton’s Texaco station into a new brick facility of its own.
I was an eighth-grade student who had a speaking part for the dedication of the new post office, so I have a picture with the senators. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, as I look back I know that meeting them instilled in me the notion that they had important jobs, but they were real people like my family and friends in Stilesville. That belief has kept me contacting my elected officials about important issues for the rest of my life.
I did so last week with the connection of the post office situation now to that post office dedication in 1963.
Looking through old clippings from the dedication I saw that the senators felt that the post office was an important government service that benefitted all citizens.
The Danville Republican quoted Senator Hartke saying, “This post office serves just as vital a link for the people of this community as any 100 times the size.”
Harke added, “No matter what you do in this Stilesville community no part of the federal government comes as close to you as does this post office and its employees. This is why we in Washington take so much interest in the kind of service you get from your post office. This is why there is constant effort to improve service, keep up morale of employees, add new buildings and machinery.”
That determination to serve all people efficiently in 1963 is the bedrock of today’s 91% approval rating of the USPS, higher than any other federal agency.
Many have listed the ways people depend on the postal service for medicines, pension checks, and other important personal communication in addition to employment for 97,000 veterans and 7.3 million people overall.
And yet this important, affordable, dependable service has been challenged by the demand to pre-fund retirement benefits unlike any other agency and then criticized as a failing business. Rather than attempts to hamper its efficiency and then criticizing its business success, it is time to support the USPS as the citizen service the founding fathers intended and that it has continued to be.
I hope others will tell their personal post office connections to help persuade our senators and the Trump administration to support one of our country’s oldest, necessary, and most respected institutions.