Post office marks 150 years

Thomas Levinson/Daily Journal Mercedes Herrera, a post office clerk, stamps letters with the special postmark at the Pescadero Post Office which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can impede the delivery of mail.

That’s particularly the case when it comes to the Pescadero post office, which just marked its 150th anniversary Wednesday. Sometimes the rain causes flooding in the area making it hard to get to the post office to the south of the first stop sign in town.

Window clerk Mercedes Herrera learned this the hard way in 2006. Her car was caught in the water and she needed to be saved by the fire department.

"First I handed them my lunch,” she remembered, before they saved her through the window. She now drives a newer car.

The notable flood meant the post office took over another function in town — people call to find out if the road is flooded.

"This is truly the heart of the town,” said Highway Contract Route Carrier Marilyn Johnson.

Acting as an information center for locals is just one of the reasons this small town post office is so unique. It is also one of the oldest post offices in San Mateo County. On Saturday, Postmaster Rita Adams will make a special presentation about the post office, located at 2020 Pescadero Creek Road, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Reaching 150 years is a unique achievement. Nationwide, there are about 6,000 of the 34,000 post offices that are 150 years old or older, according to the U.S. Postal Service Web site. In California, there are 111. Only three in San Mateo County — Pescadero, Belmont and San Mateo — earned the distinction.

Pescadero opened July 15, 1859. It’s been in a couple of other locations before taking over the spot at the corner of Pescadero Creek and Stage roads in the ’60s. Postmaster Bidwell held the position from July 15, 1859 until Nov. 16, 1860, 10 days after President Abraham Lincoln was elected. Bidwell was replaced by John Besse, who served until January 1865. Pescadero has had 24 postmasters since 1859, with Adams being the most recent appointment in 2005.

When she joined the community location, people in town came to see her.

"They had always had a local postmaster,” said Adams.

Today, the post office sits west of rows of planted soybeans. A local woman cares for flowers in front. Inside, the post office has the norms: P.O. boxes, flat rate boxes and a window for dropping off mail. But there are also unique postings of art made by local school children, photos of a locals building a park and notices of upcoming events.

Another exclusive trait of the post office is the very tall flagpole out front. Owned by the city, the flag is lowered when a local dies. Then a notice of the death is placed inside the post office.

The women running the post office often are unaware of who died until they get to work.

The post office truly is a gathering place in town, bringing together history and current news while allowing people a natural place to run into each other and chat about what’s going on around town.

Mail sent out on Wednesday got a special postmark. Those of us who missed it can still experience a piece of the history this Saturday.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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