The Appalachian Trail

The Postmark Adventures of Kelvin Kindahl, Part 5

April 11 -- Found the Fairlawn contract branch of Radford, Virginia, in an accountant's office. Both parts of that business were busy with taxes. In Princeton, I went to the supermarket. Outside was a set of blue collection mailboxes that seemed like a lot for a shopping center.

The door to the Kroger supermarket had a decal with the USPS emblem and "U.S. Mail." Not the usual "Buy postage stamps here" or "U.S. Post Office," but "U.S. Mail." With high hopes, I went straight toward the customer service counter, and sure enough, "U.S. Post Office" was on the list of services available.

The woman behind the counter was happy to give me postmarks, but said she had to use tomorrow's date, since that day was Sunday. This was a new contract station and to add to my excitement, it does have its own postmark. Additionally, it has its own name - "Kroger Station" - not just a station number. They have had the station for about two years.

Unexpectedly coming upon a previously "unknown" contract station, with its own name and postmark, on a Sunday, really made my day!


April 16 -- The last office I went to today, Second Creek, looked on the outside like something from the early 1900s. It had a beat-up sign along the side of the road, which was fortunate, or I never would have noticed the town at all.

I stopped, looked around, and saw a small post office sign over a closed door on the rear addition of an old farmhouse. It was almost 2:30 p.m. but the post office had closed for the day at 2. I stopped to talk to the dog lying outside, thinking whether I could come back here tomorrow for some postmarks. This looked like it would have been a fifth class office, if there was such a thing.

The postmaster came out while I was there and asked what I wanted. She invited me to come back in and was happy to give me postmarks before she went home. Apparently, she doesn't mind staying a little late. Good work ethic. I bought two books of stamps from her, and I suspect it was her biggest sale of the day, except for money orders.


April 21 -- After hiking with Ann, I went to Paint Bank, Virginia, a tiny town where the post office is open only four hours a day. It is located in an old gas station with old gas pumps still out front. There was no unleaded gas, and the prices shown were 36 and 39 cents.


April 22 -- Went to three branches of Roanoke that I hadn't been to previously. As I was waiting at the counter in Hardy, I saw a postal service internal form which required a postmark of the office it came from, and the postmark on it said "Smith Mountain CPO 24101." That ZIP Code was Hardy and the form was a request for postage stamp stock.

Naturally, I immediately asked the clerk where the Smith Mountain CPO was, since I'd never heard of it. It turns out to be a suburban developed area near Smith Mountain Lake, a reservoir at the base of Smith Mountain. When I got over there, the clerk said they had been there for almost 12 years. A dozen years, a named CPO with its own postmark, and as far as I know, completely unknown to the postmark collecting world. We need PMCC post office directories for every state!

On Sunday I had gone through the town of Wirtz and saw no sign of the post office. I got directions to it, which seemed to be a point five or six miles east of Wirtz. When I found Smith Mountain, I thought perhaps this was the place my directions were for. I asked Smith Mountain about Wirtz.

It was a few miles ahead, toward the town of Wirtz. It turns out the Wirtz post office is in Burnt Chimney, not in Wirtz. Apparently, it has been at Burnt Chimney for quite some time. It had been at Wirtz for some years, and had been at Burnt Chimney before that too. Whether it had been at Wirtz originally, or whether it had been named Burnt Chimney originally, I do not know.


April 23 -- Found an unnamed contract station with no postmark of its own in Bedford, at a therapy business. This place apparently offers physical and speech therapy on a for-profit basis, and has a contract station as a sideline. Another first for business types with a post office.


April 24 -- Ann set out for a three-day, two-night hike, actually only the second or third time she has been gone that long. Therefore, I am making a cross-West Virginia post office trek, more or less from Buena Vista, Virginia, to Gallipolis, Ohio. My route will start along I-64 in Virginia, through some coal country around Beckley and up toward Charleston, then down the Kanawha River to the Ohio River and back the same way.

As I got away from Beckley, and closer to Charleston, the unwillingness to give me bulls-eye round dates disappeared. In the Beckley area it was very widespread. Away from that area, I had no problem.