Post Office has its stamp on history
Standing inside the North San Juan Post Office, you might think the Gold Rush is still on and there are still 10,000 people in town.
“It’s a busy office, there’s not a second to spare,” said Hillary Lozano, who has worked there for 16 years. “I just love the wide variety of people here, and they bring their babies in for us to tickle and kiss.”
While the Gold Rush is long gone, the post office in the Nevada County town of 125 inhabitants has remained a constant since 1857, although it has had at least four locations.
On Monday, Postmaster Rhonda Flores will commemorate the office’s 150 years of service to the community with a special display, envelopes and a cancellation stamp for letters mailed that day. The 200 envelopes, which cost $1 apiece, have a photograph of North San Juan on them taken in 1860, with its famous water flume suspended over town.
According to the book California Heartland by Sandra Shepherd, the town was known as San Juan until 1857, when the new post office added North to the name to distinguish it from the San Juan in San Benito County.
The original post office was in the main town building, which stands on Highway 49 and now houses Bigley’s Market and the Brass Rail Tavern, Flores said. The second location was in a house a few doors down from there, and the third in a small building next door to the current location at Highway 49 and Oak Tree Road.
The current post office was built as a home and then occupied by postal workers in 1991. Its tight spaces make a sardine can look large.
“This is how small it is: The copier’s in the bathroom,” Flores said.
But she is not complaining.
“Everybody knows everybody, and all the people are down-home country folk,” Flores said of her customers. “The community is really tight-knit.”
The post office also serves as the unofficial art gallery for the area’s school children.
“People come in here to see their kids’ art, so that’s what my walls are reserved for,” Flores said. “The new display is self-portraits. It’s great.”
Almost all of the office’s 780 post office boxes are rented at any given time, and there are 214 street deliveries still done for San Juan Ridge residents. The bell on the front door rings like a Reno slot machine as customers come and go.
“It used to be in the afternoon there was always a half-hour lull when I could slow down a bit, but that’s no more.” Flores said. She thinks it is a sign that population is growing on “The Ridge.”
“You can’t see the change driving down the road, but with eBay and online businesses, people are doing more shipping, and that’s meant an increase in business here,” she said.
Flores has found a new bunch of customers running small Ridge businesses that ship oils, vitamins, herbal products and seeds, among other things.
“They like to come here because they don’t have to go to town, which is good for us,” Flores said. “We may be small, but we’re quite busy.”
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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