Mail service came late to Brookings area
August 09, 2001 11:00 pm
The first post office in Brookings, circa 1915. (Courtesy of Viola Hanscam).
The first post office in Brookings, circa 1915. (Courtesy of Viola Hanscam).

Brookings was a late comer, both as a town and as a post office. This mill town on the north bank of the Chetco River was started in 1912, but its name was not federally recorded as a post office until June 2, 1913.

The first office was housed in a small shingled building on the site of the old Brookings Plywood Truck shop. John N. Thornton was the first postmaster. Later the office was moved to other locations, including the present Central Building in downtown Brookings, the old Crissey Building, and the Grayshel and the Kerr buildings.

Expanded Services

For many years mail for this, the Southern Curry County area, was relayed from the Gold Beach office. In 1924 Brookings had only three deliveries a week. Then enterprising citizens circulated a petition asking for daily service.

"The roads are in such shape that a regular daily stage schedule is maintained, and there is no reason why the daily mail service should not be extended to us."

An early mail contract carrier, Nick Turner, met the challenge. In 1928 he began a daily 120-mile trip from Gold Beach to Crescent City, California. Turner ran that route for more than 43 years, making stops at Pistol River, Brookings, Harbor, Smith River, Fort Dick and his final destination.

In the early days, during bad weather and impassible roads, he often walked the route as far as Brookings, wading through overflowing streams and making his way through mud and debris.

In 1948 Goldie V. Smith, the Brookings postmaster, reveled that receipts in the Brookings Post Office had risen sharply during the previous three years. The increase warranted an advance classification from third to second-class status. That provided greater service in terms of postal boxes and office equipment.

Expanded facilities were certainly needed. At that time, as many as five families were receiving their mail in a small box designed for only one family. Postal employees, unable to cram in any more mail into the small boxes, put in cards asking patrons to "call at the window." This created long lines. There were no special boxes for business mail.

In 1952, 600 new post office boxes authorized by the second-class status arrived, to make a total of 1,000 boxes. They were installed at the expense of the Chamber of Commerce. Since people had been impatiently waiting, every box was immediately rented.

The post office was moved again in 1954. The "downtown" end of the Kerr Building was torn down and replaced by a concrete one-story building to house the "new post office." The rest of the building was faced with brick to tie in with the new structure. House-to-house mail delivery, "just like they have in civilization," began in 1956. Homes, with boxes on the street side mounted according to government specifications, were served by a carrier in an automobile. The first carrier was Ferdinand Steinmetz who came here in 1951 from Los Angeles. His original route extended 33 miles and served 39 families.

As a rural mail carrier he encountered many problems:

"Once a pack of dogs chased me a great distance," he remembered. "Another time, a horse had its foot caught in a fence, and I had to clip the fence and get him out before I could go on with my deliveries. Several times when I drove up the Chetco River bank to make deliveries, due to heavy rains or flood situations, I had to return in water up to the floor board."

When Steinmetz retired in 1978, Curry Coastal Pilot reporter Frann Grossman wrote that:

". . .Ferdinand V. Steinmetz has survived dog packs, snow packs and the usual bouts with inclement weather that a post carrier most often suffers in his career. He has had encounters with log trucks on the sharp North Bank Chetco River Road corners; engine trouble; flat tires every day for a week; rocks through the windshield and flood roads. After 23, years, seven months, four Chevys, four Fords, two Ramblers, and two Volkswagens, he will retire following his last 34.5 miles delivery route tomorrow."

In 1958 the Harbor post office, for decades a full office became the Harbor Rural Station, subsidiary to the Brookings office. Mrs. Betty Davis, the first Harbor supervisor, was assisted by Mrs. Adrien Hoffeldt.

First-class status

Under the direction of Post Master Allen Ettinger, Brookings became a first-class post office in 1959. Seven years later, in 1966, a new post office building was erected with federal funds. At that time the Brookings facility served about 12,000 customers in its delivery area from Pistol River to the California State line. Then, in 1975 a new Postmaster Rance L. Eagleton directed 10 employees in Brookings and supervised the Harbor Rural Station managed under contract. by Frederick Gene Reiling. Eagleton was the first Brookings postmaster appointed under merit selection procedures.

At that time, the mail volume was 7,000 Incoming pieces per day while outgoing pieces totaled 6,000 while Harbor dispatched 3,000 pieces of mail and received about 1,000. Post revenue during that period totaled nearly $239,000 in the two offices. Other revenue was almost $19,000, for a total revenue of $258,000 in fiscal year 1978.

In Brookings three regular rural routes and one auxiliary route were covered by carriers who drove 145 miles daily, delivering mail to 1,333 roadside boxes. Five hundred post office boxes serve the Harbor area. The Brookings office had 1,691 boxes, 350 of which were installed in September 1976, and all were rented by July 1977.

Even at that time, post office officials pointed out: "The present buildings in Brookings and Harbor can hold no more boxes. Doubtless house deliveries will have to be greatly expanded to meet the postal needs of this rapidly growing population."

They were correct, and as the town continued to expand the number of rural routes increased.

There was also a big demand for more post office boxes but there wasn't any room to add them.

The post office leased a storefront on Railroad Street that eventually held about 2,000 boxes and named it "Pelican Bay Annex." Parking was a major problem as there weren't many spots and customers had to back out of parking onto Railroad Street.

Finally, in 1999, officials approved plans to build a new post office on the adjacent lot of the existing post office that would consolidate the mail office and the annex and provide better parking for post office customers and post office employees. The move into the facility was completed on Mother's Day Weekend, 2,000.

The new building has about 20,000 square feet and the total facility occupies a complete block. There are 6,446 boxes in the building and as of July, 2001, 3,800 are rented. There are eight rural routes covered by carriers who drive 220 miles daily delivering mail to approximately 4,000 boxes.

In 2,001, the Brookings facility served about 14,000 customers in its delivery area from Pistol River to the California border. Postmaster Bob Boicoff directs on supervisor, 10 clerks, eight rural carriers, two custodians and eight substitute rural carriers. He also supervises the Harbor Contract Post Office which is still managed by Frederick Gene Reiling.

In the year 2000, the Brookings Post Office handled approximately 18,500 incoming pieces of mail a day while patrons mailed about 8,000 packages and letter through the Brookings facility. About 3,000 incoming pieces passed through the Harbor office and 1,500 outgoing pieces.

The projected revenue for the year 2001 fiscal year in the Brookings Post Office was $848,000. For Harbor, the figure was $313,000.