history

More and more mailboxes

... spotted on backroads, in little towns of New England

by Don Norris


It all started about two years ago when Stringer Shirley Rabb first collected a bunch of photos of "unusual" mailboxes while travelling to her summer place down Maine. Ever since then, somebody would find another and we'd add to the collection. You know, a mailbox 18-wheeler, a school bus, or as we have in our lead photo, a "two-holer".

Last summer Lorry and I took a three day holiday to use up points with Choice Hotels, and got a freebie out to Springfield. We backroaded all the way, disdaining the Mass Pike and the racetrack that is Route 128 around Boston.

It was great. We stopped at little town restaurants, re-visited favorite places in the Berkshires, ate fresh tomatoes at country farms, went to a museum in Adams, climbed in an ancient marble quarry, and ended our second day in another motel just north of that country-antique that is Brattleboro, Vermont.

But we had yet to see a one of those odd-ball mailboxes Shirley told us about.

After crossing the Connecticut River (again) our first New Hampshire town, Hinsdale, gave us hope for some good lookin' mailboxes. You take Vermont, and it is pristine country, all decorated, neat, beautiful, orderly -- but New Hampshire, while equally beautiful, is certainly not as orderly. It is, umm, less rich, more farming, more home-made, and definitely not as orderly. Things get left here and there, and stay there forever to become part of the landscape. It therefore, is more historical.



The picturesque town of Winchester on the swollen Ashuelot River was a little gold mine of historical architecture -- and a place where funky mailboxes are de riguer. I recommend a visit to this place, although its downtown took a terrible beating from the torrential rains and resultant flood of the Ashuelot, later last year.  

Trouble was, I took no notes as to where I found what unusual mailbox. But I'm sure that we found three in this little mountain town. That little red fire engine surely was a Winchester fixture. So were these two:



Our journey took us through the beautiful (but less orderly) hills and farms of southwestern New Hampshire, and Route 119 was a delightful drive. That is, until we crossed the state line into Massachusetts. It had been years since we had been through what used to be called idyllic -- but the developers have been here, and between the village of Townsend and Boston, we found forty miles of traffic jam.

But in Townsend, we discovered this ideal yard and garden, a home that was handsomely decorated with a myriad of rusting steel sculptures, all created by a man handy with a welding torch named (as we remember) Mr. Smart. His property has at least a dozen iron humanoids, a speed-buggy created from a wagonful of steel scraps, and a wondrous collection of, ah, well, intriguing rusting creations.



I chatted briefly with the sculptor's daughter, who welcomed me enthusiastically and was somewhat taken aback by my enthusiasm for her father's bent, twisted, but fascinating ironwork. The centerpiece of all this rustic finery was the Mailman, or mailbox, or thing out front in the shape of an iron human, whose purpose in life (such as it was) was to greet passersby and provide security for the family's mail. I was delighted with the sculptor's ingenuity.

I deviate now to another road tour, this time with our SilverStringer foreign correspondents from the State of Washinton, Jerry and Kathleen Norton. Lorry and I ferried our friends through the Ipswich area, northeast of Boston, when we came upon (what else in a coastal fishing town) a large plastic carefully-painted large-mouth bass, which had swallowed a whole mailbox and had been impaled on a steel post. Not as spectacular as the Rusty Steel Man of Townsend, but worthy of inclusion in the SilverStringer collection.

Later, in Tilton, New Hampshire, we were walking the dogs when we came across a mailbox that had a pointed message for the mailman: Stop Jamming this Customer's Flag. Or else!

And finally, still in New Hampshire, we came across this anomoly, and didn't quite know what to say about it. This is the front of the general store in the very small village of (I don't know) on Route 119. There must be a line here, but I don't know what it is. Except, This is beautiful, innovative, New Hampshire.

A post office must: An out-box with a red flag, and an in-box, painted blue?


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