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Lower Salem Love Letter

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In the little hamlet of Lower Salem, just a few miles from our home, is an elementary school, high on a hill overlooking PawPaw Creek and a small dairy farm.

My kids attended Lower Salem Elementary, and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful teachers who graced their lives in this one-class-per-grade rural gradeschool.

Science Club, after school, organized by Mrs. Hendrix.  I helped sometimes. Binoculars and scope courtesy us.

It is the kind of school where a boy can show up in Crocs and a cape, every day, and get away with it through fifth grade. Because to his teachers and classmates, he is a superhero, even if we aren't so sure what his superpowers are yet.

And this lovely teacher, Mrs. Hendrix, saw what was so special about Liam and nurtured that. I know he is who he is today because she cared so much and believed in him, and gave him wings (and let him wear a cape).

For me, this is the quintessential photo, that summons the place up in memory. I'm brought right back to when they were little and we entrusted them completely to this place, these people.

Liam, at the time this photo was taken, was in kindergarten, and having some issues with germs. He didn't want to touch the bench. Or anything. So he's got his little mitts all curled up and he's scowling, while Phoebe is being Perfectly Fine Despite All That. You can hear me tell a story about germs and those adorable kids at this link to NPR.  Do listen, if the player works for you; the written transcript loses a lot in translation.  But come back! You have to see more of our little village.

 Lower Salem also has a barber shop that is open sometimes. Fridays, 3-7, and Saturdays, 9-1pm. The little pole sign turns then.
We peeked in the window.

On the bulletin board, there's an ad for stump removal. The pink sign advertises Gracie's Grooming Salon, and the white one on the right says 


They would probably notice if I snuck in there on a Friday or Saturday and tore that sign down, so I won't. But I would sure like to. 

Nobody was home when we were snooping, but we thought there had been a cat around.

Yes, we're sure. We could see some cats on the hill across the road. But we knew better than to chase them.

In Lower Salem is a post office.  It's the brick building on the right. We'd never been inside it until the Whipple Post Office closed. Small rural post offices all over Ohio are closing, closing, closing, and we are much poorer for it, for they might be the only social gathering places in some rural areas. There is value to that that goes well beyond convenience.

I depend heavily on my local post office and postal carriers for much of my livelihood, which involves sending books, notecards, puzzles, art prints, CD's and plant parts (to name just a few things) to people far and near. These people send me money, and then I turn around and send their money to dentists and Bowdoin College.  

If I want to send something by any non-governmental carrier, I have to drive 18 miles to drop it off. This quickly becomes a problem. So I was crushed when, after having been cut to a four-hour office, the landlord refused to renew the lease on the tiny brown shed that was the Whipple Post Office, and it was suddenly no more.  It was a dark, dark day in Whipple when that happened. There's nothing in the building now.  Whaa?

What to do? I turned my eyes toward Lower Salem, only about 8 miles away.  That's it, white roofs gleaming through the sycamores along PawPaw Creek.

I loved having an excuse to go back. Since the kids have grown up, I haven't gotten over there much. Turkey vultures stayed there almost all winter this year, roosting in the trees on the high bluffs behind the village. I took that as a good omen, turkey vultures being (one of) my spirit guides.

If I took the right route, I could visit Nostrils and the Minidonks on the way!

Nostrils is the cutest horsie in the land, especially when she's got a fresh haircut.

  The minidonks are very, very sweet.  It's nice to see them on the long way to the post office. Velvety muzzles make everything better.

This photo was taken in early April from the front stoop of the little white Methodist church on the hill. The post office/bank complex is the brick buildling to the left, and I think the beautiful Gothic brick is the old school, now a community hall. The elementary school is just out of the picture to the right. But that's most of Lower Salem in this photo.

I will be honest. I was a bit trepidacious
 about bringing my business to a new post office. Because I inevitably wind up asking more of postal employees than your average bear.  What I mail can be big, bulky, and sometimes heavy. I knew that the success, or at least the pleasant execution, of my next big mailings--and I had a feeling they were going to be really big--depended upon whom I found behind the counter.

On my first visit, I took a deep breath, opened the door and let little Chet Baker take the lead. I figured I might as well just be me and let the chips fall where they may. And me = Zick + Chet Baker. We're a package deal. If the person behind the counter liked dogs even a little bit, everything would be fine. I hoped they liked dogs.

He trotted briskly into the foyer, stood up and tried to see over the counter. 
And what he saw was Miss Cynni. Who let out a squeal of delight and dove for her treat drawer.

It turns out that Miss Cynni is the kind of person who likes dogs. Probably more than anyone I know. 

Everything was going to be fine.


I'm sorry about Whipple, but happy for Lower Salem who will get to know and love you.

We in the Old Post Office love the old post office, and we love people who love the old post office. You aren't going to be a burden to us. You're the reason we get up.

post offices.... used to be a special legal (!) thing, the US Mail. Now it is getting whacked by the internet and private services and drones.

today when I went to my post office, I tried to use the machine but it was not really working. I entered all the data twice but it just said "do you want more time?" and cancelled the transaction.

so I went to the window where the employee was >trying< to be nice to a lady who wanted some special stamps but they were not available so she called the employee lazy for not getting them "in the back" and they were almost having a fight. Another guy could not shut up about how cool he was to have done his taxes ages ago, and because the Post Office does passports, another employee was trying to process those for a family with three or four small children, one of whom ran away and was hiding.

so it was really dramatic in my PO and not particularly efficient though the humans were doing better than the machine. I am 99% sure that this Post Office is too suburban and modern to allow dogs :(

I can vouch that the Lower Salem PO is doing a fine job--because the two copies of Baby Birds that I ordered, and that you shipped through Lower Salem, arrived yesterday. Many thanks to Miss Cynni and Co., as well as to Liam for his help with packing the boxes, and Chet Baker for his pawdyprint. And, finally, huge thanks to you for the book itself. It's a marvel!

In its own way (as usual) a perfect read to start a Sunday morning -- there's a lot of sermonizing in them words (without sounding like a sermon). Amen ;-)

Sad that they closed the Whipple PO, but so wonderful for Chet and Miss Cynni to have been able to meet each other, and visit regularly! The USPS talked about closing the Free Union PO back during that culling sweep, but such an uproar was raised by the enraged Free Unionites that it changed what passes for its mind. Thank gawd, because the difference between having a little, friendly, personal PO just 2 miles up the road and having to schlep all the way to Charlottesville (11 miles to the closest PO there - where I'd have to use machines or stand in long lines) is HUGE.

Loving the book, appreciating Miss Cynni's part in it, and of course Chet's!

And! I have a now 40 year old son who also wore a cape to school. He was a series of superheroes, but also - for a long stretch - he was Dracula and, accordingly, in love with bats! Never happier than the night one flew into his bedroom and we had to capture it ever so carefully in a towel and carry it back outdoors. He wanted to keep it, of course.

My post office had it's hours changed to promote inconvenience for all. Closed from 11:30 to 1:30 and then for the day at 4:30. Messing up the post mistress and the clientele. Still a place to stand and jaw, meet the neighbors, get some information. I was surprised they didn't shut down one of the three local offices, but ours is not to reason why...

Sweet post. Makes me want to move to a small town. The other day I was raking leaves and saw the postal truck coming up the block. I walked over to my post box to intercept the postman and engage him in some neighborly chitchat. Me. "How are you doing today?" Him: "Well, my job would be a hell of a lot easier if people would stop ordering stuff on the internet." He handed me my mail and a large box from Amazon. He drove off before I could say anything.

@sherrymason1: Shaking. My. Head. These stories make me even more grateful for Cynni and Lower Salem PO.

Thanks for loving small town life and for your photos and the words that bring your pictures flesh and being. I love your small town and life through your eyes because you see Chet Baker, Nostrils and Lower Salem. I can see them.

And the book arrived safely and it is bee-you-ti-ful!

These tiny Ohio towns remind me of my Mother's hometown, Glen Campbell, PA. Feeling quite nostalgic. That town was magic for a Florida boy on summer vacation way back when. Mountains and clear streams with crawfish under every rock and giant night crawlers on the ground at night.
Oh and cellars ... we don't have basements or cellars in FL.
Your pics brought back a rush of memories.
Oh and I just bought your awesome new Baby Bird book for my Momma.

Thanks for the flashback to Lower Salem. I grew up in Warner and attended grades 1-2-and 3 where the Community Center is now. Grades 4 and 5 in Warner, which was converted to a private residence; then the NEW, elementary school; I attended 6th thru 8th, and graduated SLHS in 1964. Loved going to Warner PO and chatting on porch, or over at Harley Lovett's store, while we waited for mail delivery. So many were upset when PO was closed.But mail carriers for my mom, who lived in Warner until 2014, when she passed, were/are so super. I now live in a city w/over 300,000 population, and I always get a smile and a wave from whoever is driving the truck, when I am outside when they drive up. No excuse for being rude. Loved your photos. Loved all my teachers, also. Thanks again.

Posted by Anonymous May 7, 2016 at 12:56 PM
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