Monday, August 30, 2010

Add post offices to your adventure stops

Above, post offices in Lost Springs and Fort Dodge.

A post office is a big deal in a small town. A couple of years ago the New Albany post office was detroyed by wind. The federal post office decided they didn't do enough business in town to warrant a replacement office, so they "took away" their post office status. This means that when you write a letter to a citizen of New Albany, you no longer address it to New Albany but to Fredonia. Essentially, this one piece of evidence that they still exist as a city, is gone.

Other towns are losing their post offices because they don't have enough revenue for the feds to justify their existence any longer. It's a business deal for the "deciders" in Washington D.C. In other words, it's extremely important that we buy as many stamps in small town post offices as possible!

The Norway, Kansas post office stayed open until Belva retired. She felt the pressure and stayed on until she was 90-something. Then, Norway no longer had a post office.

The last post office that doubled as a residence closed about two years ago in Pfeifer. And, when Carol retired, that was it for the Pfeifer post office, too.

You know how some post offices have really screwy hours? It's because revenue determines the hours. Don't blame the clerk. Revenue also determines the salary of the employees, the number of employees, and the quality of equipment. If you go into some small post offices, they still have the manual scales. Most now have the digital scales but if you see a clerk going back and forth with that thing that slides to determine the exact weight, you'll know it's because they don't have enough revenue to earn the fancy scale.

Revenue and "points." A post office gets points for things like the number of box holders, the number of bulk rate permits purchased from that post office, and the amount of mail sent out through that office.

We have our Explorer newsletters printed in McPherson but then we go pick them up and mail them through our local Inman post office so they can have that bulk rate permit.

One year we had a BYOLC (Bring your own Lawn Chair) event in Stark, population 105. We asked the post office clerk what their best revenue day had been. The answer was $250. So, we asked Explorers to get in there and beat the record. We did! In the end, we purchased almost $500 worth of stamps. The clerk was more than thrilled.

I try to buy stamps in quantity. Awhile back we stopped in Hardtner and bought over $100 worth of stamps. The clerk just beamed and said that made her whole week look great.

Lots of times these clerks are a great source of community information. You can ask for directions, recommendations, hours at the local cafe, or maybe you're looking for a long lost relative. Be aware that these are busy people but they'll probably get a little friendlier if you make a nice purchase. Whether you just buy ten stamps or a hundred stamps, the extra sales mean alot to this small post office.

Norwich, population 540 in Kingman County, has a community-run post office. It's the first one like it in the state. The post office is located in the hardware store, which also doubles as the grocery store. The hardware store clerk might sell you paint as easily as sell you stamps.

Some of these small post offices have great nostalgic value. Some have the old-fashioned gold-plated boxes. Some have the old teller cage with a wooden frame. Twenty post offices have Section Art murals. Some are in tiny buildings. Where are your old-fashioned favorites?

People ask 500 or less, absolutely need your business. The smaller the city, the more they need you. A city of 1,000 needs your business, too, but even a few extra stamps can make a huge difference in a small town. I went to one very small post office one day and asked how her day had gone. She had only sold a two cent stamp that day (and had to lend the guy the two pennies).

Some of my favorites post offices to shop in are Denton, Lost Springs, Crestline, Effingham, Rock, Bison, Palmer, but the list is truly endless. Get out there and find adventure at small post offices!

Helping out with the revenue is one way to Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harland on the move

Harland Schuster, a farmer/stockman from Morrill, Kansas is on one dandy adventure. The Kansas Sampler Foundation tabbed him to take pictures of the 216 entries that were involved in the nine 8 Wonders of Kansas contests. No small task.

Many of the photos will be in the 8 Wonders of Kansas book, a 288-page 9"x12" book that will debut April 16, 2010 at a reception for an 8 Wonders of Kansas exhibit at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene.

Want to see behind the scenes on this process? It's pretty interesting.

Harland will send his pictures to Liz King, my sister, who will pick which pictures should be in the book, as she is the designer. She has been commiserating about how hard it is to just pick a few of his excellent pictures. I think she'd like the book to be 600 pages so she could use more.

I made a spread sheet for Harland of all 216 places. I listed the city, county, region, address, hours, and then we talked about what kind of shots we wanted. He then sorted all this by county or region so he could make a schedule. He sends me his schedule maybe 2-5 days before he goes out and I make the photo arrangements with each place.

Harland's goal is to take pictures that not everyone else has already taken. Here are some examples of the kind of arrangements that need to be made, per Harland's requests.

  • Horse and rider at Castle Rock, Gove County and at Cimarron National Grassland, Elkhart.
  • 70' bucket truck lift for a different angle on Cooper Barn, Colby.
  • Airplane for aerial photographs of Mined Land Areas and Big Brutus, Cherokee County.
  • Fire department ladder to be over diver at Big Pool, Garden City.
  • Have maintenance man go on top of Chase County Courthouse to put up the flag.
  • Veteran and young boy to be at Eisenhower statue, Abilene.
  • Reenactors at Fort Larned and a lift to put him above the flag pole.
  • Bucket truck on a Sunday night in Lucas.
  • Access to the Masonic Center roof in Salina.
  • Train schedule and conductor's phone number to get train crossing Samson of the Cimarron bridge in Seward County.
  • A "Dorothy" at Dorothy's House in Liberal.
  • The three artists that worked on the Blue Sky Sculpture to be at the sculpture.
  • Kite flyers at Coronado Heights at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
  • Man to climb to the top of the Harper watertower for perspective. City had to bring out a bucket truck to get him to the first step.
  • Access to M.T. Liggett in his shop.
  • 5:30 a.m. access at Brookover Feedyard, Garden City.
  • Hunter in gear at 7 a.m. at Ringneck Ranch near Tipton.
  • All six chicken restaurants together in Crawford County (we got 5 anyway).
  • 83 kids and adults to stretch across Plains' widest main street in the U.S.
  • Access to Traditions Night at KU football stadium to capture the Rock Chalk cheer.
  • A teenage couple dressed in 1950s clothing sipping a soda together at the Clark soda fountain in Cimarron.
  • Kids hopscotching and blowing bubbles on the sidewalk at Franklin.
  • Bikers on the Prairie Spirit Trail near Richmond.
  • Hikers on the Elk River Hiking Trail.
  • Kids with pinwheels having fun on the rocks at Rock City near Minneapolis.
  • Kids looking at the exhibits at Sternberg and someone working on a fossil.
  • Gunfighters shooting right at him at Dodge City's Boot Hill.
  • Kids looking at outdoor sculptures at National Orphan Train Museum, Concordia.
  • A group of citizens at Nicodemus.
He didn't ask for the deer that magically arrived at Monument Rocks, the raccoon that came out at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge sign or the sailboats that were on Lake Scott. We had it lined up for him to be in the pace car at High Banks track in Belleville but he got bumped by the blonde that gives out the trophies. He asked for an ultralight aircraft to fly beside Coronado Heights and an airplane for him to be in. In the end, the thermals weren't right and the ultralight cancelled but we had it arranged!

Arrangements to be made yet are antique cars at Pillsbury Crossing, a helicopter over Blue Rapids round square, and just about anything else he can think of.

I can't even tell you about the 8 Wonders of Kansas People shots yet because we won't announce those finalists until September 9.

What makes it all possible is the people on the other end of the phone. Almost every call I've made, the person on the other end says they can make it happen. I know that it's been a hassle at times, other times kind of exciting. Newspapers have come to take pictures of Harland taking pictures. In the end, everyone will be darn proud.

These pictures will be used in the book and some of them will be used for the 8 Wonders exhibit at the Eisenhower Library (from January 29, 2011 through the summer). The collection of all 216 places, depicting different aspects of Kansas, shown in quality fashion is going to be pretty special. What a great way to help celebrate Kansas' sesquicentennial birthday.

Now, not every photographer could do this. It takes stamina, real interest, creativity, persistence, and ambition. Harland is often up at dawn and still has the camera in his hands at sunset. It helps that he is a Kansas Explorer, number 1261 in fact. He gets what we're looking for. His wife, Suzanne, keeps the home fires burning and makes the motel arrangements. Sometime, probably after corn harvest, he has to group all of these photos together and send them to Liz so she can continue to design the book.

We're about 75% done with photographing the 216 places so I have more arrangements to make. Harland has about 4-6 weeks to go yet on this project. He has to get done before the fall calves and hopefully before its time to combine the beans.

If you've been on the other end of my phone calls for these arrangements, I thank you. You've made these great shots possible. From Craig Hull in Pittsburg to Sue Taylor in Colby and Vienna Lee in Elkhart to the sexton at the Hiawatha Cemetery and every one in between, you're part of the team that will make this portrayal of Kansas simply magnificent.

I'm excited to help debut Harland's skills. I remember when he just started this "hobby." I could tell early on that he had what it took to become a super photographer. His work has appeared in Kansas! magazine and other places already but we'll be so proud to showcase his work in this book.

It takes a special kind of person to meet this kind of challenge. It takes cooperative efforts to get the bucket trucks, the models, and all the other necessary ingredients for the kind of pictures that will make every Kansan proud of their state.

The hard part in all this? Waiting until April 16, 2011 to share this book with you.

Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner