By Joanna Bastian
Outside the U.S. Post Office in Carlton, Lorraine Wagner deftly snaps an American flag to the flagpole and raises the red, white and blue until it unfurls in the cool morning breeze.
Old Glory is not the only colorful item swaying in the breeze. The garden bed along the walkway is a colorful collection of blooms. Gone is the patch of overgrown weeds – now replaced by cosmos, marigolds and snapdragons. In a recent phone call, Carlton resident Elsie Baylor noted the beautification of the grounds and the improvements made by Lorraine and community member Julie Hentrich. “They should get an award, if the post office does something like that!” Lorraine’s manager, Ron at the Twisp post office, said if people would like to recognize the Carlton P.O., they should call him at the Twisp post office.
The bustling Carlton P.O. is manned just four hours a day during the week, and one very busy hour on Saturday – not leaving much time for landscape maintenance. A steady stream of people, and one very happy German shepherd, flowed in and out of the post office during the 15 minutes I spent admiring the garden. Wanting to create some curb appeal, Lorraine posted a note requesting green thumb help and the community responded. Julie donated six hours to help clean up the grounds and plant the flowerbed. Someone else donated gardening tools. The property owner removed dead trees, Max Judd’s son came and removed the lilac bush that was blocking the stop sign. Someone else – Lorraine does not know who – waters the grounds on the weekend. She gestured towards the flowerbed: “Some of these are dying in the heat. I’d love to get some native plants that would do well in this climate.”
As we spoke, the breeze tussled Lorraine’s hair, an abundance of curls and braids artfully arranged and held by a blue headband matching her USPS uniform T-shirt. Lorraine worked at the Redmond post office before transferring to Okanogan County, and appreciated the greater opportunities the rural area offered to work with a variety of people and in different places. She spends the mornings in Carlton, afternoons in the Methow post office, and recently she began working at the Malott post office, too. “I used to work in IT, and there was not a lot of contact with people. I love the postal service, all the people,” she said. She noted that while the process was automated, it is people working together who move the mail from point A to point B in an efficient, timely fashion.
And it’s the community working together to show that the local post office is valued and cared for. Lorraine put her hands on her hips and looked approvingly around the grounds. “When people drive by and see this visual …” She smiled, and after a pause finished her thought, “it’s the people.”