This is a story with a happy ending - a story in which taxpaying townspeople won out over the massive bureaucracy of the post office.
The story started in June, when officials at the regional post office in Riverdale, Md., proposed closing the Brentwood Post Office.
It looked easy to them, at least on paper. The Mount Rainer Post Office was only a few blocks away from the one in Brentwood and looked far more accessible to Rhode Island Avenue, the major throughfare in that part of Prince George's County.Because the Brentwood postmaster had recently retired, it also seemed more efficient to transfer the mail carriersand post office boxes to Mount Rainier and form a combined Mount Rainier - Brentwood Post Office.
Lastly, the postal service could save $95,000 a year, about the cost of 655,555 first class stamps, that it paid to rent the Brentwood building.
Yes, it look easy. But someone - in fact almost everyone - overlooked the possibility that residents of the Brentwood Post Office would not be pleased if their post office were closed. And when those residents learned of the proposal, their combined wrath was not easy to ignore.
The first thing those residents did was protest to their representative in Congress - in this caseGladys N. Spellman. She, in turn, contacted the postmaster general and learned the residents could plead their cause until Aug. 24 by writing letters to the regional postal representative, Frand McGuire.
Not content with letters, however, the group decided a face-to-face meeting with McGuire would be more appropriate and invited him to come to the Brentwood Methodist Church last week "for achat."
One-hundred and six people showed up, as did McGuire, on the hot and steamy evening, and as he and Brentwood Mayor W. Howard Smith sat at a front table in the church's multipurpose room, members of the communities let him have it.
Morton Eisen told McGuire it would "cost a lot of money" to change addresses for him and other business, Commercial Uniform Sales "has been here 38 years," Eisen said. "We used to spend $100 a month at the BrentwoodPost Office, now we spend $1,500 a month and are looking to spend $2,500 to $3,000 in the future. Just this month I just rented a 15,000-sqauare-foot building for a mailing service because it was only one-half block away from the Brentwood Post Office. Wait until they hear about this (closing)!"
Florence Sage looked at the closing another way. "Bob, my mailman, makes sure we get out social security checks every month. He brings us stamps and takes our mail away. Twenty-five percent of our population is over 65. Are we going to get that service when you take our post office away?"
"We have the best darn postal service around there," Annie Williams told McGuire. "That is why we're here fighting. We get excellent personalized service here. People have complained about the long lines at Mount Rainier. We have 197 busineses in the service area. Our post office is more convenient for bulk mailing, for parking to run in and out. Last year Brentwood made $304,456, and Mount Rainier made $202,856. That's cost effective?"
But the core of the protest was the feeling that the closing of the post office would mean the end of their community's identity.
County Council member Parris N. Glendening, who wore a "Save the Brentwood Post Office" sign on his lapel,told McGuire, "This area is a very old area. It has a sense of community that revolves around the firehouse, churches like this one and the post office designation. Communities are hard-pressed because of growth to maintain that sense of community, sense of identity. This would be a hard-ship for them and for the disproportionate number of senior citizens in the few blocks the post office services."
McGuire told the group that if the situation were reversed, and the decision to close Mount Rainier had been made, "I'd be sitting at the same meeting down the street with the same thoughts expressed.
"I asked for your views, and I've been getting them in a big way. Frankly, when we entered into this, we had no idea the response in opposition would be like this."
The suspense was killing people. Several said they were sure McGuire would tell them the decision would have to be made at a higher level.
And then, McGuire told them the news: "Down the road in four or maybe 15 years, this one or another could be closed. But I do not want to tell you now, the Brentwood Post Office will not be closed."
The victory was sweet, as were the cookies and punch several people handed out to their neighbors. Mcguire had suddenly become a hero, and the line shake his hand grew long.
As one elderly lady pumped his arm, he told him, "Iknew you'd see it our way; we had to win this one."
As we said, this is a story with a happy ending.