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Florida town goes coco-crazy for local post office

By Ed O'Keefe

Officials from Palm Beach County and several small Southeast Florida communities rallied Oct. 21 at the Lantana, Fla., Post Office to mail coconuts to U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Michael Bornstein

When a small community in South Florida found out their post office might close, it went nuts.

Actually, residents embraced a bit of local folklore and sent more than 1,000 coconuts to Postmaster General John E. Potter in Washington, D.C., hoping to convince him to keep their post office open.

Lantana, Fla., population 10,000, is just south of West Palm Beach. The local post office (zip code 33462) is one of roughly 400 that could close next year in a cost-saving move by the Postal Service.

But closing the local post office would mean an inconvenient seven mile drive to pick up large packages, according to city manager Michael Bornstein (he's the one crouching in the front in the photo above).

“This is a community resource and people use it,” Bornstein insisted. His colleagues and constituents urged him to find some way to keep their post office open, despite little help from local postal officials or lawmakers.

A historic reenactor in his spare time, Bornstein recalled the local legend of the Barefoot Mailman, who walked the length of Southeast Florida beaches in the 1880s delivering the mail between coastal communities. The lore inspired a Theodore Pratt novel, and the 1951 film, “The Barefoot Mailman.” (“It isn’t very good,” Bornstein said.)

Legend has it that residents occasionally played a joke on the barefoot mailman by paying postage for a coconut and mailing it down the beach. The mailman reluctantly obliged -- because neither snow, nor rain nor weight of coconuts could keep him from his appointed rounds.

Figuring there was no better way to raise awareness (or at least a few laughs), Bornstein convinced the mayor, councilmembers, the Palm Beach County commissioner and local schoolkids to pay between $4.00 and $17.00 to mail coconuts to Washington.

The tropical nuts started arriving on Monday at L’Enfant Plaza headquarters with a mailing label affixed, according to Postal spokeswoman Joanne Veto. The Postal Service will donate the coconuts to Bread for the City, a District- based homeless resource center with locations in Northwest and Southeast. The nuts will arrive by mail (of course) next Tuesday, according to Bread for the City officials. Staffers are now in search of good coconut recipes.

“We’ve gotten people’s attention, now we’re following up with the detailed work of making an argument,” Bornstein said. The city plans to continue pressing the Postal Service and Florida lawmakers to keep their post office open.

Potter had no comment, and plans to let regional managers and other Washington-based officials make final closing decisions. The task could be a hard nut to crack.

A flyer distributed by Lantana, Fla. officials in an effort to save their local post office. (Courtesy of the Town of Lantana, Fla.)

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 29, 2009; 6:58 PM ET
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I thought the gov't did nothing good? Where are the teabaggers? Providing a postal service to this community is not in the constitution. Bring out the horse and buggy to deliver mail.

Posted by: hadelaide | October 30, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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