SALONA - For nearly 175 years it has been tucked along the community's quaint main street, operated from the homes of its rural postmasters.
Tomorrow, that community legacy will come to an end. Due to cutbacks and downsizing within the United States Postal Service, the post office at Salona is closing.
It all began in 1836 when mail was delivered bi-weekly to residents by postmaster A.H. Best. The post office went through 16 postmasters before being taken over by Delphine Rhine in 1964. For the past 47 years Rhine has served as Salona's sole postmaster, operating the office from the basement of her home.
Salona Postmaster Delphine Rhine stands next to her house which also serves as Salona’s post office.
Standing behind the counter as postmaster on one of the final days, Rhine looked nostalgically out the door, "I've had some mighty nice people come in that door and all I can say is that I'm really going to miss this."
Rhine has been committed to serving the community as a postmaster and a friendly face for almost 50 years.
Though the Salona community changed dramatically through decades, her daily routine remained the same. Rhine's work begins at 7:30 a.m. when the mail arrives and she begins sorting letters, bills and packages for the nearly 75 box patrons. Rhine says her days are usually the same in terms of the work to be done.
"I sort mail and do paperwork, sell stamps, certified and insured letters and scan mail as it comes in. From time to time I hand mail out to people who forget their combination," she said. "I've always loved the work, but through the years it's become the people who really matter. I've been blessed to really get to know the people. They come in every day to get their mail and I get to know who they are. I suppose I've always had a good listening ear because people tell me about their lives and their problems, but also about the good things - the joyous things in their lives. I've heard some interesting stories over the years and what I will miss most are the nice, loyal people who came in here every day to pick up their mail and share their lives."
Now, because of the Postal Service's downsizing of rural stations like Salona, the people who once came through Delphine's door will have to collect their mail from street-side mailboxes. The former box patrons will be responsible for purchasing and installing their own mailboxes.
According to Rhine, the changes taking place in the community follow a slew of changes that have transformed the once-bustling community.
"This used to be quite a little town with doctors and butchers and stores all along this street, but it's almost down to nothing and now even the post office is leaving," she said.
Many of the changes happening in the larger communities have been taking place on a smaller scale within Rhine's basement office.
"I remember when I took over in 1964 and all I had was a small room in the basement of my home and a table. I would set the mail out in piles on the table and people would come in to pick it up. I didn't have scales or boxes ... nothing. Over the years this little office grew and now I'm just surprised and thankful to the good Lord for the years I've had," she said.
Rhine will not be the only one to miss the rural station. News of the closing hit the small community hard.
"Many people were quite upset for awhile," she said. "They're disturbed about having their mail along the road. It's a big inconvenience, but there's nothing anyone can do to change the government's decision."
Though Delphine has served as postmaster for 47 years, she said she's not quite ready to retire and she'll remain in her home in Salona.
"One chapter in my life will close, but I trust another will open for me," she said.
Rhine said she will miss her job and the daily personal connection... and the scales, boxes and tools that were a part of her life for nearly half a century.
"It's unfortunate ... what was once a community asset to Salona will soon be nothing but an old empty room," she said.