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Monday, Feb 02 2015 06:53 PM

Where-have-all-the-blue-mailboxes-gone">Where have all the blue mailboxes gone?

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jon Crawford at the blue mailbox in front of his business on Truxtun Avenue. The box will be removed later this month.

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  2. 2 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The blue mailbox will soon be removed from this area on Truxtun Avenue.

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  3. 3 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A notice on the blue mailbox on Truxtun Avenue says it will soon be removed.

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  4. 4 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jon Crawford, 80, has made a practice of using the blue mailbox in front of his Truxtun Avenue office. But because of declining use, it is one of 10 in Bakersfield scheduled for removal this month.

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BY STEVEN MAYER The Bakersfield Californian

Little blue mailbox, wonder if you'll have the next letter

Little blue mailbox, wonder if you'll ever make me feel better

Related Info

Ten iconic blue curbside mailboxes in Bakersfield are slated for removal this month. Six are in the downtown area, two in south Bakersfield, one in east Bakersfield and one in the southwest.

ZIP 93301:

2000 24th St.

2601 F St.

3201 F St.

1831 Truxtun Ave.

1500 Eye St.

2701 Chester Ave.

ZIP 93304:

1640 S. Chester Ave.

3030 Brundage Lane

ZIP 93305:

1830 Flower St.

ZIP 93314 :

13001 Stockdale Highway

"Little Blue Mailbox" by Fink


The iconic blue mailbox, once common in front of grocery stores, banks and coffee shops in Bakersfield and across the country, may be going the way of the drive-in movie, dial-up Internet service and the pay phone.

Ten more of the sturdy metal drop boxes in Bakersfield are slated for removal by the U.S. Postal Service in mid-February, said Tony Rivera, the postmaster of Santa Barbara who has been acting as temporary postmaster in Bakersfield.

Changes in consumer behavior and disruptive changes in technology have placed the blue boxes on an endangered list. And when the Postal Service identifies drop boxes that are rarely used, they unbolt them from their concrete foundations and cart them away to the dustbin of history.

Nancy A. Pope, the curator and historian at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., says, culturally, the loss of the blue, arch-topped bins is a bigger deal than we might imagine.

"Nothing says you're on an American street more than the blue mailbox," Pope said.

"You really don't think about them until they are gone. And when they are, it can be as though a piece of your neighborhood has disappeared," she said. "These boxes represent something personal, the connections we have and make with others -- family, friends, businesses, government -- that are far from us."

And when you take that away, she said, something is lost.

Retired petroleum engineer Jon Crawford, who still keeps an office in downtown Bakersfield, recently spotted a notice attached to the blue mailbox that has stood in front of his business for decades.

"This collection box will be removed from service after Feb. 14," the notice announced.

Crawford, 80, had heard a rumor all blue mailboxes downtown would be removed. But that's not the case, said Richard Maher, a spokesman for the Postal Service.

The USPS regularly surveys mailboxes for volume of use, Maher said. And when a box is found over a period of time to be used too sparingly, it may be placed on the removal list in an effort to cut costs, especially if there's another box less than a mile away.

The culture has changed, Maher said.

Telephones, television, faxes, the Internet, email, social media and electronic payment have increasingly provided alternatives to hard-copy mail. From 2004 to 2013, the total mail volume handled by the USPS has fallen from 206.1 billion to 158.4 billion pieces -- even as the number of delivery destinations has increased from 142.5 million to 152.9 million.

Nationally, the number of blue collection boxes has fallen from nearly 400,000 in 1985 to 160,000 last year, according to the Postal Service.

Neither Rivera nor Maher could say how many blue boxes were in Bakersfield at its peak. But after the 10 boxes are removed, there will be an even 100 left in greater Bakersfield, Maher said.

Longtime letter carrier Alex Dang, who retired last year after 47 years with the Postal Service, said while blue boxes were convenient for customers, over the years the vandalism, graffiti and pranks seemed to increase.

People used them as trash cans -- or worse, Dang said. There was no telling what a letter carrier might find.

"Dead cats, live cats, fast-food containers, iced drinks -- you open up the box and you've got a lot of wet mail."

Firecracker rolls, lit and thrown inside, damaged the mail.

"It got to the point when they really just got stupid," he said.

One minor bright spot, Maher said, is the 10 local boxes won't be removed before Feb. 15.

"So we're good for Valentine's Day."

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