Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Valentine, Nebraska, Post Office Remembered

Post office mural at Valentine Nebraska

One of the odd things about getting older is that I'm becoming more and more like my parents.

In the mirror, I have caught glimpses of my mother, my father, and my Grandma Nora in my face. But the similarities go farther. I find myself saying and doing what my parents -- and especially my mother -- said and did. I suspect that even the processes of my mind are becoming like my mother.

For example, today I went to town with a plastic bag of bills that needed to be paid and mailed. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of the post office, writing checks and licking envelope flaps, when it dawned on me that I was doing exactly what I saw my mother do a zillion times -- getting the mail ready at the post office.

I remember sitting in the car outside the post office or standing inside until I thought my legs would drop off, waiting, hoping, dying for Mama to finish getting the mail ready and finally drop it through the slot in the wall. I think sometimes she was writing to her sister. They carried on a regular correspondence.

This train of thought brought me to an early memory of the Valentine, Nebraska, post office. I remember several things clearly. I remember my mother standing at the table in the post office lobby, writing mail. I was sitting under the table on the hard square bar that connected the table's legs. That was uncomfortable, so after a while, I sat on the floor. The floor had some kind of ceramic or stone tile on it, and it was smooth and cold.

And I remember the mural on the wall of the Valentine post office. It was the largest picture I had ever seen, and it had a train in it. I probably had plenty of time to look at it while my mother stood at the table and wrote.

This is an early memory. We must have still been living south of Johnstown, NE, and that would mean I was six or younger. That was a long time ago!

I found that mural on the internet this evening. You can see an image of it on a Nebraska State Historical Society page titled "Nebraska National Register Sites in Cherry County." It really does have the train that I remember.

The mural was painted in 1939 by Kady Faulkner, who was working as an artist for the Section of Fine Arts. The Section was a program of the Treasury Department that hired artists to create art in public buildings during the Great Depression. Nebraska has a dozen post office murals: their locations are listed at


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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.