O.B. Post Office may replace vintage P.O. boxes

Residents don’t want to see them go.

2
The vintage Oak Bluffs Post Office boxes, which were installed in the 1940s, may be replaced with newer models. — Gabrielle Mannino

The old fashioned Post Office boxes, a staple of the Oak Bluffs Post Office, may be replaced with newer models.

Steve Doherty, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, told The Times that while nothing was set in stone, the Post Office may update some of its aging hardware.

“There is talk at this point of possibly replacing some of the Post Office boxes, in particular the older ones. Some of the doors may be loose, and replace them with a newer model that’s more secure,” Doherty said.

The Post Office recently gave the interior a fresh coat of paint and added parcel lockers to streamline customer package pickup.

There are 2,500 vintage boxes, emblazoned with eagles, that use codes to open instead of keys. Installed in the 1940s, many of the boxes have been in Island families for generations.

Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian has been coming to the Island since she was born, but moved here permanently in 1998. She has one of the vintage P.O. boxes with letter codes that was passed down to her. She still gets her mail from it today, and doesn’t want to see them removed.

“It’s almost like something you don’t give up and you inherit because it’s so valued,” she said. “I think everybody has nostalgia about it.”

Barmakian’s fellow selectman, Jason Balboni, inherited his vintage box from his grandmother Mary Goode, who owned the former Mary’s Restaurant on Circuit Avenue. 

“I think a lot of people would be upset, including myself,” Balboni said of the boxes if they were replaced. “It’s a part of Oak Bluffs.”

Donna Allen’s box has been in her family since her father got it in the 1950s. Removing the old-fashioned boxes and replacing them doesn’t make sense to her.

“I see no reason for it. It would be a waste of money,” Allen said. “I love it.”

Former clerk of courts Joe Sollitto has been getting his mail out of the same Oak Bluffs P.O. box for the past 51 years. While it’s been a part of Island life, Sollitto says he understands the need for change due to security measures.

“It’s tradition,” he said. “It would be interesting to see what they would replace them with.”

While most people enjoy the nostalgic look of the boxes, some see change as inevitable. Oak Bluffs resident Nancy Beckwith said she could see why people wouldn’t want the boxes to change, but also saw keys as being an easy way to open the boxes, as opposed to memorizing a code. “I understand their passion,” she said, “but it could be a lot easier.”

If box replacement does occur, Doherty said it would occur after the summer. “Beyond that, there are no major renovations planned at this time,” Doherty said.