Monday, December 6, 2021

The Littlest Post Office

Growing Up Everglades City

Photos by Savannah Oglesby

The Everglades is home to many unique sights, such as its wetland ecosystem, the animals that thrive in it, and the Ten Thousand Islands off the coast of Chokoloskee. However, the unparalleled views don’t stop there, as a closer look will provide endless sights one has never seen before. Ochopee is a ten-minute drive from Everglades City and is home to the United States smallest post office. The smallest of post offices may seem hard to imagine, as there are numerous post offices in the Nation that are little, but this specific one can only fit around three people inside. The Ochopee Post Office sits on the right side of the road heading towards Miami along U.S. Highway 41. If you’re not looking hard enough, you can easily pass it by. When traveling through Ochopeeit may seem like ghost town. Still, it was once home to a community full of families and booming businesses. Many still reside in the area, which the Ochopee Post Office serves, and businesses that keep the town busy with tourists.  

Although I’ve lived in Everglades City my entire life, I’ve never truly visited the Ochopee Post Office and took the time to enjoy its presence. The other day my mom and I decided to drop what we were doing and drive over to Ochopee to check it out. We were the only other car there besides the postal worker who was working there that day. To my surprise, it was even cuter in person than in the pictures I’ve seen. The post office is no bigger than a tiny shed or a walk-in closet, and each day only one postal worker works the eight to four o’clock shift. According to the historical marker that stood beside the post office, the building was once an irrigation pipe shed from a tomato farm. The switch occurred after a tragic fire in 1953 caused the General Store, where the Ochopee Post Office once operated out of, to burn down. Although the small building looks fragile, it has remarkably withstood numerous disastrous hurricanes that destroyed its surrounding areas such as Hurricane Irma in 2017. After taking several pictures of the post office and reading the historical marker, I walked to the front of the building where I heard a small, “Hello, how are you?” coming from inside. Don Walters greeted me with a smile under his mask as he opened the screen doors. 

Taking a glimpse inside the building, I understood why there could only be a few mail slots inside, as it was even smaller than I thought it would be. Don has worked at the post office for 3 years now, and he drives down from Naples to do so. “I just wanted a change,” he answered after I asked what made him want to work at the smallest post office in the Nation. Don noted that he was delighted to have made the change to work at the Ochopee Post Office. He also admitted he missed the tour buses that used to come to visit before the pandemicThe post office is one of the most sought-after tourist attractions in the Everglades, and now I understand why. Who doesn’t love unique history and exciting roadside attractions?  

Now that I’m home from college, I appreciate the time I have to visit attractions this area has to offer and that I can be a tourist in my own town. If you have not visited the Ochopee Post Office, I recommend that you do, because it is definitely a sight and memory I will not forget.


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