Post office, a Sweet Home staple
Aug. 26, 2012 at 3:26 a.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2012 at 3:24 a.m.
BY KAYLA BELL
SWEET HOME – It’s the 544-square-foot staple of Sweet Home.
The first post office in the Lavaca County town sprung up in 1852. And it’s hard to imagine it was much different than the one that now serves the community of about 360 residents.
“The post office here in Sweet Home is kind of the mainstay in the community. It’s kind of a gathering place,” the postmaster, Donald McAfee said one afternoon in the one-room building. “People will be standing outside an hour from now, talking to each other and catching up on the latest.”
Nearly all of the 164 mailboxes in the post office are stuffed with letters and bills and small packages. Sweet Home residents must come here to pick up and drop off their mail. There are no mailboxes lining the meandering, narrow roads in the unincorporated community.
McAfee, 60, calls each of his customers by name as they stroll through in the afternoons. Some come to chat about anything other than the mail. Some of the older residents just pull up in front of the post office and honk, waiting for their postmaster to deliver their mail straight to the car door.
The phone rings constantly, with McAfee’s familiar voice on the other end. He’s been working in Sweet Home for 13 years.
“This is just a fantastic little community. The people here are great. Everybody kind of looks out for everybody,” he said.
With the post office perched on Sweet Home’s main drag – there’s an outlet store called Belt’s Unlimited right next door and a saddle shop and fire department nearby – McAfee is one of the go-to sources for a town looking out for its own.
“They’ll call up here and ask me, ‘Who’s that driving up?’ Or, ‘Did you notice somebody at the neighbor’s house?’” McAfee said.
The U.S. Postal Service has plans to close many rural post offices across the nation, but McAfee said Sweet Home’s store does just fine. Business is steady. Plus, the people aren’t about to give up their Sweet Home address any time soon, he said.
This is actually the new Sweet Home – the one that was established in the 1890s. In 1887, a railroad was built about five miles south of the old Sweet Home, prompting the town to migrate toward the trading post.
At one point, the town had as many as 12 stores, with tomato sheds and a chicken hatchery that contributed to its trading game. That was also when the place had five beer joints, McAfee said.
“We’re down to just Mary’s Restaurant on the highway here. That’s the only place you can get a cold drink at right now,” he said.
Just like the post office, Mary’s has its regulars who make the trip part of their daily routine. It’s all good, clean, old fashioned fun in Sweet Home.
“When you come here, just everybody wants to behave themselves. Just something about being in the country. This is a good country spot,” McAfee said.