by Mary Grow
Priscilla Adams ended her 32-year career with the United States Postal Service Sept. 30. Her last day as China Village Postmaster was followed Oct. 1 by a retirement party organized by her husband Scott that gave another 100 or so friends and relatives a chance to wish her happiness.
Retirement is bittersweet, Adams said. She looks forward to time for herself, to work in her garden and to take day trips, starting with the Fryeburg Fair Oct. 3. She expects to watch more of her grandsons’ basketball games in southern Maine – and, she said happily, “If it’s a blizzard out and I don’t feel like coming home, I don’t have to.”
On the other hand, she’ll miss the people who enlivened her days behind the post office counter, miss the long talks and listening to people’s stories and problems.
Adams was appointed China Village Postmaster on February 1, 1997. Before that, she worked as PMR (Postmaster Relief, postal-speak for substitute) and sometimes Officer in Charge at other area post offices.
The worst part of her career, she said, has been going through so many changes, which have been difficult for employees and sometimes for customers, like the introduction in 2001 of the E911 system that changed the name and the box numbers in what’s now the China Village post office.
Adams has seen the switch from a manual typewriter to a computer, from a fan scale to an electric scale, from stamps that had to be licked to self-adhesive stamps, from any stamps at all to a postage meter.
She’s watched the price of stamps, box rentals and other services go up – and this February had the rare opportunity to see them go down a bit, for the first time, she believes, since the 1940s.
Two or three years ago, when the Postal Service cut back hours in many post offices, including China Village, there was a rumor that the China Village office would be eliminated when Adams retired.
Just a rumor, Adams is quite sure – the office is valuable not only to its 225 boxholders and other China residents, but to people from surrounding towns where post office window hours are shorter or less convenient.
Adams’ duties, official and unofficial, have included distributing mail and selling stamps, keeping the building clean, collecting lost items, putting up posters for lost pets and helping start people’s cars.
“It’s been a great working experience,” she summarized. “I like helping out people. There’ve been good times and bad times, ups and downs, but I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Becky Tesseo, who also works part-time at the post office in South China, has taken over the China Village office until a new postmaster can be found. Tesseo doesn’t know how long she’ll be in the north end of town – maybe a month, she said.
As Priscilla Adams’ retirement party wound down Oct. 1 in the China Baptist Church Vestry Fellowship Hall, people began assembling in the adjacent church for the funeral of Eleanor Foster, Postmaster from 1956 until 1982, when she retired and Joyce Whitney was appointed. Foster died Sept. 19 at the age of 96.
Foster and her husband Bill lived next door to the post office while Foster worked there and for many years afterwards. Adams said for the first few months of her tenure, they had a standing joke: she would ask Foster, “Do you want to be my PMR?”
Foster would pretend to consider for a moment before replying, “No thanks.”
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