Caraway celebrates 100 years of postal service
A century of service was cause for celebration as all ages gathered at the Caraway Post Office Wednesday, Sept. 28. Postal service began in the rural community of Caraway on Sept. 28, 1916, before the town was incorporated in 1923.
From a stump near the railroad, mail has been distributed at four locations all near the present post office built in 1976 at 201 Kentucky Street (called main street).
Red, blue and white painted wooden flags marked the locations of each of the four building locations of the post offices through the years. The fifth flag was placed near where a tree stump near the railroad stop was used to hold the mail to be distributed to the early residents of the area.
According to history, an empty box car was placed on a side track for people waiting for the train to take them to Leachville. Near the stop, there was a huge tree stump used as a distributing point for the daily mail for the early settlers. The train came through around noon each day and someone would jump off, pile the letters, postal cards, and catalogs on the stump. Laborers came to the stump for their mail during the noon hour. If a letter was to be mailed, someone on the train had to mail it from Leachville.
Oct. 31, 2013, was a sad day in Caraway as a tornado came through destroying many of the landmark buildings along main street. Fortunately, the devastating storm seemed to bypass the post office.
Caraway Mayor Barry Riley praised everyone who took part in making the 100 year celebration such a success.
The impressive program featured veterans presenting the Colors; Riverside High School Choir, directed by Steven Sanders, singing a patriotic melody following a rendition of the National
Anthem; Councilman Roger Williams led the Pledge of Allegiance; Riverside High School Band, directed by Stephen Alsup, played America, Land of Liberty, and Alamo March; The Caraway Volunteer Fire Department presented the song Proud to be an American followed by a fireworks display.
Riverside East students were bused to the post office to be included in the special celebration.
Among the guests attending the Caraway ceremony were Chuck Hamilton, post office operations manager; Mike Hart, senior plant manager; Leisa Tolliver-Gay, post service public relations; and Robert Jetts, Paragould postmaster.
Pam Poag has served as Caraway postmaster since 2013. The Caraway Post Office staff includes Karen Vaughn, rural carrier; and clerk Melody Wroten.
The early mail arriving by train was depicted with a grand entrance of the post office staff and guests riding on a mail train, filled with sacks of mail. The three car train was created by Melton Emery of Caraway.
Mayor Riley said the post office staff did a wonderful job of putting the program together.
Mr. Hamilton thanked the community for inviting them to be a part of the celebration.
"Many small town communities have had to close their post offices," he said. "I applaud you."
He gave the history of the naming of Caraway, once known as White Station.
Caraway was named for U.S. Senator Thaddeus Caraway. His widow, Hattie Caraway, followed her husband finishing out his term and then became the first woman to be elected to Congress. The post office in Jonesboro on Race Street is named Hattie Caraway Station.
Mr. Hart, senior plant manager, was the next speaker, praising the organizers of the event.
He asked the young students if they knew how much a stamp cost today (47 cents) and what one cost 100 years ago, (2 cents). He went on to talk about the mail delivered daily.
"The USPS delivers 40 percent of the world's mail," he said.
The first postmaster was Benjamin Franklin with the post office established 240 years ago.
A special pictorial postmark cancellation honoring the office's 100 years was available for the guests with the City of Caraway receiving the first stamp.
On behalf of Rep. Dan Sullivan, Mayor Riley presented a citation from the House of Representatives in recognition of the post office's 100th anniversary.
Mayor Riley also recognized Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Rick Crawford who could not attend the ceremonies.
The first postmaster appointed to serve Caraway was Joseph E. Johnston on Sept. 28, 1916. Some of the Caraway postmasters include William P. Manor, 1920; Richard B. McCord, 1923; Harry Craig, 1924; Lee Rea, 1937; Ferrell Tucker, 1959; Rollie H. Rea, 1968; Laverne Couch 1975; Betty Pendegraft, 1982; Linda Young, 2003; Curtis Newton, 2005; Jerald W. Newsom, 2007; Charles J. Adams, 2010; and presently Pam Poag, 2013.
Clyde Woods, a veteran attending the ceremony, commented remembering going to the Caraway Post Office in 1945 and receiving a post card with the words, "Greetings, you have been selected to serve in the military."
"The postmaster had to fan me when I fainted," he said with a smile.
Mayor Riley expressed his hopes the post office would be around for its 200th celebration.
Cake and punch were served to the crowd.