City’s post office holds 75 years of colorful history
By Sandy Bond
Built in 1938, and located at 404 Main Street, the Mobridge Post Office is observing its diamond anniversary.
The parent post office opened in the immediate vicinity in 1902, four years prior to the city’s founding date. Joe Anderson presided over the post office in a tiny shack on his farm on the river bottom above the old railroad bridge. Flora, South Dakota, was the name carried by the post office and the school district for many years. The Flora Post Office operated from May 1, 1902 until Aug. 31, 1908 when service was discontinued.
Those receiving a letter would find their mail in their box, which was no more than a homemade pigeonhole. Archie Flick was the postmaster of the first Mobridge Post Office, which opened in December 1906, at Second Street and Main. Flick, reported to be a colorful character, was also the justice of the peace and Mobridge’s first chairman of the city council. He sorted the mail into hand-hewn pigeonholes on the wall.
Flick served until he died in 1909, from what was described as “overextertion suffered while fighting a fire which consumed the home of an uncle.”
He was succeeded by Judge John Vawter in July 1910; the post office was then located on 213 Main Street. Vawter inaugurated a “missing persons” department; each week he would publish a list of those with unclaimed letters in “The Mobridge News.”
When Matthew Ryan took over in May 1914, the post office was located in a two-story brick building on Second Street, and the living quarters of the postmaster was located at the rear of the office.
A Mobridge shoeman, Garfield Tunell, was appointed postmaster in 1923. In 1933, the post office was relocated back to Main Street in a building built by F.M. Goodman which served as the city’s post office during the early tenure of its first postmaster, Carl Hildebrant. Hildebrant was appointed during the Democrat administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hildebrant’s brother, Fred Hildebrant, was a U.S congressman, and reportedly “lent his aid to the post office, according to the Sept. 1, 1938, issue of “The Mobridge Tribune,”
It was felt by many that if Mobridge were to receive the benefits of a new government built post office, it would be a good idea to start while assistance from Congressman Hildebrant might lend his support to such a project.
The post office located in the Goodman building continued to serve as the official post office until the present one was built. Dedicated Friday, August 28, 1938, amidst an all-day celebration, it cost $88,000; and it had taken three years of agitation on the part of the post office committee until the doors finally swung open. On its first official day of business, three thousand outgoing letters were stamped with the special dedication cachet, proclaiming Mobridge as the “only Mobridge in the world,”
Ceremonies included a parade in which the city band, high school Twirlers, the only girl baton twirling organization in the state, Legionnaires, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Spanish American War Veterans, and Girl and Boy Scouts participated. Stores were closed during the official ceremonies. During the afternoon, a free motion picture, “Here Comes The Mail,” was shown in the Municipal Auditorium. In the evening Solly David and his Orchestra played for the free dance, which wound up the program.
The old post office “stood “gaunt and deserted” as patrons were greeted by the new post office with 715 sparkling new post boxes which were to be operated by key rather than by combination lock. When the cornerstone was laid, a time capsule, assembled by Hildebrant included a “short, short” history of the Mobridge post office. Included: two copies of “The Mobridge News,” Aug. 18, 1911, and Aug. 12, 912; a copy of “The Mobridge Tribune, July 16, 1938; a Mobridge Tribune,” Mobridge Reminder,” and “Green Sheet,” dated July 14, 1938; a booklet by Julius Skaug, describing points of historical interest in the vicinity; a hand bill urging people to vote in favor of a hydro-electric dam at Mobridge; photos of business places and dwellings; a photo of the post office crew; and a check for $999, signed by F.M. Goodman, payable to the finder, providing he can prove he is the owner of an estate that is tangible or any property that has escaped taxation. This was the Republican Goodman’s little dig at his Democratic opposition.
Stepping through the doorway, patrons entered a spacious lobby, one side flanked by the battery of post office boxes. The main part of the “L” shaped lobby, 14 feet wide and 51 feet long. A 22-foot corridor comprised the leg of the “L.” Finished with walnut woodwork and tile wainscoting, with a tile floor, the 22-foot by 13-foot, postmaster’s office, was located to the right with a door connecting the office with the 51-foot by 43-foot post office work room.