By Erin Blasco, Public Programs Coordinator
Coconuts have begun arriving by mail at the US Postal Service headquarters in Washington, DC bearing an important message from Lantana, Florida.
The local post office (zip code 33462) just south of West Palm Beach is one of about 400 that could close next year as a money-saving measure by the Postal Service. Led by city manager Michael Bornstein, local school kids and officials paid between $4 and $17 to mail coconuts to protest the possible closure. The Postal Service plans to let regional managers of other Washington-based officials make final decisions on closures. The hundreds of coconuts, mail labels affixed to their shells, are being donated to a Washington, DC charity.
The coco-nutty stunt brought back tropical mail memories from Florida’s past. Bornstein dressed as a Barefoot Mailman, postal workers who walked the mail route between Palm Beach and Miami, Florida from 1885-1892.
This isn’t the first time the postal service has carried coconuts from tropical destinations. In the Postal Museum’s collection is a coconut mailed from Raymond J. Boudet, who was stationed in Hawaii in 1944. The coconut was sent to his wife, with the address carved into the shell. Postage was 37 cents and the stamps were cancelled by the US Navy, the Navy Censor, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (how thorough). Raymond’s coconut sent a loving message home—he carved a heart labeled “Ray” and Marie.”
As a native Floridian and Postal Museum staff member, I hope the Lantana residents’ message gets through. I also hope DC recipients of coconuts take caution in cracking their coconuts—it’s harder than it looks!