Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jebco mailboxes in Tennessee

James Newsome of Warrenton snapped these photos of a Jebco mailbox in Waynesboro, Tenn., a few years ago.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jebco mailboxes in Indy

 I've been to Indianapolis three times now, and I don't care what anyone says. I think it has a lovely downtown.

The Soldiers and Sailors' Monument, built in 1898, is striking, as is the Indiana state capitol building.

And about a block off the state capitol square, there's a Jebco mailbox.

I left my mailbox in San Francisco

So, I'm in San Francisco, and I'm riding on a cable car on my way to see the Golden Gate Bridge. And the cable car only goes so far -- then I have to get off and get on a real bus to go out to the bridge.

So the cable car gets to the end of the line, near Fisherman's Wharf, and I step off the cable car and start to walk down the street ... And there it was.

A Jebco mailbox. Painted olive drab green, no less -- a Postal Service relay mail box, now obsolete in some areas (but still in use in others as recently as 2003, according to posters on that online forum).

I'm not sure if this one was still being used by the Post Office in San Fran or not. The date-stamp on the box is 1986.

Warrenton, Georgia, unofficial Mailbox Capital of America (or, "Why I Created This Site")

Warrenton, Georgia, is a small town in the middle of nowhere.

There are no hugely famous historic sites or events held in Warrenton. No one really, really famous ever came from Warrenton. There are no nationally known cultural events that happen there, like the Woodstock festival or the annual ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pa., to see whether the groundhog named Phil stays in his hole on Feb. 2.

Warrenton has a population of about 2,000 people. It has one real red light and one blinking red light, each on opposite ends of town from each other.

And it's not really near anything, either. Augusta, Ga., is a good hour's drive away, Macon and Athens are more like 90 minutes, and Atlanta is a good two hours.

But even though you've never heard of Warrenton, I can bet that wherever you live in the United States, there's a little bit of Warrenton in your community.

You know those blue metal mailboxes the Postal Service has on street corners and outside buildings? The ones where you pull down the little metal handle on the flap and throw your letter inside? Think for a second about the last one you passed, either coming or going from work, or while you were out grocery shopping, or even when you walked past the Post Office yesterday.

The next time you go past that blue box, look at the sides, down at the bottom. I'll bet you money that you'll see stamped there these words:


You see, Jebco is a manufacturing plant in Warrenton -- been there since the 1950s -- that basically makes things out of sheet metal. At different times, they've made just about everything you can imagine being made out of sheet metal, including metal cash boxes, what had to be the world's sturdiest (and heaviest) office furniture (my parents' house was filled with Jebco factory rejects that would likely have protected us from, say, a nuclear attack), and most recently, parts for barbecue grills.

But the thing that was Jebco's bread and butter for many, many years were those blue mailboxes, made under contract for the U.S. Postal Service -- 750,000 of them churned out in Warrenton, according to Jebco's own online estimate.

Those 750,000 mailboxes from tiny Warrenton, Ga., are now all over America.

And, no matter where you live, they're in your town.

I have seen Jebco mailboxes in New York City.
I have seen Jebco mailboxes in San Francisco.
I have seen Jebco mailboxes in Miami and Tampa, Fla.
I have seen them in Houston, Texas, in Indianapolis, Ind., in Nashville, Tenn., and in Asheville, N.C.

From sea to shining sea, from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam, millions of Americans put their mail into a Jebco mailbox every day.

My grandparents were still fairly recent newcomers to Warrenton when Jebco -- then called Knox-Warrenton -- opened in 1956, and my grandfather, who as the son of a blacksmith knew a bit about metalworking, went to work there. He worked there for almost 40 years, retiring not long before his death in 1994.

When he died, we buried him not in his Sunday best but in his navy blue Jebco work uniform -- blue pants, blue shirt with his last name over the breast pocket.

My mother also worked two stints in Jebco's front office as a clerical worker, and my uncle worked there over the summer while getting his business degree at UGA, running a spot welder. But when I think about Jebco, I think about my granddad, who worked there even longer than I have been alive today.

And when I travel and go to strange places, everywhere I go, I see blue mailboxes. And I look down on the bottoms of the sides I see this:


And it's like a little piece of him is following me.

On the town in Asheville, N.C.

 Here's a stand of three Jebco mailboxes in lovely downtown Asheville, N.C.

I got the chance to visit Asheville in 2009 to attend a professional conference, and I was treated to the nickel tour of this picturesque mountain town by a former Ashevillian, my friend Lee Ann O'Neal, who appears in the middle pictures, next to the stand of Jebco mailboxes.

This particular set was on the street in front of an art supply store called True Blue.

 Interestingly, notice that the box on the left -- the oldest of the three -- is a little bit larger than the newer boxes to its right. (Anyone know why Uncle Sam wanted smaller mailboxes?)

If you zoom in on the picture, you can see the larger box (with the weathered blue color) is date-stamped either 1962 or 1982, but I think it's 1982.

The last picture of these three shows a Jebco mailbox that has been retired by the Postal Service and which now is used (in a white color scheme) by the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper, where Lee Ann used to work, as an outside overnight drop box. Zooming in on the picture shows it's date-stamped 1981.

(Photos by Jennifer Peebles)

In a tiny town in Texas

 Here's a Jebco mailbox at a gas station outside Rosharon, Texas, which is sort of between Houston and Freeport. I think that's where I was headed that day. (Photos by Jennifer Peebles)