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Exeter deconstructed: Academy Post Office

February 5, 2018
Student at PEA post office – circa 1930's

The Academy's post office has had several homes since its first incarnation, likely in the mid-19th century. It was housed in the basements of Abbot Hall and the Academy Building and, briefly, in a little schoolhouse at the back of Peabody Hall that served as the student union in the 1920s and ’30s. It moved to the first floor of Jeremiah Smith Hall in 1931, where it remained for 75 years until the opening of the Academy Center.

Stevan Dohanos, father of Peter ’49 and Paul ’50, was the Academy’s artist-in-residence for two weeks in 1951 when he painted the original of a Saturday Evening Post cover showing the delights of receiving a package from home. Students depicted were Harry B. Duane ’50 (with cake), and James P. Felstiner ’50, George F. Russell ’50, Stephen M. Bolster ’51, C. Grady Green ’51, and Thomas A. Whedon ’51. The original now hangs in the College Counseling Office.

The new space in Jeremiah Smith boasted 200 additional letter boxes, designed to be tamper proof, but the Academy postmistress missed getting to know the boys as they mingled in the old spot near Grill while awaiting their daily deliveries. A 1933 headline in The Exonian describes her feelings thus: “New Post Office Improvement but Mrs. Hudson Preferred Old.” (v. clxvi, n. 19, June 14, 1933)

 

The post office also served as the Academy’s lost-and-found for many years. Announcements like this one from 1915 ran regularly in the The Exonian: “The following articles have been reported to the post office as lost during the past week: one New 7 School Algebra, one pair of rubber grips, two copies of Memoires d’un Collegien, one Chardenai’s French Course, one gold watch, one American History, one Junior English book, and one Wooley’s Handbook of Composition.” (v. cxiii, n. 12, Oct. 30, 1915)

 

Today, the post office is once again housed inside a community hub, located in the east wing on the first floor of the Academy Center. And while handwritten letters may have been more prevalent in Mrs. Hudson’s day, Mail Room Supervisor Joseph Goudreault and his co-workers remain integral to the life of the school: Processing mail for nearly 1,600 students and employees, “PO Joe” and his team handle 40,000 boxes and 100,000 envelopes a year.