How to Take a Walk—in Buffalo, and Beyond: The Mailbox 

Continue the series on walking Buffalo, from the intrepid couple who walked every day—no matter the weather—in the first 3 years of covid. They think (without being systematic) they walked every street in Buffalo, and many in other cities and towns, taking some 25,000 photos, shared in this series. While not itineraries, we hope to encourage others to “walk the walk,” to see, observe and appreciate Buffalo—and beyond. William Graebner and Dianne Bennett are also 5 Cent Cine’s film critics, here.

Today’s Photo-Essay: The Mailbox 

There was a time, and not long ago, when the mailbox was just that: a box for mail, a plain receptacle, bereft of decoration. Today, it’s often a vehicle of personal—or familial–expression, a way of telling passers-by who one is, what one cares about. As walkers, we’re grateful for the visual stimulation, even if we don’t always agree with the sentiments.

Lots of folks feel compelled to use the mailbox to express their patriotism. In Riverside, a homeowner had attached the mailbox, painted with an American flag, onto a complex wood sculpture. The red-white-and-blue also found its way onto a Bowmansville mailbox. A home in Kenmore combined religious motifs (on the porch) with a mailbox featuring a fat robin and, a layer below, a note of the patriotic. 

A Tonawanda homeowner with a religious sensibility graced a standard mailbox with the figure of Mary—and two angels. 

From our research, it appears that “defacing” a federal mailbox may be a crime. It likely falls under the category of “vandalism,” though whether vandalism includes graffiti and painting is not absolutely clear, though it is illegal to obscure postal service lettering on a box. The website Legal Beagle notes that “maliciously defacing a mailbox” is equivalent to tampering, carrying fines of up to $250,000 and 3 years in jail. But what’s “malicious”? It is legal to decorate a personal mailbox, unless it’s a full-service box—the kind with a flag that can be raised to indicate outgoing mail.

The federal mailbox at Allen and Elmwood, apparently still in service, has been dressed up in the flag. The interior of the box is painted with teepees. 

In Medina, an obviously decommissioned mailbox has been reconstituted as a repository for “retired” flags, under the auspices of the American Legion.

The phrase “Give Me Liberty,” appearing on a Niagara Falls Blvd. mailbox in Tonawanda, may be a statement of patriotism, but it’s likely indicative of an ideology or philosophy, probably—but not necessarily—on the political right.

Among the more aggressive mailbox messages we found was one in Echota/Niagara Falls (NY), with its skull and Celtic cross (and the flag above).

This “Pro-Choice” mailbox is one-of-a-kind. In Woodlawn.

There’s the mailbox as “dwelling”—a fine log cabin in Kaisertown, a “Go Bills” bungalow in the Old First Ward:

Dogs are a theme. The clever, decorated-for-Christmas mailbox, with a dog peering inside, was found in Lovejoy. The dog’s-body-as-mailbox is on the West Side.

To make sure you get your mail, put your name on the mailbox. Parkdale Avenue, West Side.

Having hiked up from a creek bed into the backyards of the community of French Quarters in Bowmansville, we found our way to the town square—and the mailboxes. On the left, an old, cast-iron box for pickups, and next to it, the newer, individual boxes for deliveries. 

The development of sticky paper has made decorating one’s mailbox a matter of wrapping it in the pleasure of the day. In East Aurora, butterflies and mushrooms; on the far West Side, for Valentine’s Day.

On the East Side, a particular type of large mailbox is making a debut: the top is accessible for depositing mail to be picked up, the bottom for delivery, with a key. For some reason, these boxes are usually hand-painted, sometimes with commentary. Two of these boxes offer racial messages. One side of a box in Hamlin Park was painted with a path and what appeared to be the Black “Wall of Fame” (though blank) on nearby East Ferry Street, the other side with a path and a cityscape, and the words “In pursuit of a more fulfilling and bountiful life.”  

On one side of another box was a painting of “volunteers” at work; on the other side a Black family, wearing their covid masks. In the center, the father (we suppose), with a Black Lives Matter fist on his white t-shirt. These photos were taken in June 2021, 13 months after George Floyd was murdered. 

On a less serious note, we found this mailbox on Rant Street:

Click here to see more “walks and thoughts” by © William Graebner.

The post How to Take a Walk—in Buffalo, and Beyond: The Mailbox  appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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