By Jef Rietsma
Collector? Scott Macfarlane.
Collection? Self-taken photographs of post offices.
How many different post offices have you photographed? “Either my wife, Amy, or I have taken pictures of 955 different post offices from 34 states. It’s worth mentioning 287 are of post offices in Michigan, 181 are from New York.”
When and where did this interest in post offices begin? “It was on a family spring break trip in 2009 and we went through Carlinville, Ill. While cruising by its post office, Amy blurted out, ‘Check out that zip code.’ It was 62626. She said she liked the ‘roundness’ of the number. Soon thereafter, one of us thought of the post office pictures idea. Ironically, we didn’t snap a picture of the Carlinville post office, but the idea was born. Soon afterward, we started taking pictures of post offices wherever we went. The first one in the collection was taken on that same trip. It was a post office in Cross Plains, Ind., 47017. I’m writing a book featuring our pictures of post offices. It’ll be akin to a coffee table book. Stupid idea? Maybe. But I don’t care.”
How do you display your pictures? “I have them stored and very well organized on my laptop.”
To what extent do you go out of your way to find post offices to photograph? “When we travel, we always go off the beaten path and we have seen so many cool, little towns as a result. Planning trips is just as much fun for me. I love to have a state map unfolded out in front of me and you’d be surprised how many neat places of interest and communities you can find just by studying a map.”
Macfarlane said he and his wife always enjoy the challenge of finding a community’s post office without the aid of GPS. Incidentally, Macfarlane said he has an impressive collection of U.S. state maps.
How many states have you been in? “I’ve been in 47, lacking only Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. Amy has been to every state except Hawaii. I have this little competition with my brother where we assign numbers to states: one point if we were physically in that state, including passing through at an airport; two points if we actually spent the night there. I’m way ahead of him.”
Do you have criteria for post office pictures? “Well, it’s always of the exterior, we try really hard to make sure there are no cars or people in the picture. I try to include the American flag, it’s always good to shoot the picture from a good angle and, of course, we want to be able to read the city, state and ZIP code on the outside of the building. We have friends who always want to help out, and we appreciate that, but we don’t count those. It has to be a picture taken by either Amy or me – whether we’re together or separate – for it to count.”
What do your friends think about this hobby? “They think we’re weird, but they all dig the idea. They actually think it’s really cool and a lot of them wish they had done the same thing.”
What is the most out-of-the-way post office you’ve photographed? “There’s a post office at the summit of Mt. Washington, more than 6,000 feet above sea level, in New Hampshire. That was an awesome drive but, for sure, a strange place for a post office.”
How long do you plan to continue this hobby? “I think when we get our 1,000th picture, that’ll be a good time to stop. But that doesn’t mean I won’t still be on the lookout for post offices during future travels.”
Footnotes: Scott, 60, is a Vermont native while Amy, 57, grew up in Mt. Pleasant. They are Schoolcraft-area residents, soon to move into a new house just south of the Kalamazoo County line in St. Joseph County’s Flowerfield Township. They met in November 1994 and have been married more than 20 years.
Macfarlane said he also has a collection of nearly 400 hats, he has a ticket stub to every event he has ever attended (the first was a Boston Red Sox game Aug. 10, 1970 and the cost was $4.75), and every NFL trading card set made by Topps from 1969 through 1975. He has also watched a college football game at every MAC stadium except Akron. Macfarlane said he is always, at the drop of a hat, ready to take a road trip.