Before Our Time: The post office, a multi-tasking service …

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The post office has long been a favorite spot for locals to see friends, spread information and gossip, and hold impromptu conferences.

A 1922 photo shows 10 people and a dog clustered out front next to a huge table and chairs made of granite chunks and log sections. A 1940s photo shows a waiting line of animated customers stretching out the front door, down the porch steps and onto North Circle Drive.

The post office has been located all over the valley during the past 121 years, but where or how it’s housed makes little difference.

The first one, officially designated “Rayneta” in 1893, was far from the center of commerce. It was located near the Strawberry Creek bridge that today marks the entrance to the Idyllwild Arts campus. Postmaster George Hannahs tucked it into the general store he strategically situated there to serve travelers arriving from Hemet.

The postmaster po- sition was a summer appointment for 30 years because until the Idyllwild Inn began year-round operation in 1923, essentially everyone had primary homes elsewhere. Hannahs, whose winter home was in San Jacinto, held the Rayneta position for five summers before relinquishing it to a series of annual appointees.

Walter Lindley opened his ill-fated sanitarium in 1901 and welcomed the post office to its premises. It was renamed “Idyllwild,” and Hannahs returned as postmaster.

When fire destroyed the sanitarium in 1904, Hannahs moved the post office to his “Wildwood” tract, probably into his new store located about where the fire station sits today. (He had a knack for snagging incoming tourists — Lower Pine Crest Avenue was then the main thoroughfare from Hemet.)

Hannahs landed an appointment as San Jacinto’s full-time postmaster in 1908, and the Idyllwild office migrated to the Idyllwild Inn. He returned in 1914, and Strong and Dickinson’s Idyllwild Mountain Park Co. soon evicted him, sending the post office back to his store.

In 1917 Claudius Lee Emerson bought the Idyllwild Inn and built a new general store facing it across what is now Park Lane. Hannahs was invited to occupy a corner of that store, but as the village grew, the store needed that space. So in 1925 Emerson moved Hannahs and the post office back to the Idyllwild Inn, giving it its own entrance for the first time.

Hannahs died in 1931 and was succeeded by his widow, Sarah, before Harry Wendelken took over for 15 years starting in 1934. His first project was lobbying Washington for more frequent mail delivery between November and April. He only got it increased from three days a week to four.

By 1941, when the store burned down and the resort was in receivership, the post office finally had its own building, which is now the hair salon and candy store next door to the venerable log cabin real estate office on North Circle.

Postwar population growth demanded larger facilities, so in 1961 the post office moved to Ridgeview Drive in the building now occupied by Nature’s Wisdom. By the late 1970s, that space became too cramped, leading the post office to its present location in Strawberry Plaza.

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