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Post office perseveres in Bridal Veil

One third of the old lumber town, the church, is set to be demolished by the Trust for Public Lands
by: Jim Clark A pleasant clutter fills the office of the 100-square-foot Bridal Veil post office staffed by Geri Canzler.

The community of Bridal Veil will shrink by one-third when the Trust for Public Land, owners of most of the former lumber mill town, tears down the 70-year-old Bridal Veil Community Church.

Demolition of the church was expected to take place this week, according to Rod and Geri Canzler, leaders of the Bridal Veil Preservation Society. Geri Canzler is postmaster of the Bridal Veil post office, the flag-flying, time-defying, 100-square-foot, one-woman nerve center of the vanishing community.

Rod Canzler heads the congregation of the Bridal Veil church, which moved to a church in Springdale last fall. Last week, they salvaged the windows and original knotty pine paneling, cut at the Bridal Veil mill, from the doomed building.

The demolition of the church leaves only the town's historic cemetery, recently vandalized by a herd of rutting elk, and the hamlet's tiny post office to carry on the name. The Bridal Veil mill was one of the longest running mills west of the Mississippi, said logging historian Chuck Rollins. It once included a whole town of houses, a school and stores.

The post office, which will turn 125 years old next year, appears to have dodged another bullet. It wasn't on last week's list of some 800 postal stations in the nation to be closed. And the quaint building, clad in rough-cut wooden siding, has weathered an inspection of its scant facilities subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The inspection was amusing, admits Geri, who has been postmaster since 2006. It calls for widening the front door and lowering a tiny writing shelf in the foyer (which holds four people, tops) to benefit the post office's one wheelchair-using patron and any others who might come along. In a pinch, Geri pops out the back door and waits on her handicapped customer at his car.

And despite the fact that the building has no running water and only a tiny portable toilet for extreme emergencies, (Geri, who lives about three blocks away, swears she would never use it) the law requires handholds in the toilet facility. The rest of the requirements, quite reasonably, have been waived.

Even without a toilet, the building is a cozy retreat from most, but not all, of the East Wind and Geri holds forth there, greeting customers and sharing news, six days a week, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. She keeps rare Saturday office hours to accommodate the scores of brides and families who post their wedding invitations there, all hand-canceled with the Bridal Veil stamp by Geri, who mailed some 100,000 invitations last year.

There also are the uninvited.

She likes to pull back the drawer of her sturdy safe to show the top surface ruffled with pry marks where burglars have failed. The lower front panel beneath the service window is covered in steel after burglars sawed through the previous wallboard.

'For $25?' she asks, wryly.

For all its woes, the little post office perseveres. Daffodils grow in a rock-bordered bed by the side door. They clash with worker orange cones that Geri puts up to keep the mail truck from bashing the building and knocking it over the bank.

Rocks - which are plentiful in Bridal Veil - are the post office's protective guardians, something like lions perched in front of big city post offices.

'George Erdenberger put those big rocks out front to keep people from driving into the building,' she points out.

A little shovel work detours a wannabe creek that runs toward the structure, which has no foundation. In the light of the window, on top of the printer, Geri is sprouting the sweet peas destined to grow on the front porch.

About a half block west, where a stream that she calls Postal Creek flows under the road, is her irrigation system. In the summer she jams a length of pipe into the rocks in the creek bed and uses it to fill buckets of water to haul to her flowers.

All repairs to the building are done by volunteers of the Bridal Veil Preservation Society.

But some days, it's one step ahead and two steps back.

Canzler and her husband were leaders in protecting the historic Bridal Veil cemetery, next door to their home. They drew in volunteers and Boy Scouts to straighten and mend the gravestones. Daffodils and violets bloom there now. But the turf is scarred and gouged and some stones have been toppled.

'Elk having a party,' she says, pursing her lips. 'They were here for (a wink and a whisper) sex.'

Bridal Veil Post Office facts

• Age: 124 years old, launched as part of the mill town of Bridal Veil on July 7, 1887.

• Building: The post office wandered around the community. The present building, 70 to 80 years old, was first a rock shop, then a first aid shed, and later a file shop for the mill.

• Capacity: 60 boxes, 53 rented.

• Rating the small post office category: Ochopee near the Everglades in Florida (62 square feet) and Wheeler Springs in California are smaller.

• To get there: Interstate 84 east, Bridal Veil exit, take a right just off the freeway bridge.