Nameless: The downside of privacy

A few weeks ago I posted this photo of a mailbox. I speculated about groundhogs snoozing abed under the snow.

A country mailbox with no name written on it.
The mailbox with no name.

But I really took this picture about a year ago, not thinking about groundhogs at all. I took it while on a drive with my mother on the country roads around my hometown. As we drove, I was struck by something: the mailboxes had no names written on them.

In my youth, every mailbox at the end of every country drive bore the name of the homeowner. The letters might be scrawled crookedly, or the stick-on kind you find at the hardware store, or beautiful script, but they were there. During country drives you would pass by and say, “Oh, there’s the Miller place,” or “The McLaughlins live there.”

No more.

The namelessness feels like a dent in community. Something that used to be open now closed.

Protecting our privacy is good, they say. Still, the need for it makes me sad. Nameless, if you will.

6 thoughts on “Nameless: The downside of privacy

  1. marianbeaman

    Whenever we got a new mailbox, maybe once during my childhood, my famous Aunt Ruthie would paint on it the words “Ray M. Longenecker” in lovely script lettering, black always. Now, we shrink from that delightful tradition because of privacy issues.

    Come to think of it, nameless mailboxes do feel like a dent in the community, Arlene. :-/

  2. karen

    Never thought about this until now, Arlene. Proud roadside signatures replaced by the “google car” joy-riding around capturing pics for street view.
    I vote to bring back mailbox namesakes. They have far more character. And history.

  3. Ally Bean

    I’ve only seen names on mailboxes when I lived in an apartment building. To my knowledge the mailboxes for individual houses have never had names on them around here. Interesting observation on your part, though.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I think the practice of names on village/town/city mailboxes was less common. Farm mailboxes used to have names in our area though. This is probably one of the stories that will make me as an old person – some day in twenty years when I start a story with, “Well, back in my day . . .”


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