CORTEZ – A few times a week 88-year-old Mary Green hops in her 2005 Honda and drives three blocks to the post office. She has to. There is no mail delivery to her home.
In fact, no one in the historic fishing village of Cortez — population of roughly 4,000 — receives home mail delivery or has a mail box.
“We like it that way,” Green said.
United States Post Office, Cortez, Florida, 34215, is usually a busy place most mornings. Residents walk or take their cars or ride their golf carts to pick up their mail.
The mail is kept locked up in one of 1,318 small post office boxes residents can access with a key. Until the mid 1990s, the mailboxes had combination locks on them.
It is not unusual for small towns in Florida not to receive home mail delivery, but it is not commonplace either.
Residents say they like it this way for several reasons: it is a way to meet socially, get exercise, check the neighborhood message board on the side the building and retain part of the village’s rich history.
They also don’t want home mailboxes for safety reasons.
“I’ve heard lots of stories and seen people lose checks in mailboxes,” resident Richard Culbreath said. “When you raise that red flag, that’s a telltale sign and people will come in.
“We’ve never had any mailboxes. Whenever there is any talk about bringing them in we always say we don’t want them.”
Culbreath is 80 and walks about a mile most days to the post office on Cortez Road.
“It’s about all I can do,” he said. “Back’s been kind of bothering me lately.”
The post office is in a small strip mall next to a barbershop, restaurant and laundry. Some residents, like former Postmaster Wyman Coarsey, walk up for coffee at the restaurant and then check their mail.
“Sometimes I see people here I wouldn’t see otherwise, so it’s kind of a social thing,” resident Atlas Kight said.
She moved to Cortez in 1961 and believes the current post office has been at its present site since 1960. She worked at the Cortez post office for many years, retiring in 1989.
Keeping history alive
Green — who, at 88, is the oldest woman living in Cortez who was born there — is well-known for her historical knowledge of the village.
The original post office was built in 1895 and was part of what was called “Bratton Store.” That building has been preserved in the village.
Green said a man named Henry Foreman used to carry mail back and forth between Cortez and Bradenton on a one-seat horse buggy.
Green said the post office moved to a fishing dock, but was destroyed by a fierce hurricane in 1921.
It then was moved to a grocery store owned by her uncle, Thomas Fulford, until it was given to an 18-year-old woman named Elizabeth Guthrie, who became the postmaster.
“I think it was remarkable,” Green said. “She was probably the youngest postmaster in Florida, and she was a woman.”
Her parents, Bessie and Joe, ran the post office. They also owned the Albion Inn, which is where the post office was.
It also moved to a house across the street from the hotel for a time before it landed at its current location.
“The post office was very important to us especially during the war,” Green said. “My aunt and uncle had five sons and all of them were in the service.
“We would get a letter from one of them and say, ‘OK, he’s fine. Now which one do we worry about next?’ ”
She remembers attending Florida State College for Women in the 1940s and sometimes receiving several letters a day from back home. Her friends thought she had a lot of boys trying to date her.
“Everyone thought I was some hot chick,” she said.
The letters were really from a boy in Cortez who had a crush on her but she never dated. He kept writing her anyway.
On Friday she was planning on driving her Honda to the post office to drop off a birthday card for her 10-year-old great-grandson.
The Cortez post office has long been part of her history as well as the fishing village’s history.
“And we like to keep our history alive,” she said.