By Joseph Robertia
Living in a small community like Kasilof, it’s easy to take for granted the smiles and warm greeting of the people who make up daily routines. But with longtime U.S. Postal Service clerk Carol Marsh retiring at the end of the month, there will soon be one less familiar face to see while doing mail transactions.
“I’ll still be living here, I just won’t be working at the post office anymore,” she said. Her last day at work is Feb 28.
This could come as a big change to Kasilof postal customers, since for nearly 30 years Marsh has worked the counter of the Kasilof Post Office, both at its current building and back when it used to be located inside the store now known as the Kasilof Mercantile.
“It was tiny, dirty and pretty horrible,” Marsh said of the original post office.
Born and raised in Anchorage, Marsh began working for the USPS in 1984, not long after graduating high school and college with a science degree. She initially hoped to pursue a career in a biological field, and worked seasonally for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
But permanent job openings were few and far between, and with the passing of time and growing fiscal responsibilities, she wanted employment that was more stable and full-time to help her build a life.
“When I was seasonal for Fish and Game, the bank wouldn’t even give me a loan,” she said. “I wanted a family, a house, horses, a garden — all the things that I have now. The post office job enabled me to do all that.”
The first few years she was working at the post office, she was stationed in Soldotna, and the work was a lot different then.
“It was all fan scales back then, that’s how we weighed everything. And there was lots of paper and hard copies for everything. It wasn’t like now where everything is digital weighing, and immediate, with electronic scanning and on a satellite system. We’re living in a technical age now,” she said.
Since she lived in Kasilof, she transferred closer to home with the first job opening. After a few years in the tiny, in-store post office with a few hundred boxes, she transferred to the new, larger log building still in use at the intersection of Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Sterling Highway.
“I moved to this building in 1988 and I’ve been here ever since,” she said. “We went up to about 600 boxes when we moved, and now we’re at about 1,276, which is pretty close to being full. We’ve only got about 20 boxes available, but that’s about what they expected when I started here, that it would take about 20 years to fill up.”
In addition to more boxes from the growing population, Marsh said that the nature of the mail has also changed over the years. When she started, there was no option to pay bills online. There were no Internet options for shopping, either, so there were many times more catalogs being mailed to Alaska than there are now.
“There’s less mail volume and catalogs, for sure. Now it just seems like it’s the big companies sending them out, like Cabela’s, L.L. Bean and similar companies,” she said. “And of course there was no Netflix when I started, but that’s been a good thing to have. It keeps people coming in to empty their boxes more regularly.”
After nearly three decades of service, which Marsh said went by “in the blink of an eye,” she said that the thought of no longer coming to work is bittersweet.
“It’s not just names and faces. It’s a community out here. It’s swapping stories, hearing how everyone was doing, who was sick or whatever else was going on in the community. I’m going to really miss that, seeing everyone and talking with everyone,” she said.
“Missing everyone will be huge,” she added. “It’s been fun to see kids grow up and have their own kids, and see who stays and who goes. And it’s been fun meeting the new people who come up and hearing what brought them.”
That’s been the good side of the job. Marsh said she won’t miss hauling 75-pound packages around, and dealing with a schedule that was quite unpredictable, particularly at high-volume mail times, like the holidays.
But she is looking forward to life after her postal career. Her husband retired several years ago, and they have two sons, including one with muscular dystrophy. Marsh said that they are looking forward to the extra time they’ll be able to spend together due to her retirement.
“There’s a lot we want to do as a family and this will give us a chance to get a jump on those things. I’m also looking forward to bailing hay, working in the garden, and doing other things around the house,” she said.