Your Corner Mailbox Could Be Stamped Out

mail boxes
Allentown's central post office, where the boiler room is becoming a mailbox morgue.

The U.S. Postal Service announced last week that it is on a pace to lose $7 billion this year, mainly because of the recession and the continued movement of letters and bills to e-mail. To save money, hundreds of post offices could be shuttered, and mail delivery could be cut to five days a week. And that's not all. CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports that familiar blue mailbox on your corner may be going the way of the pay telephone - gone.

In Otisfield, Maine, a town so small that it doesn't even have its own zip code, the decision by the U.S. Postal Service to remove its lone blue mail box hit Town Clerk Sharon Matthews personally.

"You know, we don't have a lot, but what we have we want to keep," Matthews said.

The mailbox sits outside the Town Office on Otisfield's main road - State Route 121. The nearest post office is an inconvenient, 4-mile drive to the next town.

"We took a stand," Matthews said.

Residents stood and complained after a white notice taped to the mailbox last month announced it would be removed in 10 days.

"No heads up at all," Matthews said.

The reason? Not enough letters. Any mailbox averaging fewer than 25 pieces a day is stamped for removal.

And it's not just in small towns. Here in Allentown, Pa., the state's third largest city, and across the nation, about half of these mailboxes have been removed in just the last four years.

Historian Joe Garrera says the blue mailbox, around since 1850, is becoming an antique.

"We don't send letters, we don't write letters like we used to," said Garrera, the executive director of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum.

Blame e-mail. The Postal Service certainly does. But Garrera says the loss is not only in postal revenue.

"Historians rely on letters and diaries to reconstruct the past," Garrera said. "And one of the things that we bemoan about is the fact that these letters are not going to exist in the future."

At Allentown's central post office, its boiler room is becoming a mailbox morgue. Boxes that have seen their "last collection" day are gathering dust, waiting to be scrapped.

"Same as any other corporation out there or business, we're trying to reduce our cost to better other areas of the postal service," said Mario DiPatrizio, the postmaster in Allentown.

That cost saving argument was a hard sell in Otisfield. On the day we visited, the daily pickup took less than 60 seconds. There were about 50 letters, and that's enough - along with the outcry - for Otisfield's blue mailbox to get a reprieve, for now.

"We just really thought we should stand for our rights and not just be mowed over, saying, 'You don't count,'" Matthews said.

Counting the letters - until they stop coming.