More than a place for mail to gather

Sunset Beach residents enjoy their trips to the post office because they always meet someone they know, they say.

August 25, 2010|By Britney Barnes,
  • Corinne Brubaker, the postmaster at the Sunset Beach post office, hugs Cathy Firebaugh as she drops off packages Monday.
Corinne Brubaker, the postmaster at the Sunset Beach… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

Just as she has done for the last 50 years, Jean Hylton, 85, on Monday walked into the small, buttercup-yellow, one-story building on Pacific Coast Highway between 10th and 11th streets.

The building wasn't always yellow — it recently underwent a much-needed spruce that is almost done. The only thing missing is the sign on the front that reads, "Sunset Beach Post Office."

In navy jersey pants, a matching nautical striped shirt and large black sunglasses with her blond, curly hair, Hylton just stopped in to pick up her mail after running to the store like she does any other day.

But the simple task can't be done without running into someone she knows.

"It's very cozy," she said. "Everybody's here. You meet all your friends."

The post office, she said, hasn't changed much in half a century, but many in the community are concerned Huntington Beach will soon come in and ruin their small-town way of life now that the city is moving forward with annexing Sunset Beach, but what changes, if any, will happen under Huntington's stewardship remain to be seen.


Sunset's unique mail system, though, isn't up for takeover, Sunset Beach Postmaster Corinne Brubaker said.

"It's been this way since the beginning," she said. "Huntington Beach can't change the system."

In Sunset Beach, a small community of about 1,300 nestled just north of Huntington Beach between the Pacific Ocean and Huntington Harbour, residents don't have to worry about budget cuts to the post office taking away their Saturday delivery, because they've never gotten mail delivered on Saturdays, or any other day.

Residents pick up their mail from the yellow post office, leased by the U.S. Postal Service, where their mail is delivered to P.O. boxes. The building is open to everyone, and some Huntington Beach and Seal Beach residents pick up their mail there, but all Sunset Beach residents, renters and homeowners alike, have access to a numbered box free of charge.

Resident Richard Moody, 93, a contractor, built the post office right after he returned from World War II for a local who wanted a "little" building, he said. It started out as part ice cream parlor, part post office, and the post office portion ultimately took over the building, Moody said.

Sunset Beach residents have always had to pick up their mail, but it hasn't caught the ire of residents. Instead, it has the opposite effect.

Residents love going to pick up their mail, said Greg Griffin, president of the Sunset Beach Community Assn.

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