Tom Quarfot watched sadly, with tears in his eyes, as they took down the post office sign on Wednesday, March 31, and removed the mailboxes from Gil's Store. Quarfot's parents, Gil and Betty, purchased the store in 1938. The post office had been located in the store since 1949.
March 31 marked the last day of post office box service for the small community in northeastern Kandiyohi County.
"After we were notified of Reed Quarfot's decision to close the store and not renew his post office contract in February, we tried to find another place in Hawick to take the post office," Marie Bakke, New London postmaster, said. "Nobody wanted the post office."
A community meeting was held on Feb. 18 to answer any questions area residents might have had about the pending changes.
Effective April 1, postal box delivery and retail services were changed to the New London Post Office, located seven miles away. The Hawick mail had been sorted in New London since Katie's retirement in 1996, then delivered to Hawick.
For the Hawick customers who already received their mail via rural delivery, they will experience no changes.
Those people not wanting to have a locked unit in the cluster erected rural mail boxes by their homes.
For post office box customers, cluster box units were installed near Monson Lumber. Cluster units are secure free-standing units of individually locked mail compartments installed and maintained by the postal service at no cost to the customer.
Two cluster units were placed in Hawick. Each unit contains 16 compartments. Bill Kidd, rural mail carrier for Hawick, arrives in town about 10:30 a.m. and opens the back of the cluster. The boxes are labeled with each customers name. Kidd said there are still six boxes empty.
The cluster also contains one box for outgoing mail.
"The people in Hawick have been wonderful about the closing," Bakke said. "Katie and Harold Paulson were the post office for so many years."
Bakke said the Hawick postal customers will have to start using their 911 addresses and will need to drop their post office box number.
Bakke is checking with the post office operations department in St. Paul to see if Hawick can keep its present zip code, 56246. Until further notice, everybody on the Hawick route can continue to use their Hawick zip codes.
The Hawick mail route runs from Lake Calhoun, south of Hawick, to just north of Highway 55. There are about 200 rural stops on the route, with only three homes on the route located north of Highway 55: Dave Holtz, Eldon Hoeft, and Ken Rohe.
If their zip codes are changed, it would become New London because the mail is sorted and the rural route is presently based in New London.
Bill Hoeft, who farms just south of Highway 55, said if he has to change his zip code to New London, he would prefer it be changed to Paynesville. "We shop in Paynesville, our kids go to school there and we attend church in Paynesville," he said. "It would only make sense to switch to a Paynesville zip code if and when the time arrives.
Dave Holtz, who lives north of Highway 55, didn't feel the closing of the Hawick Post Office affected them. "Our mail is already sorted in New London," he said. "However, if they change the zip code someday, then I would consider petitioning to switch our mail delivery to Paynesville."
Dan Severance, Paynesville Post-master, said the only time someone can change from one route to another is when routes overlap. "It isn't an easy procedure to change routes," he added.
Julie Bast, Hawick, opted to use the cluster unit. "I think I'll miss not being able to pick up small items when I get my mail. Often I would purchase milk or a can of soup when I got the mail," Bast said.
Bernie Monson said the closing of the post office is just another sign of the times for small communities.
Bakke said they are trying to keep everybody updated on the Hawick route. "The Hawick mail carrier, Bill Kidd, has bent over backwards to make this a smooth transition for the Hawick people," Bakke said.
Post office history
According to Tom Quarfot, the post office had been managed by Olaf Hanson at one time, then it was moved across the street to the other grocery store and run by Lloyd Carlson. Quarfots took over the post office in 1949.
The Hawick community has had a post office since 1886, according to Quarfot, who grew up in Hawick. "At one time Hawick had a bank, two elevators, a beer joint, creamery, a big train depot, REA substation, cafes, and more," he said. Tom recalls that during the 1940s and 50s, his mother shipped 100,000 pounds of June grass each summer to Elrosa. The June grass field was located where Monson Lumber now stands.
"Hawick has seen a lot of transition over the years," Quarfot added. Reed Quarfot, the grandson of Gil and Betty Quarfot, took over the store and post office on Oct. 1, 1998.
"Reed closed the store because he didn't think he could make a living there," Diane Quarfot, his mother, said. "The town wasn't supporting the store. He gave it a try for six months before making the decision to close. Reed will continue to live above the store."
Bill Quarfot said his dad (Gil) traded his farm at Marine on the St. Croix for the hardware store in 1938. After the death of Gil and Betty Quarfot, the store was operated by their children and her sister, Katie Paulson and her husband, Harold, from 1966 to 1998.
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