ST. GEORGE — Running a post office from their side porch for 46 ½ years has been challenging and rewarding for one Kane County couple. Orval and Gerta Lowry Palmer will retire from operating the Alton, Utah, post office at the end of December.

The Palmer home has been the Alton Post Office for 46 1/2 years and operated by Orval and Gerta Palmer, Alton, Utah, unspecified date | Photo courtesy of Cynthia Palmer, St. George News

Tall snow drifts and a high deer population are some of the hurdles the Palmers faced while running the service out of their rural home. Alton sits in the mountains at around 7000 feet above sea level. Gerta Palmer said they received eight feet of snow in 2022.

“We are in the mountains and because we were among the deer and the deer are just all over, so traveling can be a challenge,” Mrs. Palmer told St. George News.

Palmer said the main roads are plowed and she is grateful since she raised six children there. They were bussed to school 18 miles away. Her children are grown and all but one has moved away to different parts of the country.

She added now they have outside cats “to keep the mice away.”

When the Palmers purchased the home, it had already held the post office for 25 years. So, the couple decided to keep it going. They kept the original porch room as the post office.

“The mail is delivered to us in a big box outside and then we bring it in and sort it and put it in the mailboxes,” Palmer said.

The favorite part of the job for the Palmers is visiting with residents when they pick up their mail. She also appreciates that a neighbor comes and clears the walkway in the winter so people can access the post office. Her husband Orval added that he really enjoyed helping people get their mail all these years. Orval also served as the town’s mayor.

Orval and Gerta Palmer will retire from operating the Alton Post Office in their home at the end of December after 46 1/2 years, Alton, Utah, unspecified date | Photo courtesy of Cynthia Palmer, St. George News

“Running the post office kinda keeps us in the know and being aware of things in the community,” Palmer said. “The town itself has changed in that older people have passed away. But the older ones have grandchildren that are here. And some have moved out, but for the most part, it’s original families still.”

The mayor of Alton, Justin Cox, said the community is grateful for the couple’s consistent service. His grandfather, Allen Cox, was the postmaster previously.

“When Orval and Gerta took it over, the Postal Service actually cut their pay and didn’t offer benefits,” Cox said. “So the Palmers have been getting paid but not near what they should have. They have been doing a service for the community for so many years.”

Cox added the Palmers are a unique couple. Orval grew up in Alton. Gerta was from Oakley, Idaho.

“Orval was just a cowboy. He grew up moving cows and riding. So he would ride the horse over to Hatch, check on cows and then ride back the next day and help with the mail,” Cox said.

When the couple first took over postal duties on July 10, 1976, the post office was open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Palmer said later that the Postal Service cut down their hours and wages. However, she added that they were given more work because digital standards emerged.

Over the years, she has seen the amount of letters dwindle.

“A lot of things changed,” she said. “When we first started doing the mail, we had lots of letters. And then the Internet came and things changed and gradually, over time, it’s been packages more than letters.”

The couple retires at the end of the year and say they will miss seeing the town’s residents regularly.

“It’s going to be something that we’re gonna have a big adjustment on,” Mr. Palmer said. “I think that’s going to be kind of hard.”

Cox said the town will let whoever gets the new contract from the Postal Service rent the “the primary room” in the city offices that are in a building that was previously a church. Residents will have access to their mailboxes during city building hours and the post office service may run two hours per weekday.

According to the website, Alton was settled by Lorenzo Roundy and his first wife, Susanna Wallace, in 1857. In the 1930s, Alton’s population reached its peak of 350 and currently has around 140 residents.

Alton postmasters starting in 1904 include, Nellie Hoyt Roberton, Ethyl Roudy, Charlotte “Lottie” Hoyt, Allen Cox, Orval and Gerta Palmer.

Photo Gallery

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.