I have discovered what just about everyone else knows-the post office is a great place.

For some 26 years in public office, I have not personally used the services of a post office. Oh, our office used the post office, but we would hand off mail to the postman, or we would things to the post office both in Riverside and North Riverside. The service was always good.

Now I am answering all of the referred mail from my previous offices. It all comes to my house in a deluge. And, I must respond to it, personally. No more secretaries or staff help. Needless to say, I have been busy, and I am now making almost daily visits to the post office. So far, I have only gone to the Riverside post office, but am also planning to go to North Riverside to check it out too.

I have discovered that the post office is a great place. For one thing, it is a gathering place for just about everyone. I meet old friends, make new friends and pick up all the in-betweens, too. Everyone shares opinions or small talk, and in general, highlights what small-town America is all about. It is really a most enjoyable experience. It’s about the closest Riverside is going to get to have a cracker barrel locale. And, the service is wonderful.

For those who are not frequent post office visitors, let me also tell you that there are some great gifts to be had there for birthdays and special days. I found all sorts of first day issues and photos involving the Chicago Bears which make for great Valentine gifts.

Granted, after the Super Bowl loss of Sunday, there may not be a run on Bears memorabilia, but for those who hold out hope for future years, these nicely blocked pictures and first day issues are items which one could not get at just any store.

And it’s not just the Bears. The display at the post office also features such first-day issues and photos for Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley the armed forces, baseball teams and all sorts of other interesting items.

I know that I will be back for more as holidays come up because these items are unique and they are reasonable, and I figure that by buying them, I am supporting a basic, American institution-the post office.

The post office gets a bad rap from time to time in the press about bureaucrats and mistakes and things like that. But, by and large, where could anyone ever get such deliveries for the price.

A while back and when former Congressman Bob Madigan was secretary of the post office, I recalled writing him about my concern regarding a news story, noting that it cost the Washington D.C. operation a cool half million dollars to toss a Christmas party.

Although not a Scrooge, I thought a half million was a bit heady for taxpayers. Secretary Madigan, at the time, wrote back that it was all in the name of good morale. I retorted that in our office, individuals paid their own way for a Christmas party, and even sold candy bars to help underwrite it.

I never heard back. I am hopeful that with all my enthusiasm for the post office, that the Christmas party thing got cleared up. But then, that’s Washington, where tax dollars flow with abandon. It is not here where we are getting a great deal for our money.