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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Dex Rivett, at home in Folsom, displays a postcard mailed to him by his grandfather on Nov. 6, 1933 – the mail sent from what was then Sacramento's new post office on I Street. Dex was 11 years old at the time. His grandfather, Edgar Rivett, was a former postal worker.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    The postmark on a card Edgar Rivett sent his grandson that day reads "Nov. 6 1:30 PM 1933, Sacramento Terminal Sta."

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Edgar Rivett, as reported in The Bee, buys the first stamp at Sacrmento's new post office in 1933.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    A yellowed Bee news clipping dated Sept. 1 , 1948, shows Edgar Rivett, seated on the floor, right. The caption says: "These are the men who carried the mail in Sacramento during the early 1880s."

78 years later, recipient still has first mail sent from Sacramento post office

Published: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012 - 5:36 pm

Dexter "Dex" Rivett is 89 and says there are many things he doesn't recall.

Although he is otherwise sharp, he can be excused for not remembering a plain postcard he got from his grandfather in 1933, when Dex was 11 years old.

What is unusual about the card is that it was the documented first mail sent from the then-new Sacramento post office on I Street.

Even more surprising is that Rivett still has it.

U.S. Postal Service officials have been working for more than a year to move operations from that site to another downtown location, but negotiations with a new landlord have not been finalized.

The closure may occur this year, but 78 years ago, a Sacramento Bee reporter and photographer were on hand to document the opening on Nov. 6, 1933.

Edgar "Dad" Rivett, 74, was the first to buy stamps at the brand new building – a national recovery project with a steel skeleton, clad with granite and nearly 900 tons of Gladding-McBean terra cotta ornamentation.

Edgar Rivett, one of Sacramento's first letter carriers in the 1870s, bought 10 three-cent stamps directly from the postmaster.

He then mailed a letter to his daughter-in-law and the postcard to his grandson, Dexter.

The Bee story gave the boy's name and what was then his address on North Tuxedo Avenue in Stockton.

In preparation for a story on the possible post office closure, a reporter tracked Rivett down to Folsom, where he now lives, but he didn't remember the incident mentioned in the article.

It made him curious, though.

Rivett, a lively octogenarian with lots of great-grandchildren – "Seems like I meet a new one every week," he joked – went out to his neatly arrayed garage and got some boxes.

"After searching through some old boxes of stamps that had belonged to my father, and grandfather and finally to me, I got to the last box, almost to the bottom and I spotted the postcard," he said.

"I have to admit my heart went bump-bump when I ran into it," he said.

There's no doubt it's what the old story referred to.

It's addressed to Dexter Rivett on North Tuxedo and postmarked "Nov. 6 1:30 PM 1933, Sacramento Terminal Sta."

The back of the card reads: "Opening of new million-dollar P.O. and Federal Building. Was honored by being first purchaser of stamps at new building so keep this and also the stamp on your mother's letter in your collection. Love, 'Dad.' "

"That's his handwriting for sure," said Dex Rivett.

Whether he still has the stamp shown in the Bee article is another question, a "mystery," he said.

Normally, as stamp collectors, he or his father would soak or steam off the stamp and set it out to dry for an album.

He has more than a dozen three-cent stamps from that era, including a National Recovery Act stamp issued a few months earlier, but none is on an envelope or postmarked with the telltale date.

That stamp, with four figures and the motto "In Common Determination" is only worth about 20 cents anyway, according to websites, 30 cents if it were in pristine condition.

In Rivett's box of postal treasures were triangular stamps from Guatemala and panes of Chinese stamps so old they are stuck back to back.

There are a few albums, barely filled, and some clippings.

Rivett found a copy of the 1933 article the reporter called him about, pasted to a piece of paper and yellowed with age.

Also yellowed was a 1948 Bee clipping with a photo of his grandfather and other mailmen taken in the 1880s.

The same photo appeared with a 1954 Bee article about an earlier post office that was replaced by the 1933 building, which faces I street between Eighth and Ninth streets.

Now it may be time for that office to give way.

The USPS posted notices that it wanted to move and held hearings in January 2011.

It took officials of the General Services Administration, which manages the building, by surprise.

The agency said this week it still has not heard of an official move from USPS, and that usually a 120-day notice is required.

Box holders, including county and city departments, also had not heard of a move.

The building is occupied by other federal offices, which is part of the reason the Postal Service wants to move.

Patrons must go through metal detectors and switch on phones to demonstrate they work, just to buy a few stamps or check their P.O. boxes.

That intrusion is not much compared to what old postal workers endured.

Old news accounts reported the building was built with secret passageways so postal inspectors could spy on employees, even in the restrooms, to cut down on theft.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Carlos Alcalá



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