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ZipUSA: 33856
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By Melba NewsomePhotographs by David McLain



Neither rain nor heat nor gloom of night stops folks from living large at the unofficial retirement community of the National Association of Letter Carriers.



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Sure, the community's Lake Weohyakapka had an Air Force bombing range at one end, not to mention alligators. And what if it's so hot in the summer you can barely stand still on the shuffleboard courts? With an efficiency renting for under $75 in 1964, Nalcrest [Florida] was nirvana for postal retirees. It remains a bargain: A one-bedroom rents for only $305, and dinners at Jay Bee's II, the town's only restaurant, average $6.
 
The natural surroundings attract as many people as the low prices and warm weather. With half the land still undeveloped, Nalcrest is as much a nature preserve as a town. Hawks soar overhead, sandhill cranes stroll through town and peck at their reflections in windows, and "owls are the size of fire hydrants," says [Jerry] Kane, [the town's general manager].
 
And contrary to what you might expect from a community of Cliff Clavens, no one sits around reminiscing about Sears-catalog-induced hernias or half-mile (800-meter) sprints just ahead of an angry rottweiler. They're too busy with the stereotypical senior activities—bingo, bowling, art class. It's a lot like being in college (no jobs, few responsibilities, lots of parties) without the midterms. Just ask George and Mae Glascock, who cruise around on a BMW motorcycle with a sidecar. Or the all-male Literary Club and Choral Society, where the name Jim Beam can be heard more often at the weekly meetings than that of Hemingway, who seems to be revered more for his drinking prowess than his literary genius.
 
"I love the sense of community here," says Annette Alversa, who moved from Long Island several years ago when her postman husband retired after 35 years. "I used to say, 'I'm never going to live down there with all those old people.' I woke up one day, and I was one of those old people."
 
Unlike Annette, and unlike most women in Nalcrest, Grace Porter did not come here as a spouse. When Porter became a letter carrier in the late 1960s, she was a rarity and is now among the first wave of female retirees. After 27 years of walking up to five miles (eight kilometers) a day along a Kansas City mail route, Porter moved here in 1999 to put her feet up in a warmer climate. "After I retired, I swore I'd never walk again," says Porter, "but I walk every morning at 5:45."
 
The post office remains a regular stop for Porter and fellow retirees. By the time the tiny storefront opens at 10 a.m., a small group has already gathered in the town center around the bronze statue of Richard Quinn, a president of the 115-year-old union. While they appreciate Bob and Edie Raymond, the couple who work behind the small window four hours each day, no one envies them what surely must be the most thankless job in America—processing mail for hundreds of people who are certain they could do it better.

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Did You Know?
"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." I'd always thought that this famous quotation was the official slogan of the U.S. Postal Service and that the "couriers" it referred to were our intrepid letter carriers. Wrong! It is an adaptation of words penned around 500 B.C. by the Greek historian Herodotus. He was describing the relay messengers he observed delivering military information during the war between the Greeks and Persians. Twenty-four hundred years later the architect who designed the New York City General Post Office had it chiseled on the outside of that building. Ever since it has been identified with our postal carriers, and its origin has largely been forgotten.

—Abigail A. Tipton
Did You Know?

Related Links
National Association of Letter Carriers
www.nalc.org/
If you want to become a city letter carrier or learn more about the history of the union, visit this official association website.

American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
www.aahsa.org/
AAHSA is a national nonprofit organization offering information on nursing homes, continuing-care retirement communities, assisted-living residences, and senior housing facilities.

Administration on Aging
www.aoa.gov/
Created in 1965 with the passage of the Older Americans Act, AoA helps provide assistance and supportive services to older individuals and their families in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the United States.

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Bibliography
Blair, Bill. "Nalcrest to Honor Birth of Founder." The Ledger, February 19, 2002.

"NALC's Place in the Sun: Nalcrest." Postal Record (May 2003), 12-15.

"Nalcrest: A Retirement That's Union-made." Available online at
www.nalc.org.

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NGS Resources
Nelson, Andrew. "The Florida That Time Forgot." National Geographic Traveler (May/June 2003), 34-9.

Walton, Chelle Koster. "Barely Upscale." National Geographic Traveler (January/February 2000), 23.

Arnold, Kathy. The National Geographic Traveler: Florida. National Geographic Books, 1999.

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