The South Pasadena Post Office exists in large part because of the New Deal programs instituted by FDR in the 1930s. Federal Relief Agencies put many South Pasadenans to work on projects ranging from building the Arroyo Seco control channel to adding terraces and walkways to Eddie Park. In fact, during this decade, most stores and businesses in South Pas hung up National Relief Administration Blue Eagle placards with the slogan, "We Do Our Part."
Since the city's incorporation, the post office bounced around from temporary place to place. It operated for a while out of a hotel, for a few years out of the Alexander Building. At one point it was a branch of the post office in Los Angeles and at another point it belonged to Pasadena. But in 1936 -- after some bickering with the federal government on architectural design standards -- South Pasadena finally got its very own post office building: the grand white structure still in operation today at the corner of Fremont and El Centro.
And who says big government programs can't work well! Not only did the city get a large, functional building, but it got beautiful art to adorn it. The Treasury Relief Art Project commissioned artist and former postal clerk John Law Walker to paint the mural in the new post office lobby. The scene represents a Concord mail coach -- a subject familiar to the brand new South Pasadena postmaster, George Hugh Banning. He had written all about the mail vehicle in his book Six Horses.
It gives me great inspiration to buy stamps here and think about how so much utility and beauty came from using governmental ingenuity as well as the talent and labor of the citizenry to demolish the chains of the Great Depression. We could learn a lot from our recent past.