After three decades working as a postal clerk, including 27 years at the Seaside post office, Carol St. John is looking forward to retirement.

"I've been sending mail to snowbirds for 31 years," she said, "and now I get to join them!"

St. John retired at the end of August after serving Seaside as a mail clerk since 1986. Her husband, Rudy St. John, who worked as a postmaster for Cannon Beach, Ilwaco and Naselle since 1997 was a month ahead of her: He retired last July.

"Retirement's interesting," Rudy St. John said, noting that by the time you retire, your to-do list has become more like a scroll.

"You have a list that's 30 years long," he said.

The St. Johns, who live in Warrenton, will savor their time on the North Coast by kayaking, reading and catching up with old friends.

It's odd for the couple to wake up and not head into the post office, where they both spent so many hours over the years.

"It's kind of strange not to work," Rudy St. John said. "It's kind of like everday's Sunday, and you wonder if you need to get your clothes ready for the week."

After 27 years working in Seaside, Carol St. John will miss the daily interactions with townspeople and the connectedness such conversations foster.

"Seaside is a good community," she said. "People support each other."

That support is evident in the post office, which, in smaller communities like Seaside, functions as a true community hub.

"You're pretty much friends with the whole community," Carol St. John said, pointing out that she often played the role of town confidant.

"Sometimes you're like a bartender," she said.

During his time as postmaster at Cannon Beach, where he worked from 1997 to 2004, Rudy St. John also experienced the close-knit nature of Oregon's North Coast.

"If you look at Cannon Beach ... that post office is a meet-and-greet place," he said. "People would keep you abreast of what's going on."

Not only did locals keep the St. Johns abreast of the towns’ happenings, they also made sure that grumpy vacationers didn't give them any guff.

"Tourists came and they're kind of frazzled," Carol St. John said. "People in line would just nail them: 'Treat her with respect.'"

Rudy St. John recalled a time when a Cannon Beach visitor wanted to know whether something was "in town or out of town," and an 80-year-old local gave the visitor the lay of the land.

The old-timer pointed north, then south, before turning to address the vacationer: "Look this way. Look that way. If you can't see it, it's out of town."

The St. Johns both relished the integral role the post office plays in small communities, and both acknowledge how much things have changed during their postal tenures.

As younger generations have become more dependent on the Internet and cell phones for communication, they have lost that connection to the post office.

"I had a young lady in from Chicago," Carol St. John said. "She didn't know how to address an envelope or how to write a check."

The St. Johns recounted a story from their granddaughter's recent birthday party that seemed to sum up the generational gap: Instead of sending out thank-you cards to all the gift-givers, their daughter, Erin, simply recorded a thank-you video of the child and posted it on Facebook.

"The older generation thinks, 'How, rude, they don't send thank-you cards,'" Carol St. John said.

In her 31 years, Carol St. John has seen firsthand just how fundamentally the way we communicate has changed.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, are the lines that snake out the door of the Seaside post office.

"That's one of the reasons I wanted to retire," she said. "The long lines, six days a week – they're a killer."

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