Hays postmaster Donnie Shubert remembers when the local post office gave tours to schoolchildren. Shubert has a hidden treasure in the dimly lit basement of the post office at 706 Fort, and he would like to once again share it with wide-eyed youngsters.
After going down a flight of stairs, one is struck immediately by the presence of a large mural on one wall. The approximate 24-foot-wide by seven-foot-tall mural depicts a Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoach attacked by Native Americans while delivering the mail. The mural was such a big work of art that local painter Vernon Barber had it done on two canvases, joined together.
“It speaks volumes of the history of everything,” Shubert said. “It should be in a museum, I think; it’s that good.”
Back in the early 1980s, when the local post office was in between postmasters, a temporary replacement was put in charge. That replacement, Edward McClellan from Chicago, was a history buff and had the mural painted, likely sometime between December 1982 and May 1983, when he was in charge.
“It was a wonderful addition to reflect western history of our area,” former Hays postmaster Tom Lippert said. “We were very fortunate to have it on display.”
Doug Innes, who worked at the Hays post office while McClellan was in charge, and who later became Hays postmaster, thought the large mural was “interesting” and was impressed. “It certainly added to the room.”
Lippert said McClellan was instrumental in turning part of the basement into a museum, in addition to the mural.
“He enjoyed collecting artifacts from different post offices,” Lippert said. “The intent was to promote it, get good light on (the mural). We were just never able to get that accomplished.”
Although many of the artifacts that were on loan are no longer in the basement of the post office, there still is enough of a collection to catch your eye. There is an old-time customer service window, scales to weigh packages, old wanted posters and more. There even is a 1910 certificate of recognition from President William Howard Taft, honoring the newly-named postmaster for Phillipsburg.
Lippert, Hays postmaster from 1991 to 2012, still remembers the mural and tours of the museum.
“The mural, we felt, never had the proper lighting,” said Lippert, adding the local post office requested funding for additional lighting that was never received. “It definitely enhanced the museum, the tours that we were giving.”
Shubert, the local postmaster for six years, was surprised to learn recently of another mural while he was showing the large mural. One of his employees mentioned the smaller mural, in another room. Stored away, not even on a wall, was another work of art from Barber. This one was another stagecoach delivering the mail, with a cowboy waving hello underneath a shade tree. Lippert said that painting used to be displayed on a stand next to the office downstairs.
Shubert said he was open to the idea of schoolchildren touring once again to see the collection of artifacts and view the mural. For anyone interested, they should call the post office at 785-625-2012 and ask for Shubert or carrier supervisor Vic Geerdes.
“I feel like it shouldn’t be hidden in a basement,” for no one to see, Shubert said.