I remember riding there in his truck to pick up the mail when I was in elementary school. The building is very small, practically one room, painted white on the outside. It's just down the road from some railroad tracks and one of John Wilkes Booth's hideouts. Inside the post office is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling brass boxes, except for one wall that's a counter to pick up packages.
I'd walk in with my dad and watch him open the box to get the mail. To me the box was really high up and my dad was a giant. If someone he knew was there they'd stop and shoot the shit for a little bit. Someone was there more often than not.
That post office is closing, because of some fuck up with the lease and the fact that the United States Postal Service is always looking to streamline and save money.
Up 301 from Bel Alton is La Plata. Nobody in Maryland can pick out Bel Alton on a map unless they live there, but La Plata is known to some, being near Waldorf which practically everyone knows. There was a little diner there - I want to say it was Danny's - with these wonderful bar stools upholstered in green bean green that spun in place. They made delicious meatball subs that I ate all the time, until I nearly choked on one, and terrific crispy french fries.
A hurricane blew through La Plata while I was away at college and wrecked a lot of the buildings along 301. All of them came back; a lot of them came back different. I'm not sure that was the actual death knell for Danny's, but it's gone now.
Between Bel Alton and La Plata there was a restaurant called Twin Kiss. Maybe soda shop is the best term for it. It was a red brick building, distinctive. One half was black-speckled white tables and chairs and a counter to the kitchen where you could order burger and fries - it's the only place I know of that would serve crinkle-cut fries and make them work. There were arcade machines too, Galaga and Pac-Man and for a while a Simpsons arcade machine, which back then was premium gaming. The other half, past a line of tables near the windows, had a different counter that served soft ice cream twisted up high on a cone, with sprinkles if you liked. You could even drive up to a window to pick up your treat, or sit on the benches outside and watch the cars drive by.
Twin Kiss endures, despite changing owners and names and styles fifty times over. Something in the place refuses to die. It's the Texas Ribs & BBQ now, the crinkle cut fries are most likely gone, but they still proudly serve Twin Kiss ice cream to passerby and presidents alike.
I don't make it back to Charles County very often, usually only to see family for the holidays. A lot has changed over the years, a lot has gone. But there's something comforting in knowing I can go home and get a tall cone of soft ice cream, even today.
Postal service needs a solid plan
When I was a child, I went with my father to the Bel Alton post office to pick up our mail. We lived well off the beaten path, where delivery wasn’t an option. I’d watch my dad collect our letters and chat with whomever else might be there. It was a good place for members of the community to keep in touch.
Now the post office is closing, for no apparent reason, and customers like my father are being left in the lurch. Will they be able to get a post office box at the La Plata branch? Will they have to change their addresses? No one seems to have answers.
If the U.S. Postal Service can’t keep the Bel Alton office’s current building open, there are alternative locations. Couldn’t it rent room at Bel Alton’s school? The building has space available. Wouldn’t it be better to keep a local community center open, at the very least until there’s a solid plan to replace it?