Romance Post Office lives up to its name

ROMANCE — In the 1880s, a new town in White County needed a name. The settlers were former Kentucky residents, so they wanted to call themselves Kentucky Village. But the American post refused them for fear of confusion with the State of Kentucky.

Then someone suggested a second choice, or at least that’s the story. The alternative was inspired by a nearby shady spring that attracted young couples coming together to court, perhaps to hug and kiss. The idea caught on, which is why a flood of sealed and stamped Valentine’s Day cards pours into the Romance Post Office at the beginning of every February.

“I believe we’re the only city in the world to be called Romance, and that’s quite a distinction,” says John Parham, postmaster of the office, which serves about 400 scattered addresses. “So we’re having a lot of fun putting the Romance stamp on Valentine’s Day cards and wedding invitations.”

The Natural State’s Romance is likely the only entry on the US Postal Service’s online list of 37 nationwide postmarks that evoke Valentine’s Day. They go alphabetically from two cities called Bliss (in Idaho and New York) to three called Venus (in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas). The punderful Kissimmee is also listed for Florida.

Romance’s ties to Valentine’s Day date back at least half a century. Its stature as a love-related post office was highlighted in 1990 when it was chosen by the Postal Service as the location for the first Love Stamp issue of that year. Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony was US Senator David Pryor.

In 2020, just before the covid-19 pandemic took hold, the Romance cancellation stamp was applied to approximately 12,000 Valentine’s Day cards. The number fell by about half in 2021 but is increasing this year.

Most cancellation requests come from the Arkansans. But some are sent from elsewhere in the United States. A few came from overseas, including a letter sent last year from Japan. It was sent by 84-year-old Shintarau Aoki, who began with the greeting “Konnichiwa!” (“Hello!”).

Aoki wrote, “I am very interested in all kinds of postmarks. Would you do me a big favor.” She sent several US stamps to pay for the return postage. According to Parham, “this may be the furthest we’ve ever sent our special stamp.”

A special undo adorns the Valentine’s Day cards sent by Romance. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler) Parham knew about the annulment process long before he became postmaster in 2015. He had it postmarked in 2007 on the approximately 200 wedding invitations sent by his future wife, Kristen.

“A lot of people told us they thought the stamping was neat,” he says. “It was a talking point at the reception. I send Kristen a Valentine every year with the Romance stamp. It’s a personal touch that has become a family tradition.”

romantic post office

  • Address: 292 Arkansas 31, Romance, AR 72136.
  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday
  • Information: (501) 556-5911. Also available at Rose Bud Post Office, (501) 556-5126. The US Postal Service website is usps.com.
  • Romantic cancellation: Cards intended for Romance cancellation should be placed in sealed envelopes bearing first class stamps. They can be dropped off during office hours, but should not be dropped off in the outside collection box. They can also be mailed in a larger envelope to: Valentine’s Day Postmark, 292 Arkansas 31, Romance, AR 72136.

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