- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas (AP) - Glen McDonald, 83, knows exactly why Baybrook Mall wound up in a Friendswood ZIP code although it’s not in the city of Friendswood.

The Galveston County Daily News (https://bit.ly/2kqWSjF ) reports McDonald was the Friendswood postmaster from 1963 to 1980, and he was there when the U.S. Postal Service instituted ZIP codes.

“We had no ZIP codes,” McDonald said. “Each town had to set up its own.”

The postmaster of Webster worked with McDonald in 1963 to figure it out.

“We sat down with a map and grease pencil,” McDonald said. “We drew a line. Webster got everything on the right. Friendswood everything to the left.”

Other postmasters also were there, assigning ZIP codes that made the most sense based on geography and existing rural routes. Houston didn’t attend, McDonald said.

“Where Baybrook Mall is now was a cow pasture,” he said. It was also along a rural route that served five homes. “When Baybrook Mall came in, Houston was interested then.”

The mail for Baybrook Mall came to McDonald’s office. Every day, he would deliver the mail to the mall.

Although Baybrook Mall and the surrounding area have a Friendswood mailing address, it actually is part of Houston’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The confusion of having a ZIP code with a Friendswood address affects business owners who thought their businesses were in Friendswood only to learn later they pay sales taxes to Houston. Some retailers might choose not to move to Friendswood, believing they already have stores in the city. Nearby residents think they moved to Friendswood only to find out they can’t vote in city elections.

The Baybrook Mall area is included in a five-mile band extraterritorial jurisdiction around Houston’s city limits that Houston intends to annex one day, but it hasn’t yet. Within its extraterritorial jurisdiction, Houston has limited regulatory authority, according to the city’s website.

“We recognize that ZIP codes are often appropriated by other entities for purposes other than mail delivery,” said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Kanickewa “Nikki” Johnson in an emailed statement. “It’s important to note that the U.S. Postal Service does not assign addresses. Because ZIP codes are designed and utilized primarily for mail delivery, they often don’t correspond to other types of jurisdictional boundaries, such as county or municipal lines or congressional districts.”

The mall markets itself to customers and potential tenants as being in Houston. “There are no apparent issues,” said Jeff Gionette, mall general manager.

The population of Friendswood in 1963 was 1,000, and the post office only had 350 boxes and three employees, McDonald said.

He started the job of postmaster in 1963, but he wasn’t confirmed until 1965.

“Everything was political in those days,” McDonald said. “The Democrat and Republican parties suggested people to be postmaster.”

Someone suggested McDonald’s name and President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him, then the U.S. Senate approved him. He has all the letters in a scrapbook.

Although carriers had rural routes, the post office had no mail delivery inside the city. To have city delivery, Friendswood needed house numbers.

“I met with the city council,” McDonald said. “They said, ‘We’ll loan you our city secretary and a map.’ The city secretary and I sat on the floor for four nights assigning numbers to houses.”

In 1967, Friendswood built a new post office because of the town’s growth. By 1976, the city outgrew that one and needed a new facility. Both times, McDonald had to scout for the land.

The U.S. Postal Service started hiring postmasters instead of politicians appointing them. In 1980, McDonald quit his job as postmaster and returned to being a mail carrier.

“It was more money,” he said. The stress and the frustration also played a part in his decision.

“Nobody ever calls the post office and tells them they are doing a good job,” he said.

To honor his service as postmaster, the city proclaimed Aug. 8, 1980, as Glen McDonald Day. Officials planned a ceremony, but it never happened. Hurricane Allen was on its way.

“A hurricane came and they evacuated the town,” McDonald said. “My big day and a hurricane ruins it.”


Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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