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Blog > Postcrossing Spotlight: M and Sir Owen!

We’ve written about postboxes on the blog before, like the very old post office tree in South Africa, or the barrel postbox in the Galapagos… but did you know there’s a very special postbox in Utah that has its own Postcrossing account?

Yup, you read that right! Her name is M (aka MthePostBox), and she lives in South Jordan (a leafy suburb of Salt Lake City), together with Sir Owen, a telephone booth which functions as a free library. They love postcards and books respectively — and when we stumbled on their profile, we found their story so charming that we just had to invite them for the blog. 😊

Sir Owen and M

Sir Owen and M

Could you introduce yourselves to the community?

M: Certainly! I am Dame Mavis Margaret, although my friends all call me 'M’. I was named after two female code breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Imitation Game”? That was the place. There were around 10,000 people working to break codes in secret during those years (and that’s just the people! There were also telephone boxes, telegraphs, post boxes, and a not insignificant number of spy pigeons — but that’s another story). As an anthropomorphised Post Box, I came into service in 1941.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey, a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WWII, and one of M’s namesakes.

Sir Owen: I am Sir Owen St. George, named after the Royal Librarian of Kings George V, VI, and the first years of Queen Elizabeth II. As an anthropomorphised telephone box I came into service in 1936, and also got involved in the code breaking efforts during the war. M. and I first worked together at Bletchley, then stayed in intermittent contact after the war — she stayed in England, while I immigrated to Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States in the 1970s, (though still in the capacity of a functioning telephone box — I wasn’t decommissioned until the early 2000s).

What is South Jordan like? And how did you end up there?

Sir Owen: South Jordan is just lovely — it’s located about 25 km southwest of Salt Lake City, the capital city of Utah. As a former farming community that has become increasingly developed and suburban, there are plenty of parks and open spaces, though some neighbourhoods can be quite spread out and not feel very walkable. Everyone seems to favour their Sport Utility Vehicle or Minivan!

Which leads to how I happened to relocate to South Jordan. My stewards had wanted a Little Free Library or neighbourhood book swap for several years: an opportunity to share their love of books and reading, but also to provide a reason for families, friends, and neighbours in the community to get out walking, interact, and share a smile. And what can do that better than free books in a British telephone box? They investigated having one restored and shipped from England, but when they happened upon me outside a Las Vegas antique store, it was an ideal match for all of us.

Sir Owen without M

Sir Owen without M. Doesn’t he look a bit lonely?

M: Sir Owen relocated to Utah and began his days as a Little Free Library in August of 2015. He enjoyed his new surroundings so much that he asked if I might consider joining him. I had been retired for some years at that point, but know that whatever our age or position, we can all find new purpose and be useful. I immigrated in mid 2016, and my stewards finally had my brickwork completed last October.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

M: I must thank one of my patrons! My stewards originally had postcards made up to enable Sir Owen’s and my visitors to send a kind note to a friend, but then one of our patrons pointed me to the Postcrossing website. Imagine being able to do a similar thing with people all across the world! I remember wondering what I would say that could possibly be interesting enough to fill up a whole postcard. But reading about the person to whom I’m sending a postcard (or from whom I’ve received one), and possibly finding a point of commonality and connection, it helps me realise that no matter our backgrounds, we have so much in common with and so much to learn from each other. And that’s what makes me stay. 😊

Do you have a favourite postcard you’ve received?
Postcard Selection

Sampling of postcards that M has received.

M: I have received so many wonderful and beautiful postcards! Honestly the ones I remember the most are the ones where someone shares something about themselves or why they chose the particular card they sent. A lovely Postcrosser (and self-proclaimed “Crazy Cat Lady” 😀 ) in Switzerland recently sent me a postcard she had made which included a picture of her cat who lived over 16 years! Our library cat Locutus also turns 16 this year, which gave us each a chance to connect and reflect on our benevolent feline overlords.

Locutus the Library Cat

Locutus the Library Cat will occasionally deign to visit, if treats are provided.

Do you do anything special with the cards you receive?
World Map Mural

A world map mural, perfect for marking all the postcards sent and received.

M: My stewards have a large (2 meters x 3 meters) world map mural in the family office. Each postcard sent and received gets a small sticky tab showing were it was received from (or sent to), the number of days it took to be delivered, and distance sent. Their children love learning about the geography and cultural details of so many people across the globe! I also feature many postcards that I’ve received on Sir Owen’s Instagram account, which helps share the Postcrossing fun with his followers in the Little Free Library and larger “Bookstagram” community (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes a lot of existing Postcrossers and has convinced others to join!).

Do you get many visitors everyday?
Halloween Visitors

Halloween visitors.

Sir Owen: Yes! Although technically located on my stewards’ property, they intentionally located us next to a walking path that many children use to go to and from the local primary school. My stewards try to keep my shelves stocked with a good selection of books, but there are also other reasons to stop by — free bookmarks and treats, colouring pages, doggie treats, and of course blank postcards to send to a friend! If patrons address them and place them in M, my stewards will even affix postage and mail them via USPS on their behalf. Sir Owen Freebies

Various surprises for patrons. Oh, and don’t forget a book while you’re here!

Visitor Notes

Visitors love leaving Sir Owen and M (and each other) notes on the windows when they visit.

How does the free library work?

Sir Owen: While the motto of a Little Free Library is “Take a Book, Leave a Book”, there’s no expectation that you have to leave a book in order to take one. The purpose is to share the love of reading and build community! If you like a book that you take, you can keep it forever. Or you can share it with a friend, or even return it to another Little Free Library in a different neighbourhood. Similarly if patrons have books they’ve enjoyed that they’d like to share with others, they can place them in my returns and donations bin under my bottom shelf (emblazoned with the Union Jack, of course).

Sir Owen s Rules

Sir Owen’s Rules. The first rule is by far the most important.

I have five shelves organized roughly by age, from picture books on the bottom shelf for children, up through primary and secondary school, young adult, and books for grown-ups. While most of my selections are donated, my stewards also enjoy curating books to ensure I have a good selection for all reading levels (one steward has become quite familiar with the local thrift stores), as well as for particular holidays and themes throughout the year. My favourite celebration? Banned Books Week — celebrated the last week in September every year with the American Library Association. I’ve rediscovered classics and found so many new and interesting ideas that way!

Is M a normal mailbox, still in use by USPS? And is there a phone in the phone booth? :)

M: I am merely decorative as far as the USPS is concerned, as I would have to have the words 'U.S. Mail’ stamped or painted on me to serve in any official capacity. However I did have the great honour of serving as an official letter drop for Santa Claus this past Christmas! Not only did I get to help deliver them, but every child who wrote also received a return postcard from Mrs. Claus stamped from the North Pole. I have also occasionally been mistaken as a book return. 😊

Santa Letter Drop

M loved being an official drop-off for letters to Santa this past Christmas.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning!

Checking M for Postcards

The youngest child of Sir Owen and M’s stewards loves checking M every day for new postcards to mail for patrons.

Sir Owen: I no longer feature a telephone; that leaves more room for books! However about a week after I opened, a kindly gentleman visited me and gave me a frame that had once housed the emergency telephone in a lift. As you saw above, I use it now to welcome patrons and explain what a Little Free Library is.

Finally, any plans for the future?

Sir Owen and M: Why, books, reading, and Postcrossing of course! Our stewards also think there might be a faerie garden in our future, as well as a couple of other surprises still in the works. One of our stewards says that if he could figure out how to pay the bills by purchasing books at thrift stores and then giving them away for free, he’d retire and steward for us full time (well, that and tend the royal beehives 😊 ). Our other steward (by far the more handy of the two) enjoys creating amazing projects for us in her growing wood shop (such as Sir Owen’s bookshelves, and our brand new bench featured in the first picture above!). Sir Owen and I plan on being here happily giving people a chance to slow down, share a smile, and build community, both in our local neighbourhood and across the world.

Thank you Ana for letting us share our story!

Thank you guys for this wonderful interview! I wish we lived closer to South Jordan, to pay M and Sir Owen a visit and sit on their bench for a while…

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53 comments so far

D1ana, United States of America
Such kind and imaginative people! Great story.
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Ninocas, Portugal
Loved it!!
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zomertje, Netherlands
Thank you for sharing this amazing story. Love it!!!
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ned44440, Ireland
Wonderful story 💕
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BronwynS, United States of America
I LOVE this! I have family that lives in a neighboring town, so they will have to visit for me and maybe send me a postcard from Sir Owen.
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elanj123, United States of America
I actually pulled this profile for a card to send, I was hooked, great idea!!! They did write an email back, how cool is that???
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borntoorganize, United States of America
I love this story! We too have a Little Free Library but I never thought of adding postcards and a box. Brilliant and so much fun.
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ydnic, United States of America
Wonderful! Such a nice story. Thanks to all!
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PostcardPerfect, United States of America
This is just lovely!!! Where can I buy the sir Owen postcard? Thanks in advance!
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Zeby, New Zealand
This is so cool!
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emotis, United States of America
This is the coolest thing I've heard of in a long time!!! Just wow!
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wastedlimes, Thailand
Wow, I totally love this ♥
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geminiscp, Portugal
OMG, what a great story and pictures!!! Thank you for this precious blog entry! :)
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iphoto, Australia
You Sir Owen & M do Walt Disney PROUD❣️Enjoying your imagination & initiative to think outside of the box ... creating SM:)LES to all that visit you & those who have read this blog 💌
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ConstantGardener, United States of America
OH WHAT FUN!!!!! JUST LOVE YOUR CREATIVE SPIRIT!!!!!!!!!!
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mounten, Italy
Wooooow what a lovely story!!!! You do a great job,full of spirit, would love to get a postcard from you or sending you one from northern Italy. Keek on going Ciao
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beauty_of_russia, Russia
Oh my god, such a sweet idea!
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fisherman, Ireland
I love the idea - it is a pity there are not more like this !
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mysweetlife63, United States of America
Love, love, love this story!
If one googles https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/ one can see all the locations.
Thank you!
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quirkylady79, United States of America
What a great story! Thank you for sharing! @mysweetlife63--thanks for the link! I was surprised to find that there is a LFL in the small town right next to me! I didn't know!
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shieru, Russia
Such an amazing duet of a phone box and a post box! It's incredible to discover such accounts here on postcrossing, even though I've been into the project for many years... I hope to be lucky once and send or get a postcard from this pair! :) Thank you so much for sharing this story!
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Rosebuddy, South Africa
Made my day😁👍thanks for the charming story and great idea. What an inspiration for our area.
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Jacque53, United States of America
What a wonderful story! I enjoyed reading it very much!
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alliebear, Philippines
a very heartfelt story that makes us hopeful about the good things still much a part of our world --- thank you so much, Ana, for sharing this with us; more blessings to you, Sir Owen and M :)
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triplightly, United States of America
How fun to read about a homegrown icon! Wonderful story and idea.
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Flippie, Canada
Whoa, I wish that I know M. and Sir Owen! I hope that I get there address once to send them a card or that they get my address.......!
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abbyaguas, Philippines
Nice story ^^
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mymax, Australia
Such an enjoyable read. Thank you 😃
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EHW, Germany
sweet!
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alison41, South Africa
How do I send Sir O & Miss M a card? or do I have to wait for Postcrossing's randomizer to link us together?
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Bonkie, Netherlands
wauw, very cool and creative!
love it !
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sacdalton, United States of America
So wonderful to read about nice people who share with others both in passion and kindness.
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seattlestacia, United States of America
What fun to read this! Thanks for sharing this delightful story, and all the best to M and Sir Owen.
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BeaglesGuy, United States of America
♥ this. Never heard of LFL until now and I'm surrounded by 3 of them.☺
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hansenplfl, United States of America
Thank you for sharing this! I was born in Salt Lake City, I am visiting AGAIN from Florida next month and I will visit M and Sir Owen in South Jordan!
Random Acts of Kindness 2017
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teamug, Germany
We have three public bookshelves near us, and there are more all over the town (Frankfurt/Germany), but none as charming and as personal as this. Some bookshelves near me even look very untidy and have a lot of rubbish in them (i.e. very damaged books). Luckily we have a very nice public bookshelf in our office - so I sometimes put my own books in there - take nice books from there and "update" the shabby bookshelf. I also remove the damaged and dirty ones there and put them in paper recycling.
I hope the better standard will encourage people to use it more and share better books, rather than putting mouldy stuff in there found in attics and cellars.
Books need love!!!!
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Tinangel13, United Kingdom
How very wonderful and inspirational...!
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Nimeriya_Ito, Belarus
Ваааау
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Shawchert, United States of America
I think because of this we have the little red or blue bookshelves, where we can take a book and put a book in. they are very popular in my village :)
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melilot, France
Sincerely hope to draw their address once, plus I have several bookmarks to give ;)
Nice story.
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HM, Liechtenstein
Wonderful!! I love libraries and worked on a mobile library. Compliments for this blog.
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CathyFay, United States of America
What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing!
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bobinete, Russia
Прикольно :З
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Rapunzel7, United States of America
This is so fun!
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Heepy, United States of America
This is the best thing I have seen on the Internet in a while!
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rosenbusch, Germany
I love the story....
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Tresart, United States of America
What a creative and inspiring family to have put this together and maintain it for the community. GO Team Mail & Books! Thanks for sharing & best wishes!
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justM, United States of America
I'm inspired now to talk to my neighbors and see if we can get a Little Free Library started in our community. This was a lovely story and I also want a postcard of Sir Owen and M. Thank you, Ana, for a charming and delightful story.
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Marcia49, United States of America
This is wonderful, creative, inspiring, and simply "awesome" idea. You two are so clever. What a beautiful setting, so well maintained and welcoming. Blessing to the both of you for your putting this together and sharing. I too want to live in your neighborhood!
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kazanianglory, China
OMG I have no idea, I live a few miles away and will make a trip!
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kjkidz, United States of America
That is just wonderful. I love the photos and I think what you are doing is just so amazing. Sure wish I lived closer but alas, I am in New York.
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loonacy, Canada
What a great idea for de ommissioned icons. Love the idea of community and sharing.
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catandsofia, Philippines
Loved this blog post. Such a wonderful idea and the accompanying photos are great.
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