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The Mail Queen of Peaceful Palomar

October 25, 1990|DIRK SUTRO

Postmaster Jennifer Willis wears a blue smock of her own choosing. Because rural postal employees don't get a uniform allowance, they can pick their own work clothes, within reason. Her glasses are held together with a paper clip. She doesn't use much makeup, and she wears her brown hair long and straight.

By noon, roughly a dozen people have visited the single window in the small cube of a building that serves as Palomar Mountain's post office. Willis, 47, knows every one of them.

She has lived and worked on the mountain 22 years. After years as a clerk, she was made postmaster 10 years ago.

There's no home mail delivery on Palomar Mountain. Willis' postal branch has 228 post office boxes, two-thirds of which are rented.

Palomar Mountain isn't a place for people who need to be entertained. There is no movie theater, although the local store rents videos. The only restaurant is a vegetarian place owned by the Spiritual World Society. The nearest pizza joint is 30 miles away.

There's no cable television. "They just use our mountain to bounce their signals off of," Willis said. And there's no newspaper delivery.

"My idea of a perfect day off is to spend the day at home," Willis said. "Sundays, I generally catch up on my sleep."

Peace and quiet are the primary attractions here.

Her job occasionally stretches to include tasks unknown to an urban postmaster, like the time she weighed a newborn baby on her postal scale.

"I'll probably stay until I get too old to gather firewood," said Willis.

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