A Post Office Farewell
by Russ Spencer
Dana Crampton, the postal clerk with the long gray hair and mellow attitude who was a fixture at the downtown Santa Barbara post office counter for almost 22 years, spent his last day at the window on Friday, June 2.
Dana was known for many things: his gray beard and long, gray, braided hair; the interesting array of coins and bills from all over the world that he kept under Plexiglas at his window; but mostly, for his wonderful attitude.
Long lines at the post office often made customers crabby, but Dana always took the time to turn a business transaction into a chance to prove that humans can still be human. He went about his job with patience and understanding, treating customers who had just come in for a couple of stamps as if they were lifelong friends.
Dana grew up in Palmdale, California, and first applied for a job at the post office in 1969. In order to work as a postal carrier for Uncle Sam, the postmaster told him, he had to cut his hair. Dana refused. “I was born in ’51 and just always identified with long hair,” he said. “I associated it with liberalism and good things; it felt good to have long hair. It wasn’t a statement about being into drugs. It was just a statement about being free of thought.” The postmaster offered him another job, as a letter sorter in the back of the building, out of public sight.
Three years later, Dana transferred to Santa Barbara. Again, he was in the back of the building, working night and swing shifts. But in 1982, he and his wife split, and Dana took custody of their eight year-old daughter, Felicity. He wanted to start working the day shift so he could spend more time with her, and applied for a clerk’s job at the main branch building on Anacapa Street. He got the job, and didn’t even have to cut his hair.
If there is a town square in Santa Barbara, it’s the post office main branch, and Dana’s laidback good-naturedness made him something of a mayor. “I go to concerts and people come to the window and say, ‘How’d you like the show?’ I didn’t see them but they spotted me,” Dana said. “I have this recognition factor. It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Four years ago, Dana remarried, and plans to spend his retirement traveling with his new wife, Livia. He also plans to make the most of his unique look, as an actor. In fact, his first post-post office employment is a gig on July 4, playing Uncle Sam at an Independence Day party. The irony of the fact that Uncle Sam wouldn’t give him work because of his hair four decades ago and now he’s getting work playing Uncle Sam as a result of his hair is not lost on him. “It’s the perfect end to that part of my story,” he said.