Dana Crampton

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.

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