When Bill Bires started veterinarian school, he had every intention of finishing. But things don’t always turn out the way you think they will.
Partway through his schooling to become a veterinarian, Bires’ mother, a rural mail carrier herself, told him that the U.S. Postal Service Test was being offered in La Crosse. He decided to take it and passed. That choice changed his career path completely.
“I never saw myself working for the postal service originally,” Bires commented.
Thirty-two years later, he knows he made the right decision.
Bires started out as a city mail carrier in Tomah, Wis.
“I knew I wanted to do more, though,” he said. So he started studying manuals from the post office and was eventually offered the position of Officer in Charge at the post office in Oakdale, Wisconsin. From there, he moved up to Postmaster of that office.
Over the years, Bires has moved around a lot to work temporary and training positions at different post offices.
“I’ve even done my boss’s job,” Bires laughed. “For five months, I was in charge of all the postmasters in the 559 and 546 areas.”
When he and his wife decided that they wanted to raise their kids in a small town setting, he applied for and was hired as the Postmaster of the Spring Valley Post Office.
“I enjoy being a postmaster,” Bires said. “I’ve run bigger offices too, but I love running small town offices. I love getting to know the people.”
After being at the Spring Valley Post Office for 20 years, Bires was ready for a change so when an opening came up for postmaster in Preston, he applied for it. In March 2016, he started his new position at the Preston Post Office.
Bires’ job working for the U.S. Postal Service also provided him with a hobbie.
“I started collecting memorabilia almost immediately after starting my job 32 years ago,” he said.
Over the years, he has collected approximately 10 large glass cases full of memorabilia, from a Fisher Price toy postal jeep (complete with mail carrier) to an antique manual cancelling machine.
“A lot of it was given to me as gifts from friends and family,” Bires said. He has also spent time at auctions and antique stores searching for new pieces for his collection.
For the first 15 years of collecting, Bires purchased the albums put out each year by the Postal Service to fill with that year’s commemorative stamps, but has since stopped doing so. He now only adds stamps to his collection if they’re unique or have a design that he really admires.
Once the word got out that Bires was a collector of postal service memorabilia, people started contacting him offering to give or sell him their pieces.
“The president of the First National Bank in Chatfield gave me their old meter machine base,” Bires noted.
Some of the pieces in his collection are new products such as the Christmas village post offices that he finds almost every year. Others are things that he saved throughout his career like the mail carrier hat he used to wear on the job.
Bires has also acquired memorabilia through sales that the postal service holds after they’ve cleaned out a post office and found some obsolete items that they list for sale to the public.
“You don’t see those much anymore though,” he said.
A small portion of Bires’ collection is currently displayed in a glass case in the Preston Post Office lobby. He also has several cases full of memorabilia in his private office there. He has yet to finish moving his collection out of the Spring Valley Post Office and has five more glass cases still sitting there.
“I don’t know what’s next. I may retire out of here,” Bires mused. “For now though, I plan to be in Preston for the foreseeable future.”
In addition to collecting postal service memorabilia, Bires, who lives in Spring Valley, also enjoys making his own wines, hunting, and fishing.