It’s the type of victory that might be called one small step for federal government, one giant leap for the tiny town of St. John.
The 1,200 residents of the Stafford County town can now officially spell their hometown St John. Without the period.
And that’s because there are no periods in the United States Postal Service database.
“Anything we have is an S-T without the period,” said Pete Douskey, acting manager of consumer and industry for the Postal Service’s Central Plains district based in Omaha. “It is a database issue. … There is nothing in the database but letters.
“Keep in mind regardless what spelling they use the mail is still going to get there,” he said.
An online petition started this past weekend by St. John High School alumni asked the Postal Service to change its current listing for the town — Saint John — to the correct abbreviated version. The town is named for former Kansas governor John P. St. John.
“It is not perfect, but it is better than S-A-I-N-T,” said Jim Ronen, a longtime resident of St. John whose family roots stretch back to the county’s formation.
“I don’t understand it, though. It doesn’t make sense.”
Ronen and Larry Welch, former Kansas Bureau of Investigation director and 1954 graduate of St. John High, were notified Thursday morning by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s office that the change had officially been made.
Moran’s office, in a statement, said it “reached out to Postal Service officials to see if any accommodations could be made. The District Manager for this area of the state followed up with a phone call today to let me know the spelling situation has been resolved on his end.”
The town of St. John was established in the fall of 1874. Originally the community’s name was Zion Valley but it changed in 1879 during the Stafford County seat war between Stafford and Zion Valley. Residents in Zion Valley suggested to St. John, the eighth governor of Kansas, that if the county seat could be in their community, they would be willing to change the name to St. John.
“I was told it was a done deal and that specifically it was going to be St. Period. John,” Welch said. “It is as far as we can take it.””
But alas, it may be too early to celebrate the town’s victory just yet.
St. John may have won its battle with the U.S. Postal Service but there are other Internet databases that spell the town Saint John, such as the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names compiles the information for the U.S. Geological Survey database. Lou Yost, executive secretary for the organization, did not return phone calls on Thursday.