My Life and the USPS
I didn’t always work in a large post office…
My postman told me, “…you ought to get a part time job at the Post Office. You can get insurance for you and your family through them and then you can continue working for yourself…” Boy did that sound encouraging. I was doing all right in sales but I didn’t have a retirement plan or insurance for my family. If I could work part time for the post office and get my benefits taken care of, that would lift a heavy burden from me. So I applied, tested, interviewed then given a choice- one of two smaller offices just outside my hometown. Made my choice, sworn in, and never really worked part time during my nearly thirty-five years with the USPS.
a mail distribution case
the trains use to slow down... and dropped off the mail beside the tracks
The first two and a half years were great, outside of the split days off. There was no ‘regular clerks’ position, just the postmaster and five rural routes, no city delivery. Charles “Pepe” Smith and I were part time flexible clerks in title, but we both worked nearly forty hours a week. Pepe was senior; he had nearly twenty-five years in as part time, serving in a clerk position that was never filled until long after I left Bluff City. He trained me and told me tales of how they worked the mail in the early days. How the trains use to slow down as they pasted through town and dropped off the mail sacks beside the tracks. He said he used to pick up the sacks, put them in a wheelbarrow and push them to the office for sorting. I thought that was cool.
No telling what you might find when you "robbed" the mailbox outside...
I clocked in at 0545 each day, six days a week to open the office for the carriers and the incoming mail delivered by truck from the main office in Johnson City TN. That just gave me fifteen minutes to secure the office, put up the flag, and “rob” the mailbox outside the front door for all the mail dropped in after we closed the office at 5 PM the day before getting things ready for a new day.
We really had a lot of fun joking one another and telling tales of the way it use to be, all while dumping sacks of mail and working it off to the carriers and the box section. If we had the primary mail worked up in time, one of us would walk across the street to Thomas’ General store and get cold drinks, Crown Balogna and saltine crackers to have for a snack as we clerks worked up the box mail and the carriers worked up their individual routes mail for delivery that day.
They may or may not stop back later for the clothespins.
It didn’t take long after I got the hang of things and each day was a new experience for me. Like finding letters in the drop box with a clothespin holding a dime where the stamp should be. Pepe told me I was to buy a stamp from my stock drawer and put a stamp on the envelope for the people. Often the money would become separated from the letters, so we would have to look for and envelope with no postage and try to match up the funds with the mail needing postage. Sometimes it wouldn’t match up so we just put postage on anyway and the people may or may not stop back later for the clothespins.
he told me I should not waste the college education I had walked away from earlier...
Pepe’s mother had been postmaster many years earlier and since he was always around the PO anyway, she hired him as a part time clerk. He and the postmaster helped me to learn all about the operations, the finances, bookkeeping, stamp stocks… they told me I should not waste the college education I had walked away from earlier and told me there may be a chance for me to advance with the USPS since I showed a desire to succeed. In 1975 I transferred to the main post office at Johnson City Tennessee while returning to once again to East Tennessee State University to finish my bachelor’s degree. I made some great friends while working at that little post office in Bluff City Tennessee and I often still miss the bologna and crackers...
© 2010 SamSonS