Mailman to the NYC Hells Angels
Back in the early 80’s I began working as a Letter Carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. The first Post Office that I was assigned to was located in the lower east side of New York City. As a 20 year old middle class kid from Brooklyn I did not have much worldly experience having only been exposed to my little corner of the universe. Working in that neighborhood would open my mind and introduce me to a whole host of people, cultures and subcultures. What I would be exposed to would change the way I viewed and judged people for the rest of my life. In a very short time I would meet the poorest of the poor as well as the elite of our society and everyone in between, including members of the NYC Chapter of the Hells Angels.
My Post Office's boundaries stretched from East Houston Street up north toward Gramercy Park. Although the entire delivery zone was only a total distance of 20 city blocks, the demographics of the area contained both the infamous poor known as the Bowery bums, as well the mega-rich aristocrats of Gramercy Park living in their multi-million dollar town homes complete with maids, butlers and chauffeurs.
As a new employee I quickly learned that on a daily basis you were given the most undesirable delivery assignments. “Red” as we called him, had the worst delivery route in the station - East 3rd Street between 1st Ave and 3rd Avenues. Red was a senior carrier which meant he had the ability to bid and get a better assignment but having been on the route for nearly 30 years, he grew with the neighborhood and may have even had a small celebrity status within the community. Red knew everyone and everyone knew Red. Because of his seniority, Red often received assistance with delivering his route which allowed him to “give away” the worst delivery portion, East 3rd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. This block was home to the NYC Chapter of the Hells Angels.
My third day on the job, I was “given” to Red and subsequently assigned the “Angels” portion of the route. Red was a cranky old man and said little during the course of the morning while we sorted our mail. He skillfully went about his work and occasionally made small talk with a neighboring carrier. As we began strapping-out our mail for street delivery, Red began providing verbal instructions regarding each bundle of mail as I placed them into my carrier cart satchel. His instructions were short and to the point, “at 65 (East 3rd St) ring the bells for access”, “at 67 give the mail to the store owner”. It was not until he got to 77 that I had to stop him to repeat the information. “At 77, ring the bell and give the mail to the Doberman Pinscher”. What? Doberman Pinscher? I hope that is someone’s nick name!
Red slowly turned and smirked. "No kid, Doberman Pinscher - as in dog! 77 is the Angel’s clubhouse and their dog is trained to take the mail - don’t worry, he won’t eat you". By now a couple of the other carriers started joining in making comments and seeing how much they could scare the new kid. Not knowing Red or whether or not he had a sense of humor, I had no way of gauging whether or not he was just joking around. I continued preparing the remainder of the mail and proceed to make my way to the street to begin my delivery.
After about an hour of street delivery, I found myself just a couple of buildings away from the Angels’ clubhouse. The “clubhouse” was actually a store-front of an apartment building owned by the Angels. The members lived with their wives and children in the building. The first thought I had was how immaculately clean the building was in comparison to the rest of the block. There was no one outside but the front door was slightly ajar. Fortunately I noticed a mail slot on the door since I had no intention of entering or looking for a dog to accept the mail! As I lifted the mail slot suddenly from within I could hear a dog running and barking. Within an instant, a large black and brown Doberman forced his way out of the door and positioned himself at my feet growling and showing his teeth.
Frozen in terror I stood for what seemed like an eternity but was actually just a couple of seconds. Suddenly from across the street I heard an ear-shattering whistle and the dog backed away. As I turned, I could see a middle-aged white man with a slight build slowly making his way toward me. Although in desperate need of a shave and perhaps too many tattoos for my taste, I quickly assessed this man to be non-threatening and actually very welcomed since he just saved my life.
The man introduced himself as Mike and judging by his vest, I determined that he was in fact a Hells Angel member. Mike asked if I had any mail for "77" and I slowly handed him the bundle to which he surprisingly thanked me. He went on and actually had a conversation with me, asking about Red and assuring me that Rex, his dog, would never bite me since he only attacked on command. It was quite obvious to Mike that I was a brand new carrier and he asked how I liked the job. After chatting for a couple of minutes I thanked him and started pushing my cart toward the next apartment building. Breathing a sigh of relief I heard Mike in the distance yell out, “Hey kid, I forgot to tell you, next time just hand Rex the bundle of mail!"
During my time working as a letter carrier working in Manhattan I would also have the opportunity to meet some of the richest people in the world. As I would later learn, many of them would be far more dangerous than the infamous Hells Angels.