As a college student growing up in Dorchester, I had the good fortune of working for the “P. O.” while I was in school. In those years, many people worked in seasonal, 15-day jobs at Christmas, helping to carry the high volume of Christmas cards and presents. Sometimes, the mail was carried to homes twice a day, morning and afternoon.
In 1964, I landed a part time job at the Postal Service, and worked for four years here in the neighborhood, assigned to “Dot Ctr” (the Dorchester Center 02124 office on Talbot Ave.) I was classified as a “temp,” working on the “bench,” which meant I could be assigned to other offices as needed to cover any day-by-day staff shortage.
The duties of a temp included driving a truck to drop bags of mail at relay boxes on the delivery routes; carrying parts of routes (“splits”) when heavy mail volume would otherwise delay timely delivery; and late afternoon truck routes to collect the mail from mailboxes and deliver it for processing at the South Postal Annex.
I carried mail from every Dorchester station – Grove Hall, Fields Corner, Mattapan, and Uphams Corner (“Uppies”), and sometimes was dispatched to faraway places like Back Bay, Brighton ,and Newton Corner to cover shortages there.
The boss at Dot Ctr, John Grandfield, was more than happy to assign us part-timers to the late afternoon and weekend collections, thus allowing the regular workers to be home for dinner with their families. By hustling from school back to Dot after class, I could pick-up 20-25 hours of work — with evening collections, Saturday “relays” to the carriers, delivering a rack or two of mail “splits” on certain heavy mail routes, and Sunday afternoon collections.
In those days, the mail was always heavy, and there were multiple collections from mailboxes all over town- including a smattering of “Star Boxes,” which had a second weeknight pickup after 7 p.m.
The pay from the job helped cover my tuition, and I was grateful for the work.
Back in those days, the neighborhoods had regular home deliveries of all kinds: As late as the 1950s, there were daily deliveries of blocks of ice for refrigerators, and men carried bricks of coal to our cellars to fuel the furnaces. There were daily deliveries of milk (HP Hoods, White Bros., Whiting’s, et al), bread & baked goods (from companies like Happy Home and Cushman’s), and in the summer, ice cream trucks would come by at regular intervals each day.
There was even a local dry cleaner who would come to the house to pick up laundry – shirts, dresses, business suits – and bring it back a couple of days later.
And always, every day, the letter carrier came to the door. You could tell the time of day by the arrival of the mail, a system that worked almost like clockwork. Everyone knew their mailman – ours was a man named Izzie, and he knew my family and carried the mail to my house for years before I was born. How great it was when at 18 I started my post office job and found myself working next to Izzie. He sorted the mail at the center early in the day and I delivered it for him to a relay box on his route!
In those days, it seems we knew each delivery person by name, and they knew us and our families, our stories, too. Now more than ever, I am a big fan of the Post Office and the US Postal Service workers. They are true public servants, delivering services to all Americans. They deserve to be acknowledged for their steady, faithful work. In these unprecedented times, when there are so very few signs of normalcy, that old slogan needs to be expanded:
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night – nor worldwide pandemic – stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”
Associate publisher Ed Forry is the co-founder of the Dorchester Reporter.