City Carrier Joseph (Joe) Paul Jones was born October 27th, 1938, in Chicago Illinois. He was the oldest boy and one of five children. Joe's dad was also a postal worker. He worked in Chicago delivering parcel post.
Joe started to work for the Postal Service in Itasca, Illinois, in 1956, just 3 years before his father retired in 1959. His father was never one to call in sick. Joe recalled that when his father came home one day and found that Joe had called in sick he made him go on in to work. Then, after arriving at work, Joe went into the restroom, leaving the door slightly ajar and proceeded to heave until someone came to check on him and sent him home! What a way to start learning “work ethics”
In those little towns back in those days, volunteer fire departments were quite common. Joe and another carrier (that would be two out of the three carriers at the station) were volunteer firemen. Everyone knew, including the postmaster, that if the fire siren blew that the mail was going to be late. Joe and his co-worker would stash their satchels in the nearest drop box and hitch a ride to the fire station. Once the fire was out, it was back to work as usual. There was no extra compensation for his extra work and of course, the mail still had to be delivered before the day was out.
One Christmas, Joe noticed a bottle of booze on one of his customer’s front porch. After eyeballing the bottle for a few days he noticed that the bottle had been knocked over and broken. He was told by the customer that it had been his Christmas present. Thanks to the clumsy paperboy, that was one gratuity Joe didn’t get to enjoy.
He recalled that when he started in ’56 he sometimes used his own car to deliver Special Delivery and got paid a whopping 15 cents for each delivery. Post cards were a penny and letters were 3 cents; Special Deliver was 30 cents and Airmail, 7 cents. He started out making $1.82 per hour. (Of course, bread was probably a nickel and a cheeseburger and a coke probably 50 cents.)
The Army took Joe away from the Postal Service from 1957 until 1959 when he served at Camp Roberts, Fort Ord, and Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. He related to me a story of how he went back to the post office for two weeks while he was on leave from the Army. After asking the supervisor if they needed some help, the answer, as it always seems to be even now, was “yes”. Joe worked his full two weeks leave delivering mail. One hundred forty-four hours worked during that two-week period. When he asked for his pay before going back to the fort, he was told that he could NOT get paid for working TWO government jobs at the same time. Some lessons are learned the hard way I guess.
Joe moved to Bakersfield in 1963 and worked as a distribution clerk and window clerk at Station B. While working there as a clerk, Joe said that a man came into the office waiving a gun around. Not one to get overly upset I guess, (maybe at THAT time) he just told the man to get out of the post office. He was told later that the man went on down the street and actually shot someone.
Dog spray hadn’t come into play yet at that time and when Joe was later carrying mail in one of the dog-infested neighborhoods he’d gather rocks up off the street as he walked along the route. He remembered sailing a rock past a charging customer’s dog only to miss and break the customer’s window. Justice can be sweet!
There’s only really been one time that the Post Office went on strike. A few of us remember it but many of us were too young to have been affected much. Joe recalls going on strike for ONE DAY back in 1970. That was the year that both he and Paul Shaw were 204-b’s at the old Annex on California Avenue. How many of you remember that!
Joe supervised at Station A from 1971 until 1979 then went back to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1979. After sitting at a desk as a supervisor for 8 yrs he recalls loosing 40 lbs from July to September while delivering mail in Tulsa. He even worked there a little later as a supervisor.
Joe and his wife, Theresa, left Tulsa in 1984. He came back “home” to Bakersfield to carry mail once again. He ended up at the old Oildale Station on Minner Avenue.
Mail volume back then was a lot different than today. It wasn’t unusual for carriers to take their whole routes out in an old beer box. It later became a big joke about how “you could take that whole route out in just a beer box”.
Joe recalled another funny story: It was common for many of the “old regulars” to meet at Pizzaville up on North Chester after finishing their route early (or maybe in the middle of the day) to catch a Saturday afternoon ball game on the tube. All the carriers would park their vehicles scattered around the neighborhood so as not to attract too much attention. One afternoon they noticed the personnel director heading for the Pizza Parlor. They all filed into the restroom and bailed out the bathroom window, heading for their vehicles and the safety of their routes. The supervisor never knew who the carriers were.
In all his years as a letter carrier/postal worker he’s been dog-bitten only twice “that he recalls” (keep in mind, “Joe’s not getting’ any younger”) He’s never been off work for any injuries sustained at work. He’s used 6 hours sick leave in the last three years.
I asked Joe about all the different vehicles that he’d driven over his career. His first was a ’57 Chevrolet truck, right-hand drive, and then a 1950 Dodge stick-shift truck for delivering parcel post (with a second guy sitting on a milk box handing up the parcels and the other doing the driving. He drove a Willy’s right-hand drive (like the old milk truck), a Studebaker, (also right-hand drive), a Cushman three-wheeler and of course many of us still remember the 1/4 ton Jeep and the infamous K-Car. “Back in the 60’s”, Joe said, “I was driving a three-wheeled Cushman. When I started back from the house to which I was delivering, the little Cushman was heading on down the street. I had to run after it to stop it.”
Over the years, Joe recalls that some of his favorite supervisors were Floyd Bennett, Jim Carter, and more recently, Laura Tisinger.
Retirement may be coming soon for Joe. He wants to move to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and is hoping to retire sometime during the first quarter of 2004. Once there he says he might consider taking a part-time job, possibly in Eureka Springs or Branson. He says that some fishing might be on the agenda for a pastime once he’s settled in back there.
Whatever you do; wherever you go, Joe, here’s hoping it will be another great adventure; as great as the 40+ years adventure that you’ve experienced in your work at the Post Office.