ANGOLA — Combined, Kenny Boots, Larry Day and Richard Bruick have more than 60 years working for the U.S. Postal Service.
Now, all three reside at Northern Lakes Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, Angola, and have reminisced with one another about their days on the job.
Kenny and Larry both spent their time working in Angola while Richard was in Fort Wayne.
When he first took his job, Kenny carried letters on his 18 1/2- mile route every day.
“When I retired it was down to 15 miles,” he said.
At retirement, his route was taken over by none other than Larry who then walked the 15 miles every day, making sure the people of Angola received their daily mail.
Kenny said when he first took the job, he had to learn not just his route but also a second route to help substitute if someone was sick or on vacation.
Angola at the time had four city routes.
“You ended up and learned all four anyway,” he said.
Some of the places along his route included the nursing home he now lives in and Elliott Manor.
He recalled some of the residents at Elliott Manor putting together a jigsaw puzzle that was framed and given to him as a gift at a retirement party they had for him.
Larry said when he got to the postal service for his 17 years on the job he’d empty bags, sort mail and do whatever was needed of him.
“I emptied bags for boxes, did small first class mail boxes and rural route delivery,” he said. “I delivered bags, to dorms, small businesses like the schools and Elliott Manor.”
Richard took his job in Fort Wayne in 1951 where he did a lot of sorting mail.
“There was tons, 50,000 or more pieces a day,” he said.
Hello Zip Codes
In 1963, he said, Zip Codes were introduced.
“Fort Wayne got more than we should’ve,” he said. “One-hundred were given and we used 20 or so to start.”
He developed, with the help of a few employees, a better way of sorting mail once those zip codes came into play.
A sorting machine, Richard said, was a “heck of a change” from the old ways of hand sorting mail.
By hand, a person could sort around 50 pieces an hour. The machine could to 100 or more.
The method he worked on, he said, is still in place 40-plus years later in Fort Wayne.
“Had I stayed longer, there’s more I’d have gotten into and eliminated,” he said.
Oh, that snow storm
They all recalled the blizzard of 1978 with its knee-deep and higher snow.
As the mail doesn’t stop for much of anything, they had to keep trucking along.
Richard said as the most experienced person in his post office, making decisions was up to him. He was going to use commercial equipment to move the snow but quickly found out other businesses already had it all.
“I knew two farm boys so I got a hold of both and asked them to come and move snow,” he said.
Kenny said he recalled the mail truck coming from Fort Wayne being late during the storm.
“We were supposed to put mail up and leave by a certain time,” he said. “Our assistant post master was standing at the door and wanted us back in on time. I said to him Morris you talk like you have a hole in your head. You want us in on time when we’re leaving late and the snow’s up to the top of our heads.”
He considered the postal service, though it wasn’t the only job he’s ever held, his lifelong job.
“It was very interesting and I was able to meet a ton of people,” Kenny said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would do it.”
Most of the people in the postal service, said Bruick, did something positive for the job to make it what it is today.
As for stamps, at one time they really did only cost one cent. Kenny, Larry and Richard can confirm that from memory.