fascinating people have been post office employees -- 6/14/16

Today's selection -- from Neither Snow Nor Rain by Devin Leonard. The U.S. Post Office has had its share of famous employees. William Faulkner wrote the best letter of resignation:

"The USPS seems from the outside like a listless bureaucracy, full of people who have gravitated there for security, not because they are consumed with ambition. 'Nobody aims to be a postal worker,' says Orlando Gonzalez, a letter carrier and union organizer in New York. 'That's not someone's goal. But I know countless people that have come here and stayed.' It can be an insular place, suspicious of people and ideas from outside.

Post office, Washington D.C., 1942

"But fascinating people have passed through its ranks. Benjamin Franklin, America's first postmaster general, was only one of them. Long before Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, he was the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois. Harry Truman held the title of postmaster of Grandview, Missouri. Walt Disney was a substitute carrier in Chicago. Bing Crosby was a clerk in Spokane, Washington. Rock Hudson delivered mail in Winnetka, Illinois. The mercurial jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus toiled anon­ymously in post offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco before becoming famous in the 1950s. Four decades later, the USPS honored Mingus with his own stamp, but neglected to mention that he was a former employee.

"Some famous postal workers didn't care for the job. The novel­ist William Faulkner, author of classics like The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, spent three years as postmaster at the University of Mississippi until he was forced to resign in 1924 for his obvious disinterest. A postal inspector furnished him with a long list of his transgressions, which included treating patrons rudely, failing to forward mail, and writing the greater part of one of his books while he was on duty. 'I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.' Faulkner wrote in his letter of resignation. The scabrous author Charles Bukowski worked for the postal service as a substitute carrier. In his 1971 novel Post Office, Bukowski depicted the job in nightmarish terms. 'Every route had its traps and only the regular carriers knew of them,' he wrote. 'Each day it was another god damned thing, and you were always ready for a rape, murder, dogs, or insanity of some sort. The regulars wouldn't tell you their secrets.' "


Devin Leonard


Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service


Grove Press


Copyright 2016 by Devin Leonard


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment