EXPERIENCES OF CHARLES F. SULLIVAN
RURAL SUBSTITUTE CARRIER WORKING OUT OF THE DAYTON POSTOFFICE FOR 26 YEARS
by Charles F. Sullivan
It was on the 16th day of March 1913, a cold wet day not fit for a mule to be out in it, I had been wondering what I could do to make the time pass more rapidly, when a knock came at our front door and I answered it finding Mailman Reed there. He told me that Chas Tesno wanted me to come down to the Postoffice and prepare to go out on Route 2 in the morning. Dave Hoffman, the regular carrier had become sick upon the route and a man had been out to get him in and the mail delivered.
I went to the office which was then standing at Fifth & Main where the present Fidelity bldg now stands and reported for work.
I was shown where to get the mail for the route and the case and I was ready for work. Soon Dave Hoffman came in and was so sick that all that I could get out of him was that he would go home on the street car and leave his horse and wagon for me to keep in my stable that night and use it upon the route the next day.
I worked a while and then drove home in the wagon, got supper and came back by street car and worked until after 10 PM getting the mail on hand set up. Then home and back again in the morning in the wagon. About 7 A M. I was ready to go, taking all the mail for the route. All I knew about the route was that the first box was Mr Bigger living across the street from the Dayton State Hospital.
Then go out the Wilmington pike to White’s corner and there turn west to the Cincinnati Pike and come back upon it.
There were several turns between the two pikes but it was up to me to work them out when I came to them. I followed the Wilmington pike, delivering the mail as I went. Through Beavertown there were boxes upon both sides of the street and I learned that R 12 carried the east side, so I went on.
It was straight pike, until I reached White’s corner and as I was busy delivering mail all along, I was afraid I would pass it.
It has been my experience that the patrons of the Postoffice watch for their mailman but after receiving the mail, their interest is in the mail and they do not know which way the mailman goes.
Finally I reached White’s corner and turned west and after serving a few boxes, everything went bad. Upon inquiry, I found that the route turned north there so I west back to that road and after serving a few boxes all went bad again.
I found that the route retraced back to where I had turned. Going ahead from there, I crossed the Lebanon pike and across Hole’s creek and through Woodburn, a very early town settled by Dr Hole and he had a saw mill there, but all is gone now.
After a mile or two, I turned north upon the Madriver road and it was here that Dave had taken sick the day before.
I came to David’s church upon a cross road and turned west upon it. After a couple of turns, I came to the Cincinnati pike and started for home still delivering mail.
When I came to Calvary cemetery there were more than 30 boxes in one long row and three Jones families had boxes in it.
There was an elderly lady standing there waiting but she said nothing to me. I started to deliver the mail and toward the last this woman went to a box I had served, took out a letter bringing it to me saying it was not for her. I asked her what her name was and she replied Jones and that was the name upon this letter. Then I asker her which box was the right one for this letter but she did not know, so I took it back to the office for further inquiry. I learned from another rural carrier that this letter was for this woman’s son, so the next day I delivered it.
Coming in on the pike, I soon had all my mail delivered and was soon at the Postoffice with one days work done. I was soon ready to go home but came back after supper to set up the next days mail. This was an every day program if I was to deliver the mail upon the route. The next day I made better time upon the route, for I knew the roads but even then it was a long hard job, requiring careful work especially where there were several families of the same name, to get the individual in the right family.
About the last of the week a substitue upon R 9 abandoned the route, and I got the carrier for his home to see him and get him to see me. When I came in the next evening, I found a note to see Mr Van Amburg, which I did. He wanted me to switch over to R 9 instead of 2 for he had a man who could carry R 2 but I objected saying that Greer would be in that evening. When I get to the work room, Greer was there and after a little coaxing he went up with me to see Mr. Van Amburg. After a little talk he agreed to take the route again and I went ahead again on R 2.
This was a fine thing for had the change been made, several routes would have been upset by the water of the 1913 flood.
I took Dave Hoffman’s horse home on Saturday and arranged for a livery horse. Monday it rained all day and when I came in I went to the livery barn close to the corner of Third & Williams leaving the horse there. Going by street car to Main street, but in the low end of Third street, we forded through over a foot of water. After doing my work at the office, I went home by street car and had a ford after crossing the bridge.
It rained all night and the next morning I was awakened by the Platt Iron Works whistle about 4 A. M. and that told me that North Dayton was going under water and I feared trouble getting across the river, so I started early. I went to Main & Fountain where several men were waiting a street car but I was sure none would come so started walking. When I got to the boulevard it was getting light and I could see the water coming over the levee below the headgates. The water was about six inches deep at the boulevard and because I was to be out all day, I did not want to get my feet wet, so turned down the boulevard and Shaw to Forest ave. At the end of Forest Ave., I saw the water coming over the top of the levee so I was sure Riverdale would be flooded. A house was going down the river and when it struck the bridge, it was completely broken up. At the east end of the bridge all was water, Monument & Stratford filled with water at the low ends, water ready to come over the levee top. Looking south on the Robert’s boulevard at First street, water was rushing up First street the width of the street and fully 5 feet deep.
Seeing no opportunity of getting to the Postoffice, I turned back toward home. The weather looking nice one minute and lightning, thunder and heavy rain the next. I had lots to tell the folks when I reached home. By noon gas, water and electricity were cut off for several days. My boys had built a toy oven in the yard and they hunted up some dry wood for it and some cooking was done there, some in the furnace in the cellar and some in the grate.
Candles and oil lamps were pressed into service for light.
When the water was down enough, relatives and friends came to us and we had a house full for some time day and night. By Friday the water was down enough and I started for town with several men. We had a little trouble getting across the water and at the Postoffice, I found Forest May P. M. in the third floor drying his stockings at a grate fire, notice that I did not say GREAT, for it was not much better than a make believe fire. I offered to relieve him for he had been on duty since Tuesday morning in that cold building. All the food they had received had been brought across the street on a line probably from Elders.
He said that he ought not leave until relieved by a man sent here for that purpose. He told me to report for work Monday.
Monday when I arrived there, water was available for the scrubbing out and there was lots to do, cleaning up. In the afternoon I was told to see if I could get a horse and if so to prepare to take the route Tuesday. The books of the route were in the wagon and even the roof was under water, the books were thoroughly soaked.
I took them home that night and tried to dry them but they were practically worthless. The next morning, I started on the route with about 50 water soaked letters, on which the addresses were poor but I was able to deliver them. Every day a few more letters came to me, later the Herald printed an issue, still later the News, until we had a normal amount mail.
I began as soon as blank books were available, remaking the books.
Dave came back to work upon the first of June and I was out for that time. I then went to contracting cement work and was very busy until cold weather shut that off.
Several years later, there had been a snow storm with a strong wind drifting it badly, Dave had been out all day trying to get the mail delivered and was all in at night and asked me to relieve him the next day, which I did. There was about 6 inches of snow fell but with the high wind it had drifted badly, and many of the roads were blocked,
The farmers had all been out before I arrived and made good headway. After crossing the Lebanon pike, a paling fence was on the north side of the road, and all snow falling upon the field, was drifted over that fence filling the road 4 feet high.
At the end of this level space was Hole’s creek with quite a depression leading to it. The road had been made through the drifts and the cut was deeper than the wagon roof. A short distance beyond, I passed the bunch of workers and they were glad to give me the right of way with a cheer. From there I had no trouble. I was called for R 2 many times after that as long as Hoffman the carrier but nothing of interest occurred.
Once upon R 1, I received 300 baby chicks upon the very hot day for a man living at the farthest point of the route. I was driving a coupe with a box upon the rear. I decided to take the far end of the route first and deliver the chicks first, then work the route backward. The chicks were accepted without a dead one in the bunch and the only unpleasant thing was being bawled out for being so late with the mail. R 3. I had been on the route for Brentkinger’s vacation during the summer so knew the route well. Mrs. Brentkinger called me Dec 12 to carry for Frank the next day and on: This was just about the beginning of the Christmas rush and Frank died a couple of days later, so I knew I had a job ahead of me. This was before the day of giving help to rural men at Christmas. Everybody I took out and delivered all the mail that was brought to me and before I left the office that night all nixies were marked up. After Christmas I held the job until Sept 1st when Chas Brown was appointed under civil service as the regular carrier. What I had done at Christmas cut no figure in the appointment.
R11. In 1916, I carried R11 and all was going nicely until the river rose in January and washed away the bridge at Miller’s ford. The last box on the near side was close to the river, so I had to serve it and return to Stewart street, then east across the river then down the tow path to the route again. There had been plans to have an electric mule tow the canalboats up and down the canal. However the 1913 flood stopped that but the ties and rails were laid along where I had to drive. This was fully four miles around for which there was no pay and riding over the ties was anything else than pleasant. I was relieved from there on May 15 after four months of extra driving, and a man with an auto took the route.
At one time there were two men with the same first name, middle initial and last name with nothing distinguishing in either one and they did not know each other. The carrier arranged to deliver to the first man on R 9 and if wrong, he would pick it up the next day and deliver it to the other one.
One time I went home for dinner when I received a call to go to Sulphur Grove and relieve Ralph Miller who had taken sick upon the route.
A mailman learns much about his patrons from the kind of mail he receives. Some send an order to Sears Roebuck every week while others go to Montgomery Ward, possibly the new Sears Roebuck store here will make a difference.
I have recommended a number of times that two men be appointed under civil service to act as substitutes on rural routes, thus you would have two men on duty every day to go whenever needed and they will know the routes thoroughly. If these are no absentees they could be used upon the rural directory which is always changing, or other work. Also if the books are not kept up to par or the case is bad, it will be discovered. Once I was called to carry R 10 and the case had nothing but numbers upon it and they were no help and after a week of hard work, I was ready to give up when the regular man came back to work. I cannot see how a regular man can successfully carry with such a case. I have put in 26 years as a rural substitute and while doing harder work than the regular man every time called, he is not eligible for promotion nor does he get a pension. At the age of 72 the Postmaster sent me a very nice letter, telling me what fine work I had done but time takes its toll and upon my birthday, my name would be dropped from the roll. He did not say so but the fact was that after all that work, I received no pension. Why should the regular man receive a pension and the substitute, who inconveniences himself frequently to get the mail delivered, receives just a thank you letter after taking the weather, hot or cold wet or dry, engine trouble or any thing else, make the trip regardless of cost.
I am now in my 80th year and drawing an old age pension of $50.00 per month and can hardly make ends meet. I am now too far along to do any work. I am glad I was able to do that work for my government but it does seem to me that it should be grateful enough to show its appreciation in a more parcatical way than a thank you letter.
Many times, I have had trouble, tire, engine, or other matters but went right ahead and finished the work satisfactorily.
I am all crippled up at this time and can scarcely walk.