Oral Histories: C

Railway Post Office Clerks

Wayne Paul Carrell

Mr. Wayne Carrell joined the Railway Mail Service in 1959. He began his career in Chicago’s main office but soon started working on the trains as a sub. Within a year, he became a regular on the Chicago-Omaha line, often traveling to Pittsburg as well. He was a clerk until his line was ended in 1968, but he continued to stay in touch with his colleagues.

Wayne Carrell Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: Could you please state your name and your affiliation with the Railway Mail Service?

Wayne Carrell: My name is Wayne Paul Carrell and I was a railway mail clerk until 1968 when they took the trains off. I started in '59. I went to Chicago, worked in the main office in Chicago until they transferred me out on the road as a substitute clerk.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever become a regular?

Wayne Carrell: Yes ma’am, I was out there approximately a year or so when I made regular. I was a regular in the Chicago office. When I hired in I hired in as regular up there but I didn't go out on the road until, I think it was 13 months I was in the main office.

INTERVIEWER: I know earlier you said that you ran on the Chicago line, where there any other rail lines that you worked on?

Wayne Carrell: Yes, when I was a sub, I ran on several different ones.  I was assigned to a district that normally I ran Chicago to Omaha or in between. Sometimes I stopped but then I guess I had a good reputation because when I ran on some of the other lines that ran down to St. Louis and into Peoria and places like that, they occasionally do but in a different district, they knew I had to work so I did.

INTERVIEWER: What other locations did you travel between?

Wayne Carrell: That was mainly where I went, Chicago-Omaha. I take that back. The last assignment I had it was Chicago to Pittsburgh.

INTERVIEWER: You’ve already answered my next question which is, how long did you serve as a Railway Post Office clerk, which was from 1959 to 1968.

Wayne Carrell: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Why did you want to become a Railway Post Office clerk?

Wayne Carrell: One of the local people here was a railway mail clerk and transferred into our local office as a clerk in here and he kept trying to talk me in to get into the mail service, so I took exams for the post master in the local office and got turned down because they said I didn’t have experience to handle money. But anyhow, so he talked me into getting another exam out in Effingham, Illinois and they called me up in Chicago right away. So it’s his responsibility.

INTERVIEWER: What types of job did you have in the railcars?

Wayne Carrell: In the railcars? Well, we had some guys who just worked letter cases and I had that part of the time too, but then part of the time I dumped first class mail out of pouches and then we distributed it into different mailbags and other mail that we were working in our cars and I'd see to it that the clerks that was working the letter mail would get it, and then I worked the paper racks part of the time. We worked primarily second class and a little bit of parcel post, and while a letter clerk, once in a while we handled registered mail. I was on that case part of the time. When I was subbing, I did a lot of various assignments; just about anything we did in the car.

INTERVIEWER: For any one of the jobs that you did could you describe a typical day on the railcar starting from when you first went in to work?

Wayne Carrell: Yes, we generally go to work maybe a couple hours before train departure time and we just do our regular work in there until we left. Any mail we could leave in the office, we’d leave it right there in the station, but we just did our regular jobs until it was time to leave.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any type of layover? Wayne Carrell: Any type of what?


Wayne Carrell: A layover? Yeah, out on the west end. When I was running the Chicago to De Moines which is out toward Omaha, we’d go out one day and come back the next day, and same way when I went to Omaha but then I would have a layover in Chicago. The last case I had, I worked two days, off a day, worked two days and then I was off eight days and on the eighth day, I’d come home because I’m 200 miles south of Chicago.

INTERVIEWER: Was there any one job that you liked doing on the railcars more than the others?

Wayne Carrell: No, I don’t believe so. I enjoyed what I was doing. I liked my job and I liked my work. And most of the time we had good guys working with us and all of us worked. If we didn’t, they didn’t go.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever disliked about any of your positions or jobs and this could be just a small complaint that you may have brushed off to the side?

Wayne Carrell: No, I don’t think so because I was younger then. We didn’t get a lot of sleep sometimes on the other end before we had to come back if we were running late but, no, I can’t think of anything that I was unhappy about.

INTERVIEWER: What type of railcar did you work on?

Wayne Carrell: It was what they called the Railway Post Office. In our car there we had letter cases where guy’s [sounds like] cases are mailed in to, then we had racks for primarily first class mail, another rack in the latter part or back part of the car where we worked our newspapers and parcel post. Then sometimes if we had a car, we had a little storage in there but it was all built pretty well about the same.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the length of the car that you worked on the most?

Wayne Carrell: No, I would have to guess maybe 35 or 40 feet would be my guess, I just never did think about that.

INTERVIEWER: When you worked on the railways, do you by chance remember what your starting salary was? Wayne Carrell: No ma’am, I don’t. It was better; it was more pay than I was getting at home, I know that.

INTERVIEWER: What was your previous job before that?

Wayne Carrell: I was a mechanic for a farm machinery dealer for six years.

INTERVIEWER: From what you do remember about your pay on the railroad, do you believe that it was fair for the amount of work you had to do?

Wayne Carrell: I would say as I -– like I said, I worked quite a bit when I was a sub and we got paid every two weeks and when I was a sub, there was one time that I worked 199 hours in a two-week period and, of course, we didn’t get overtime. Back then they didn’t pay overtime but like I was saying before, they knew I’d work, they'd get a hold of me and I’d be there if at all possible.

INTERVIEWER: That is an awful lot of hours to work to meet.

Wayne Carrell: That just happened one time. But really what happens there was our trains, in the wintertime especially, would have a tendency to run late, you see the passenger trains and that particular time was, you know, sometimes I –- in fact, I came in one time and I was supposed to be done but our assignment clerk had gotten hold of the transfer office in the other end, in the railway office and they met our car when we came in and he told me that I was supposed to go back out on another train that was in the station then. So I reported to the other car as soon as I got unloaded and the supervisor told me to go get me something to eat and get back and we were supposed to leave in about an hour. So they covered my work for me until I got come back in the car and away we went. We had good guys to work for.

INTERVIEWER: What was the most amount of days that you ever worked at one time? Wayne Carrell: Well, continuously, like I said we had layovers in between but generally six days. But then like I said when I was a sub and if they can catch me, I wouldn’t even come back home, I’d just go out again.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. I was talking to a clerk before I called you and he said that at one point he counted that he worked I believe it was 32 days in a row.

Wayne Carrell: Oh yeah? I don’t know. Some of the guys -- like we had a Peoria run and those guys just ran from Chicago to Peoria and back the same day and they ran everyday but it was in a different district. I subbed in on that a few times but I wasn’t aware of anybody working that long at one time without any time off.

INTERVIEWER: What did you typically carry with you in your grip while you were on runs?

Wayne Carrell: Our journey I had a different set of work clothes and when I rode when I subbed, did end up in Chicago from home but then I had my supplies in there. We had facing slips that we put on the back of a bundle of letters when we tie them up. And then if I was running one of the pouch cases, well, then I had labels that we’d stamp them and we had to put our train and our name on them and just odds and ends that we needed, whatever we needed. I guess whatever we needed. We had twine normally in the car but sometimes I left some in my grip that I carried with me on the train. And we had to carry a gun though I never did have to use it but I had it.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the longest trip you ever worked?

Wayne Carrell: No, not really. I don’t know. Our night train journey was the longest run. I don’t know. We’d leave Chicago and then get out to Omaha, it was 500 miles approximately is the way I remembered but I don’t know the hours or [indiscernible] record.

INTERVIEWER: But do you maybe have an approximate time of how long it took to get from Chicago to Omaha? This can just be a rough estimate.

Wayne Carrell: I just can’t remember what times; that’s been a long time ago. I don’t know. It should probably take us 12 hours or so I would guess or maybe longer than that.

INTERVIEWER: While you were working on the railways, did you have a family?

Wayne Carrell: Yes, they stayed right here. I own my place here in Toledo and I must say my wife, she raises the kids.

INTERVIEWER: How did you cope with leaving your family behind on long trips?

Wayne Carrell: Well, I wasn’t happy about it but that was the job, that was part of it and traveling I wasn't excited about it but we had to have an income.

INTERVIEWER: How did your family cope while you were away on trips?

Wayne Carrell: Well, I think they got along pretty good. They couldn’t wait for dad to get home so that they could see what was going on.

INTERVIEWER: What were some of the things they did to keep themselves busy while you were gone?

Wayne Carrell: Well, my kids - both of them - carried the newspaper here in town so that kept them busy in the morning and of course when the weather is bad then my wife will take them around in the car or took them to school for several years. I reckon, they just did what kids do and my wife, like I said she raised them while I was gone.

INTERVIEWER: What are some of your fondest memories of working on the railroad?

Wayne Carrell: I don't know. Fondest? Working with a good bunch of people, I’d say that was the most important thing and it was different. When our line got surplused and they finally sent me over to Chicago-Pittsburgh, different bunch of people but we had in our line there are -- us guys we all got along, I don’t know of anybody that fussed or anything like that. It was just a great place to work. It was dirty, it was hard but it was good.

INTERVIEWER: Do you still keep in touch with any of the former clerks?

Wayne Carrell: Not where I worked up there but I know of some of them locally. Of course, a lot of them have passed away now; in fact, we just lost one recently.

INTERVIEWER: What are some of the names of some of the people that you used to keep in touch with?

Wayne Carrell: Wayne Martin [phonetic] is the one I was in touch with most of the time and he lived in Mattoon. He passed away recently. He was, I guess, probably the main one. There’s a Chuck Hutchcraft [phonetic] that we'd go to NARFE - are you familiar with that - National Association of Retired Federal Employees. We have a meeting once a month and I see Chuck once in a while. And one of our ex-postmasters in Mattoon was a railroad clerk. I didn’t know it until I saw him up in Charleston when [indiscernible] and everything, anything that you're saying now. Kesterson was his last name, but that was about the only ones -- there’s another up in Charleston I was aware of but I really didn’t know him until he was in Charleston. He knew of me, he worked with my son who works in Chicago, I mean in Charleston office and he knew my son. None here where I live, there’s not very many that was a railway mail clerk.

INTERVIEWER: Did the post office ever issue you anything either for your safety or for your position?

Wayne Carrell: Of course, we had to have a badge that we carried all the time and this was a mail clerk badge. And a lot of times, like myself when I was going to Chicago to work, well, then I’d drive up to Mattoon and get on train there and I recall we did head to Chicago and all we had to do was show them our badge and the conductor in the journey give us a little slip of paper that we had to fill out and give to him. But identification that was the only thing that I had.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever experience a bad or dangerous situation while on the train?

Wayne Carrell: Well, once in awhile we’d hit somebody with our train or another vehicle or something. One time we hit a semi-truck out in Iowa that was hauling red wrappers. Of course, when we hit him, we can feel it in our car because we’d take up slack. We had bars on the top part of the car where you can grab and hang on to if you needed to. Sometimes it was necessary and in this case it was and there was lot of red wrappers flying around and we’d generally run the first car behind the engine so we were right there. Outside that, I never experienced any but some of the other guys did. One of our sister trains derailed up around Joliet, Illinois and one of the rails came up to through the car and hurt some of the guys, some pretty bad but I didn’t experience any of that.  It was always on my mind though.

INTERVIEWER: That kind of leads me to my next question. Do you know of any other stories of other clerks that experienced a bad accident or they were just put into a bad situation?

Wayne Carrell: That would be the only one time that I was really aware of. I was subbing back then and I ended up -– the supervisor got hurt and so they assigned me to his job. That’s how I happened to know that. I don’t know, I run that case for quite a while before -– where they took me off that day train and we had a colored man that was second in charge, he was the next senior man in the crew and we had a crew of three guys and so he acted as a supervisor but he did his job and I did the supervisor’s job and everything was okay but –- and I didn’t know any of the other guys what happened to them but it was the only thing that I recall anyhow.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever hear of stories of train robberies or people being held up, and this could have been sometime before you got there, just something that other clerks remembered?

Wayne Carrell: Nope, never heard any stories like that while I was working anyhow.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you ever face or witness any type of racial discrimination as a Railway Post Office clerk? Wayne Carrell: No, not that I was aware of. Like I said, this one guy who was in charge when I was running for the supervisor, that colored man, he lived in Chicago. One time we were a man short and the Chicago post office sent a colored boy out to fill in and work with us to make that run. He came out with a paperback book in his pocket and this guy who was working as a supervisor, the colored man, he asked him, he said, “What are you doing with that book in your pocket?” He said, “Well, I’m going to read it.” He said, “You can just go right back to the post office and read it there.” We went out a man short, so he took care of his own as far as I was concerned. Talking to him you wouldn’t know that he was a colored man when he joked around, he was a good guy. And that was the only incident that I saw happened.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever hear of anybody who experienced or witnessed any type of racial discrimination, any stories from the former clerks?

Wayne Carrell: No, I didn’t. Most of the guys that I ran with going -- when I was running to Chicago to Omaha, most of those people were white people. We had a few colored, not very many. But when I went to Chicago to Pittsburgh, sometimes I was the only white guy in the crew and once in a while it would be two of us but I wasn’t there very long until they took us all for sure, all of us [indiscernible]. But I didn’t experience any problems.

INTERVIEWER: Were you a member of any type of outside organization such as a union or a club that was affiliated with the railway postal clerks?

Wayne Carrell: No.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position? Wayne Carrell: No, I was happy where I was.

INTERVIEWER: What do you miss most about being a Railway Post Office clerk?

Wayne Carrell: Well, studying probably, we studied a lot, took an exam every six months. But that's part of the job, I mean, you knew you're going to have to do that so we did.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you miss?

Wayne Carrell: I don’t think, I don’t miss bad any other -- I can sleep now normally. Of course, I had been retired, well, see the post office, our trains came off in ‘68 and I was put in the post office in Champaign when they took them off.

INTERVIEWER: And when you went in to a stationary unit when the trains came off, do you like that position better?

Wayne Carrell: Did I –- pardon?

INTERVIEWER: Did you like your next position better than being a Railway Post Office clerk?

Wayne Carrell: I’m afraid not. I liked what I was doing on the railroad. Like I said it was dirty, it was hard and we had to study a lot but I liked it.

INTERVIEWER: Then for the last question, is there any other information you would like to share with researchers about your experience or position with the Railway Post Office, and this can be anything from interesting facts that you’ve learned or funny stories that you might have to share?

Wayne Carrell: Well, the only thing I can think of right off hand is something my wife says she has never heard any of the other clerks or railway personnel say. In some towns, especially in our day trains, we'd have to catch a pouch that was hanging on the rack as we were moving along and the journey we moved along pretty fast like maybe 70 or 80 miles an hour and we’d catch that pouch. Well, sometimes that pouch gets knocked down. When they get knocked down, of course, it’d go underneath the train and it was just like seeing a snowstorm in the summertime because that mail would get chewed up. And the post office of that particular town they would have a man out there that brought the pouch and hung it up and we’d generally throw one off at the same location and he would pick it up and take it back to the office, so he could see what happened if we didn’t catch it. But I never experienced anything like that and generally had some guy that was assigned to do the catching and that was his job. It was a dangerous thing to be doing but my wife thinks that’s kind of funny but it was bad because we destroyed mail too.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any interesting sights that you saw during your layovers or on the train?

Wayne Carrell: We generally didn’t have time to look around. The only time we had a chance to look around is sometimes after we got into our office in the railway station, like sometimes we’d get to see the passengers unload and they walk by the car and sometimes that was a sight. It gives something to do, you know, most of us were younger guys too.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything bizarre or unusual that you saw in registered mail perhaps? Wayne Carrell: No, ma’am.


Wayne Carrell: Generally, registered mail was all -- because, you know, it's sealed letters of course and then we put it in a regular pouch and lock it up. Only the register clerk generally is the only one that was aware of, but he never knew what he was handling.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your job as a Railway Post Office clerk, anything else that you can think of?

Wayne Carrell: No, I can’t think of anything right now. I mean, I was just really happy with it. I really enjoyed that, except being away from home. That wasn’t too good.

Vernon Catron

Mr. Catron started his career with the Railway Mail Service in 1942 at the Chicago terminal. He substituted for clerks on the Louisville and Nashville Railway Post Offices, and was appointed a regular run on the Chicago and St. Louis in 1945. His time with the RMS was interrupted with a stint as a Navy draftee. Mr. Catron later returned to the Railway Post Office and continued as a regular clerk on the Nashville and St. Louis run from 1946 until 1966.

Vernon Catron (VC) Interview Transcript

VC: Well, I put in about almost 33 years, so I guess that’s, that’s enough time. I just ran from St. Louis to Nashville, Tennessee on the L&N train, so that’s about, all I can tell you about it, I guess. I don’t know.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any family members who worked with the Post Office Department before you did? VC: No. I got in, I went in when I was, about 24, 5, I don’t know.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what jobs you did on the trains?

VC: I went in 1942 and I worked in the offices in St. Louis and I worked on the Illinois Central some, and Belmont, and most of the time on the L&N, Louisville-Nashville.

INTERVIEWER: Did you work many days in a row?

VC: Oh I worked about 6 days on and 8 days off, I think. INTERVIEWER: Was it a job that you liked very much?

VC: Oh, well, yeah, I did very well. It’s a good job but they discontinued the trains back in ’68. I went in to Mt. Vernon Post Office and worked in there for a while, and got enough time in to retire, anyway. So, that covers most of it anyway.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember ever having any dangerous situations on the trains?

VC: No, no, no. We never did have any accidents or anything like that on the train. I’d just run from one end of the road to the other.

Robert Coleman

Mr. Coleman was a clerk with the Railway Mail Service from 1961 until 1967. He ran on the Newport News and Charleston, Richmond and Lynchburg, and Washington and Florence lines, as well as others in Virginia and into the capital. Mr. Coleman also sorted mail on the Highway Post Offices.

Robert Coleman (RC) Interview Transcript

RC: Well I was hired by the Post Office on January the third, 1961, and I went to personnel, they asked me, because I was single, they asked me would I be interested in working for the Railway Mail Service. And the guy explained to me what it was and he said the pay was a bit more, and I said yeah, I’d be interested in joining. So I went to work, I guess I started in March of ’61, and until July of ’67, they discontinued the trains. I worked on Newport News and Charleston, the 42 and 43, I worked the Rich and Lynch, Rich and Clark HPOs, and I was on, I went to Wash and Florence, 75, I guess, 76 going north, and the 93 coming back. The 76 going north and the 93 coming back down from Washington DC.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about like the typical day for you? Like what sort of hours you worked, what you would wear, what you would eat, that sort of thing?

RC: Okay, I just wore old work clothes, because it’s always dirty on those trains and Highway Post Offices, and I was on the HyPOs I would get off at a place called Dillwyn, Virginia, and I would stay there, and they’d have a house across from the Post Office, and I’d rent a room and stay there from about 8 o’clock in the morning to about 5 in the afternoon, I’d catch the train, yeah. HyPO come back from Lynchburg, stop in Dillwyn and I got on there. There was only two clerks, clerk in charge and I was the second clerk, and the same thing with the Rich and Clark up in Asheville, Virginia, there and then I was just, if they had anything in town, Dillwyn didn’t have any restaurants, so I would just go on the post all day and just get drink and a [?], something like that. And then we would stop at a place called Fort. Baker, Virginia and they had a restaurant there and we’d go in and get a bite to eat.

INTERVIEWER: Did the service provide you with money and funds for things like food and places to stay? RC: No, not then.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So, you said you worked for the Highway Post Offices too, did you prefer one over the other, the railway or the highway?

RC: It didn’t make much difference to me. I kind of enjoyed RPOs better, you know, but I liked both of them, you know. Each one has advantages, you know. The only thing I didn’t like about the Highway Post Office was when the roads are real bad, you know, they have a contract driver driving that bus, and sometimes they, you know they weren’t too safe driving sometimes, you know. But that’s all the bad things like that, I thought. But the trains, always felt comfortable on the trains.

INTERVIEWER: What was your favorite part, you think about the Railway Mail Service?

RC: Well, I enjoyed everything about it, I enjoyed dumping the mail out and throwing the mail off in pouches and sacks at each destination, and also I distributed mail for the state of Virginia, New York City, North Carolina and South Carolina, so, I enjoyed learning the schemes, and I think it, I think it was for every six hours and 45 minutes we worked we got paid for 8 hours work. And another thing I liked about it was when I was a regular I worked for, the last one I had I worked 3 days on, 1 day off, 3 days on and 7 days off, before going back to work, you know, so that was the nice thing about that. They paid us, they usually paid us like that because we had to keep up with the schemes and the rote books on off time, you see.

INTERVIEWER: Did you study often at home?

RC: Yeah, yeah. You’d get these updates and we’d have to, you know, run those scheme books and keep updates. INTERVIEWER: Did you ever remember running into any sort of dangerous situations?

RC: No. I used be a register clerk on Newport News-Charleston, 42 and 43 and we used to have a lot of registers coming in from Fort Eustis, Virginia, they’d be sending money through to pay the troops in different places.

INTERVIEWER: Anything unusual ever happen that you remember?

RC: No, nothing unusual really, no. Things usually went along pretty smoothly. All I know is that sometimes it was hot on those trains and sometimes it was cold.

INTERVIEWER: Did you, then did you get along very well with the crews that you worked with? Did you make very good friends?

RC: Yeah I didn’t have a problem with anyone I worked with. Everybody, most of the people… people worked real good.

Thomas Collins

Mr. Collins was certified as a substitute with the Railway Post Office in 1948 and became a regular later that same year. He ran on the New Orleans and Marshall, Texas line, as well as lines from New Orleans to Houston, and Montgomery to New Orleans. As a regular, Mr. Collins ran on the Baton Rouge and Houston, where he worked until 1960.

Thomas Collins (TC) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to work for the RMS?

TC: Well I, I was doing carpentry work and I’d lose a lot of time because of weather, and somebody threw a newspaper in my yard that said the Post Office was holding examinations for Railway Postal clerks. My brother had been a postal clerk in the city of New Orleans for about five years, and during the Depression years it was very good money. So I thought, well gee whiz, a civil service job could be one I’d have all my life, don’t worry about it. So I went down and took the examination and I think I was the first five point veteran hired in the state of Louisiana.

INTERVIEWER: So can you tell me about what you did on the trains, any specific jobs that you had?

TC: I started out, they gave me three training runs, one on the Southern Pacific railroad, the New Orleans and Houston Railway Post Office, one on the Natchez and New Orleans Railway Post Office and one on the, Montgomery and New Orleans, and that was over to Montgomery, Alabama. And then I was assigned as a temporary clerk on the 3rd of July in 1948 and they gave me, my first assignment was three runs on the New Orleans and Marshall. I made those and I was thinking to myself, my gosh I think that I could make a living this way. So I called the office and I got a job working at the New Orleans airport, and one day in fact I got two days out at the airport in between the runs to Marshall, Texas. And one of the clerks out at the airport said, well you been getting enough work? And I said, well I got three runs on the New Orleans… I didn’t know about trip values. Trip value meaning the number of days pay you get for each trip. I thought well, New Orleans and Marshall is a two and a half day trip, that is you went to Marshall overnight, you slept, you came back to New Orleans overnight, so I told myself, well I’ve had three on the New Orleans and Marshall and two days out at the airport, he said did you get a Brink’s truck to haul your pay home in? I said what do you mean? He said, well you get so many days pay for each one of those trips, and of course it took two nights and a day, you know, to make it, and we only headed out once every five days, so… And my first trip on the New Orleans and Marshall was a very interesting trip. The… I went, they told me to go to the Post Office and convoy the registered mail down to the train, do that at 9 o’clock at  night. So I did. And when I get to the train, the thing that happened at every railway station I was in. The train porter said the people that worked down there and separated us yet and whatnot, when they bring mail to the car, they’d load your car for 25 cents. And they knew more about where that mail went than I did because I was brand new. He’d begin the car loading and he looked down and he said oh, lookey here, we got fresh meat! And I said yeah, I feel sorry for you all because I’ve only had a couple of practice runs on these, and I was an observer more than anything else. And he said, that’s alright Mr. Pate will help you. And Mr. Pate sounded off, he says I’m not going to help him at all. I’m sick and tired of breaking in these new men [laughs]. And I got up in the mail car and he told me, he says let me tell you one thing. He said, you don’t know anything about this. So therefore, whoever’s the clerk in the car, he’s going to have to work a little double to make up for your slack. Now there was a spirit among the Railway Mail clerks, is that you always worked up your mail. You worked hard to get it worked up, you didn’t want to ever be carrying any of it back. So, he said, you should’ve came down here at 7 o’clock, and at least you could’ve got your car labeled up, you don’t even know how to label up a car. He taught me a little bit of a lesson about that, so for the rest of my Mail Service career I was always at work at least an hour and a half ahead. ‘Cause he said until you learn what you’re doing, you were just dead head on the payroll, so to speak. He said now, I’m gonna label this car up, and when you pick up a piece of mail you sound off about what it is and I’ll tell you where to put it. And he did. He could do that and work his own mail. He was very good. Anyhow, I worked as a substitute and was never particularly happy as a substitute because you never knew where you were going to be and how much work you were going to get and what not, like that. So they offered me three appointments, a choice of three appointments, and I bid in the Baton Rouge and Houston Railway Post Office. And it was the best thing I ever did because it got me a clerk in charge by the name of Joe Vickers. And Joe Vickers, he was just among the best. He and I worked together for 11 years, and I would, if I worked my part of the mail up, which was the paper clerk, paper and parcel post, I didn’t open a letter case until I was all totally worked up. And then I would do what we called pulling out directs, in other words, if we were coming to Texas I would be pulling out Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, all the big cities. That would cut down what he had to do in letter mail working. So as a result somewhere back down the line they came up with a program that offered cash awards for superior systems, sustained superior performance of duty. And I got a fifty dollar cash award. Somewhere there was a letter from the Post Office commending me for it. Now, the Baton Rouge and Houston Railway Post Office was a thirty foot mail car, half a car, and I handled that end of it pretty well except for when I had to run as clerk in charge when I had, Joe would take a trip off or whatever, I would run clerk in charge, and among the things I told Shirley was, you asked about unions. Well, we had a little Railway Mail association and primarily what it did was talk about Christmas, the staffing for Christmas, because Christmas was always a heavy rush time of mail. And, that’s when I put in some of my longest times, because it was 12 hours a night and they extended that run from Baton Rouge all the way down to New Orleans, and we would work 12 hour nights and it was every night. Now, in figuring out how much trip value for a trip was, they took into account late running of the trains, and they factored that figure in to see how many days pay you’d get off a round trip. And then they also, they factored in the fact that you had to study at home, your examinations. So you did a certain amount of Railway Postal clerk work at home.

Examinations were done, I had as a clerk on the Baton Rouge and Houston, Louisiana, Mississippi and two thirds of Texas. A total of 3,030 post offices. I had to memorize them and know how to distribute the mail to those 3,030 post offices, at least 97% accurate when I started, and at a minimum of 16 a minute. Before I left the Railway Mail Service, and I will tell you I left because they were discontinuing passenger train service, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Anyhow, in the examinations, they were good for in my case, three years, each examination, since there was four of them, I took an examination once every 9 months. One or the other, and I completed my Louisiana, Mississippi and two-thirds of Texas, from the time I came to work on the Baton Rouge and Houston on November the 1st, 1948, I completed my full study scope of all of them in 9 months time, and I missed 10.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever run into any dangerous situations?

TC: The only real danger we had, of course as a, not the clerk in charge but the only other clerk in the car was me, and I had to make the catcher exchanges, so you had a risk of getting a cinder in your eye or something like that, something in your eye. I think I got about four of them over 11 years. The only other real danger that we really feared was hitting a tanker truck. Over the years the trains hit I think about 5 cars and as far as I know only in one case was anybody killed. This particular time we were just pulling out of Dequincy, Louisiana when two couples in two cars were racing one another from Dequincy to Lake Charles, this is what we were told, all I know is that one of them hit the side of our train so hard that he uncoupled the cars. Now when you uncouple the cars, you set the brakes automatically. And he uncoupled the cars between the mail car and the baggage car, and we didn’t know what in the world happened, we were hoping it wasn’t a tank truck, but he just ran into the side of the train. And we had to stay there until they got the car out and everything else.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me about your favorite thing about the RMS?

TC: The work in the mail car, we had an extra clerk in the mail car one time at Christmas and that young man was as slow as molasses in the middle of winter. He was slow. Just didn’t move fast. And Joe told him, he said let me tell you, this work is not so hard as it is fast. You’ve got to move fast, you’ve got to do it. And actually going to Baton Rouge and Houston when I went on the trip in 1948 we had a four day head out, we made a round trip every four days. And on that particular line, we made the trip from Houston to Baton Rouge and got there about four o’clock in the morning. We went to a little hotel, and he went to a bigger hotel than I did… but we paper clerks had a room rented in a little place down by the station, and well you slept in a hot bed because well, the other clerk had slept in it. I never did see a made up bed. Anyhow, we slept from about 4:30 or so until 9 o’clock in the morning. You had to get up, eat breakfast and get down to the station by about 9:30, so we caught the day train going back to Houston. So you went over on the night train and came back on the day train. And it was completely… we got back to Houston and the next day after we left we were back in Houston at I’d say 6:30 in the evening, I’d get off the train. Now, I did… this may be what I liked about it the most because I told people that I was home so much my neighbors thought I was unemployed. Because they’d see me the day I went on the trip, they’d see me around the house all day, and the next evening I was back at home in the house again, you know. So in between times I got a part time job because the post office as I found out, although it paid my brother real good money during the Depression years, when I went to work for it, it wasn’t paying very good. Not as good as it does nowadays. But, so I got a part time job because I had kids by that time and I wanted them to have as much as I could earn for ‘em.

INTERVIEWER: Was it hard for your family when you were away?

TC: Well, my wife was always complaining about it. She said, you’re always gone. If you think about it, when I first started on the Baton Rouge and Houston, like I said I was home an awful lot. Now when Mr. Eisenhower became president he appointed a postmaster general by the name of Summerfield and he did away with Sunday service. And that meant instead of going to work on a four day head out, we went on a three day head out, so I was gone more after that. You think about it, even on a three day headout, every three weeks I was off five days in a row because I didn’t go out Sunday. We alternated on the night train and the day train, we alternated who went on Sunday or Saturday night and you didn’t come back home ‘til Monday. And so that was the way life went, and all in all I would’ve stayed a Railway Mail clerk all the days of my life, because I didn’t mind working the two jobs. But, and I said it paid more and what not, I really enjoyed it.

INTERVIEWER: Are there any other stories, maybe something very funny that happened, or unusual?

TC: Well, unusual. You know, one time we had four little catcher stations between Kinder, Louisiana and Dequincy, and it was LeBlanc, Reeves, Bel and Ragley and we could ask the train to stop, this was on the day train going back to Houston, and we could tell the train porter that we wanted to stop at whichever ones we had parcel post for, because we didn’t throw that off, we had to hand it to somebody, and we always had to stop at Ragley, and this particular day we pulled up there to Ragley and this fella came out to get the mail, and he had a little kid with him. He looked up at me and said, Mister, do you like to ride the train? I said, I sure do, sonny. And he said, you get paid too, don’t you [laughs]? Oh, I tell that story all the days of my life because it sticks in my mind as being real funny, to think that I got paid, he just had admiration in his eyes like you wouldn’t believe.

INTERVIEWER: Then just one last question, do you have any photographs or anything else from your time in the RMS?

TC: Well I’ve got, I’ve found today so far is two results of examinations I took, one of them was for Louisiana and one was for Mississippi. And I passed them at 99 percent. I missed one out of 100, and did them at about 30 cards a minute. The way that you took an examination, and you had to buy them for yourself, the post office didn’t furnish it, you buy a box of Louisiana cards say, or Mississippi cards, or B Texas or C Texas, those were my examinations. And all that card had on the front of it was, typed… not typed, but printed, all of them looked alike, would be the name of the post office. Now on your practice cards at home you used a scheme and a map, and you figured out the best way to get that mail from your train to wherever it was going. And once you had it figured out, well you used to label up a case like a little small letter case, and you took that with these cards, and you just started throwing these cards in the case, and you practiced doing that until you could do it, enough that you knew you’d pass it. Sometimes when I had an examination coming up I’d sit there throwing practice cards all day every day ‘till I’d just get so tired of it, but you still did it. When I started in the Railway Mail Service you had to do at least 16 a minute at 97% accurate. When I left the Mail Service, by that time they were having so much problems hiring people that they wasn’t able to get people that could memorize that well, they cut the requirements down to 12 cards a minute at 90% accurate. I completed, when I came over here I had already done Texas, I had already done that part of Louisiana, so I did the B section of Texas, and I passed at 100%, I didn’t miss any, and went out on the train that night and turned around and asked Joe what to do with a piece of mail for the particular Post Office. He said, I thought you told me you passed the thing at 100%, and now you’re asking me about it? I said yeah, but that printed card was a printed card, this was written out, it looks different. So you had things, little problems like that. But it was interesting.

Maurice Cox

Mr. Cox became one of the youngest men working on the Chicago and Kansas City Railway Post Office in 1957. Soon after he got his start, he was assigned a regular position on the Chicago and Council Bluffs run. Though he was drafted into the Army in 1958, he was able to perform similar work, as he was assigned to the Army Post Office. Upon discharge, Mr. Cox worked on the Chicago and Council Bluffs line from 1960 until 1962. Mr. Cox eventually transferred when a rural route in his hometown became available.

Maurice Cox Interview Transcript

Maurice Cox: My full name is Maurice Francis Cox. And I was an RPO clerk, a regular RPO clerk from Chicago on the Chicago Council Bluffs RPO.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And what rail lines did you work on and which locations did you travel between?

Maurice Cox: Well, I worked on the Chicago-Council Bluffs usually from Chicago to Omaha but I did have a run, the last run I had was from Chicago to Ottumwa, Iowa and then I would get off in Ottumwa, Iowa and had about a two- hour layover and then catch the mail train back and work back to Chicago. And that was the one I liked the best because I had six, worked six days and then I had nine days off.

INTERVIEWER: And how long did you serve as a railway post office clerk?

Maurice Cox: Well, I worked two years. I worked in, let’s see, ’56 to ’58 as a clerk and then I was called in to the army and I served two years in the army, in which I went to Germany for 18 months, and then when I came back, I started in again and I worked another two years on the RPO. And then the rural route in my hometown became open. Men retired from that and they allowed me to transfer into that position from the RPO.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And what made you want to become a post office clerk for the  railway?

Maurice Cox: Oh, I’m not sure. I was working in the Suburban Track Terminal in Chicago and there were five or six guys that came into the service at the same time and they were all excited about it because they knew all about it and I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know they had such a thing as a railway mail clerk. But anyway, because they were excited about it, they applied for it. I decided I would too so that’s how come I got started, I guess, because I really didn’t know that much about it.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay.  And what positions or jobs did you work on the rail cars?

Maurice Cox: Well, let’s see, I was on the Denver Zephyr Train #1. Before we left Chicago, I sorted Colorado newspapers and then after I got to the Colorado newspapers, I would go up to the letter end and assist the clerk up there with the Nebraska letter mail and the state of Washington letter mail.

INTERVIEWER: And could you walk me through a typical day on the rail car?

Maurice Cox: Well, I went to work about 4:30 in the afternoon and helped put the sacks and the pouches on the racks and label everything up and the boxes up overhead and the pouches in the sacks. And after we get those labeled up, well, then they would bring loads of mail in and we would stack the mail in the mail car in the storage bins there. And then as soon as we get that done, then I would start usually with my Colorado newspapers and start working. And the train would leave about 6:30 in the evening. So that was that case.  There were other cases. You know what? It’s been so long ago I can’t remember the train numbers, some of them. I think it was 29 that I worked on that had a register case where I handled the registered mail and like I said, I can’t remember the train numbers. It’s just been too long ago and I didn’t write things down.

INTERVIEWER: That’s perfectly fine. Did you do anything else during the day?

Maurice Cox: No. We would have a hotel room, hotel not motel. We would have a hotel room in Chicago and then when we get out in Omaha, we’d always have one out there to sleep and we didn’t too much in the way of doing things. We did play pool quite a bit, some of us guys, and then we’d just go to restaurants and eat and that was about it.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And did you ever dislike about any of the jobs you did on the rail car?

Maurice Cox: Yes, I did. They assigned me what they call a local run from Burlington, Iowa to Omaha, and this was when I was first assigned to the line and I was not familiar with the towns and where they put the mail off and where they put it off and where they caught it and all that stuff, and it just made me extremely nervous because I’ll tell you, I’ll give you one example, okay?


Maurice Cox: I was to throw off some bags of mail at this one spot and it was late at night. It was dark. But the other clerk said, “Now, you will see a lantern. First of all, you’ll hear our train go across the tracks and make a clickety-clickety-click sound and then you’ll see this lantern and that’s when you’re supposed to throw off these mail bags.” Well, that particular night, the wind had blown the lantern out.  There was no lantern so I never did see a lantern so I never did throw the bags of mail off. And I had to go down to the next stop and put them up and then they had to come back on another train. But that was just one example of not knowing what I was doing and it makes you nervous and it makes you upset. But I didn’t like that but I was very fortunate because I was only on there for just a few trips and some -- they had what they called bidding rights. I had Illinois rights and Iowa rights and I had Illinois rights and then somebody was Iowa rights, bid that case in and so I was only on that case for like just a very short time and I was so thankful for that because I just didn’t know what I was doing.

INTERVIEWER: And was there anything else that you disliked about any of the jobs you worked?

Maurice Cox: No, I liked it. I really liked the job. We worked with a lot of different guys. We had like maybe four different crews that I would run with, it’s what we call it, run with, work with and so there was lots of different guys and we got along. Everybody got along real well usually so I liked it. I liked all the guys and I liked the work. INTERVIEWER: And just out of curiosity, what was your favorite position on the rail cars?

Maurice Cox: I have to think about that a minute. I liked to sort letters. I think that was my favorite thing that I liked to is to case the letters because I could do that fast. I’m real short and I could barely reach the top pigeon hole to put mail in and to get the mail out, I had to climb up on the table on my knees to be able to get the letters out. But I could slip them in, get the edge up there and then just slip them. But I liked to work letters better than anything else.

INTERVIEWER: And what type of rail car did you work on?

Maurice Cox: Well, the one that I was on most of the time was a 30-foot car, the Denver Zephyr there and on Train 1 and come back on 8. Once in a while, I did work some on the 60-foot cars, not a whole lot but some, but I liked the 30-foot one better.

INTERVIEWER: And when you worked on the railways, do you remember what your starting salary was? Maurice Cox: Not exactly. I kept some of my pay cards but I can’t find them. It seemed to me like it was two dollars and like 47 cents an hour or something like that. It’s right around that.

INTERVIEWER: And do you, by chance, remember what your ending salary was as an RPO clerk?

Maurice Cox: No, I don’t. It’s kind of difficult because, well, when I was a sub, you have many different hours. Sometimes you’d have a whole lot of hours and sometimes you wouldn’t have so many so it’s difficult to come up with a set amount, unless I would know exactly how much per hour that I made.

INTERVIEWER: Now, from what you do remember about getting paid, do you think that it was fair for the amount of work that you had to do?

Maurice Cox: Oh yes. We thought it was great pay.  We know we were all satisfied with the pay.  I was.  I thought it was good pay. I got out of high school in ’54, graduated in ’54.  Jobs were real plentiful for most people and most men in this area got jobs at Caterpillar or the manufacturing company in Galesburg and I applied at a number of places and they would not hire me simply, they said, because I was too small and that their insurance wouldn’t cover me so I couldn’t get a job. So I lived on a farm. It was kind of weird. We lived out in the country about five miles and one day, a salesman came along and was selling correspondence courses. And my Dad paid $90 for me to take a correspondence course through the mail and I took, picked the one with the post office postal subjects and then after I finished that course, I was able to take the test and pass it and that’s how I ended up. They called me to Chicago to the main post office building to go to work. But I couldn’t get a job anywhere else because I was too little. I didn’t know if that was kind of interesting or not.

INTERVIEWER: No, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that and I’ve done quite a few interviews so far, so that was actually very interesting. What did you typically carry with you in your grip while you were on run?

Maurice Cox: Oh, just clean clothes. We had to carry supplies, labels and slips. We had stamp-up slips that you put on the letter mail. If you get a bundle of letter mail, you put a slip on with your name and the train numbers and things like that on there so that they would know who sorted the mail and if you make too many mistakes, well, you maybe get a slip back that reminds you that the mail didn’t go here or didn’t go there. But just clothes and we would go to a little store and get something to eat on the trip, maybe something to make sandwiches or some little cakes or something and something to drink. When I first -- that was another thing that was kind of funny because the very first trip I made, I didn’t have a grip like most of the mail clerks had. They had regular grips, what they called it, and all I had was my little suitcase. And I got on the mail car and I was standing there looking around and I stood there probably about five minutes and everybody didn’t think to answer to me and finally, I asked and I said, “Well, what am I supposed to be doing?” or “Who am I supposed to see?” and they laughed. They said, “Are you a mail clerk?” And I said, “Yes.” And they said, “Well, we just thought you were some little kid that brought his Dad’s grip down to him. We didn’t think about you being a mail clerk.” So I was real young and real little so they just assumed that I was just a kid.

Maurice Cox: And then one other thing then that was really bad, I did not realize that I was supposed to get all the supplies for the first trip that I made. I didn’t know that I was supposed to get all the labels and pasting slips and all the supplies for that particular case for the guy that I was replacing. So when I got on the train, I did not have those things. I didn’t get them. And they were in the transfer office and I didn’t know that so then, the clerk-in- charge had to write blank labels for all those pouches of sacks and everything and he wasn’t too happy about that. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t have been either.

INTERVIEWER: What was the longest trip you ever worked?

Maurice Cox: The longest trip was from Omaha to Chicago and it was in the winter time and they had a blizzard and the train couldn’t get through and we ended up getting into Chicago just in time to get off of that train and jump on the other one to go back to Omaha again. We just barely made it. We were that late.

INTERVIEWER: And how many hours?

Maurice Cox: Well, we usually get in Chicago at 4:30 in the morning. Well, this was like four o’clock in the afternoon when we got there. So it was a long trip.

INTERVIEWER: And what time did you leave that morning or afternoon from Omaha to Chicago?

Maurice Cox: Oh, let’s see. I’m trying to figure this out. It was late in the afternoon, probably about 4:30 I guess in the afternoon and we didn’t get into Chicago until about four o’clock in the next afternoon.  I believe that’s the way it was.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have a family while working as an RPO clerk?

Maurice Cox: Yes, I had a family.  The fact is they called me when our oldest daughter was born, Laura.  They called and I had the transfer clerk in Galesburg, Illinois come and get me off the train because our oldest daughter was being born and so I got off in Galesburg and we want to Havana to the hospital and it was like one o’clock in the morning when I got there and I didn’t get there in time for her being born but I got there shortly after. Then we had another daughter a year and a half after that and then the third one wasn’t born until like eight years later so then I was a rural mail carrier by then. But two of them were born while I was an RPO clerk.

INTERVIEWER: And how did you -- oh, sorry, go ahead.

Maurice Cox: I was just going to say we’ve been married since 1961.

INTERVIEWER: And how did you cope with leaving your family behind on the long trips?

Maurice Cox: Oh, it wasn’t too bad. She didn’t mind it too bad, my wife didn’t, so I didn’t mind it. It didn’t bother me.

INTERVIEWER: And so I take it your wife just kept herself busy while you were away? Maurice Cox: Oh yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And what are some of your fondest memories of working on the railway?

Maurice Cox: I think just the closeness that we had as a group of RPO clerks. Like I said, everybody got along real well and everybody was real friendly and helpful. They bent over backwards to help when you needed help and it was just very enjoyable. I just really liked the job. But when they offered me the rural route in my hometown, since I was married and everything, I couldn’t pass that up and that was in ’62, in the fall of ’62 and then they didn’t have the RPOs on too many years after that so I guess I was pretty fortunate to be able to transfer into a rural route.

INTERVIEWER: And do you still keep in touch with any of the former clerks you worked with?

Maurice Cox: Oh yes. We just had a get-together, up at Union, Illinois about three weeks ago and we have a reunion every year. I missed the one in this year because my granddaughter got married that day and I couldn’t miss that. But we ordinarily go every year to the reunion we have and of course, they’re all pretty getting up in years, including me, so a lot of them have gone by the wayside but we still have about, oh, somewhere between 25 and 30 guys that still go to the reunions.

INTERVIEWER: Did the post office ever issue you anything for your safety or for the position on the railway? Maurice Cox: Well, we had .38 Colt Specials that we carried when we handled -- well, I think all the clerks had .38 Colt Specials especially when you had a registered case so they would give you ammunition or bullets to take home and practice shooting. I have one more little funny thing.


Maurice Cox: When they did that, there are kind of difficult to shoot with any accuracy. And I was practicing at home and my two brothers, they were laughing at me. They said they wouldn’t be afraid to rob the train because I couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn as you would put it, but I got better. I got to where I could hit a tin can.

INTERVIEWER: Were there ever times where you were in a dangerous or bad situation while on the railway? Maurice Cox: Not really. One interesting thing, we did handle a lot of money and important things as a register clerk and there were a few times when we got to Chicago or Omaha, especially Chicago, we would be met by guards there with sawed-off shotguns to escort us up to the register room and I thought that was kind of odd that here we were with just our little .38 Colt Special and when we get up there, they had sawed-off shotgun guards to escort us so they made you feel kind of nervous.

INTERVIEWER: And did you ever hear of anybody experiencing anything dangerous or put into a bad situation? And this could have been during the time where you were a post office clerk or sometime before you became an RPO.

Maurice Cox: No. I can’t think of any.

INTERVIEWER: And did you face or witness any type of racial discrimination while you were on the railway? Maurice Cox: No, not really. I did in the suburban truck terminal but that was I just made a remark that just slipped out and I didn’t think about it but I was called to task for that, making that remark about -- INTERVIEWER: And did you ever know anybody who experienced racial discrimination while on the railway? Maurice Cox: No, I don’t think so. They got along pretty good with all of us. No, I didn’t.

INTERVIEWER: And were you a member of any type of outside organization, such as a union or club that was affiliated with the RPO clerks?

Maurice Cox: Well, no. No, not as an RPO clerk.

INTERVIEWER: Were you a part of an outside organization when you went to the rural route? Maurice Cox: Yes, we had a county organization as rural mail carriers so I belonged to that.

INTERVIEWER: And what was the organization called?

Maurice Cox: Well, it was called the Rural Mail Carriers Organization. INTERVIEWER: And what did that group do?

Maurice Cox: Well, usually, they met once a month and they would have supper. And if there was any business well then they would have a business meeting and talked about things but ordinarily, we didn’t do too much, only just go out and eat meals and we didn’t do too much.

INTERVIEWER: And was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position as an RPO clerk? Maurice Cox: Not really. I was pretty much satisfied the way it was.

INTERVIEWER:  And then what is the thing that you miss the most about being a railway post office clerk? Maurice Cox: Well, I think just being with the other men and that was a kind of fast and curious job, you know. You just -- it was hard work but it was very gratifying and very satisfying. The one thing probably that I didn’t miss that I probably didn’t say was I did not miss having to learn all the post offices in those interstates and how to route the mail. At times, it got difficult to find time, especially when you’re married and you got a family, to find time to sit down and study those post offices and how to send the mail and to be able to take the test and had to get 95 percent correct to pass. I forget what all I did. I had Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, New York State, I forget -- but anyways, I had to learn all those states and Chicago City, which was kind of difficult for me so I did not miss having to study and take those tests.

INTERVIEWER: And then for the last question, is there any other information that you would like to make accessible to researchers about your experience or position with the railway post office? And this can be anything, from an interesting tidbit to a funny story or colorful anecdote.

Maurice Cox: I don’t think so. I did have one funny thing happen when we were coming east on the train and I hadn’t been working very long on the mail car and the clerk-in-charge came up and said that we were coming to this town that we had to catch and he said, “This is a difficult catch,” he said. “You better let me catch it for you.” And I didn’t see why he wanted to do that because I caught it before several times and didn’t have any trouble with it. But anyway, I said, “Oh, okay. You can catch it.” So I’m standing there throwing newspapers in the sacks off the table there and all of a sudden, I heard this crash and here come glass flying all over the place. And the clerk-in-charge did not catch a pouch down and broke the window in the mail car out and he came walking up there and he kind of giggled and he said, “I guess I had better let you catch it.” It was funny but it wasn’t funny. INTERVIEWER: Was he at least okay?

Maurice Cox: Yes. Yes, everybody was okay. We just had to be careful of the glass.

Herbert Crockett

Mr. Crockett, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was a Railway Post Office clerk from 1957 until 1967. During this time, he worked on the following lines: Bristol and Chattanooga, Cincinnati and Chattanooga, Chattanooga and Memphis, and Chattanooga and Meridian. He also worked as a Railway Mail transfer clerk.

Herbert Crockett (HC) Interview Transcript

HC: The train would keep on running and we’d catch the pouch and we’d sort the mail out. If we had any mail for the next town, we’d put it off and pick up their mail. We kept the mail moving, you know. We could get mail across the United States in three days, all the way to California, you know. In three days time, back in the Railway Postal Service we could do it ‘bout as good as they do now, you know. And it was really good, a good thing. In fact, I think it would be good now, to have a system like that. But it was a good thing, I thought. I hate to see ‘em take it off. I stayed just as long as I could. I was, I went in Chattanooga Post Office in 1967, and the last train right out of Chattanooga was post cars only.

JG: Was it hard to get used to at first?

HC: Well, it was a little bit hard at first. At first, I would get a little bit motion sickness, sorting mail on the trains like that, you know. I would get a little motion sickness at first, but then I got adjusted to it.

JG: Did you have family at the time? HC: Oh yes, yes.

JG: Was it hard for them when you were away?

HC: Well, not too bad. I had a daughter then, she was growing up, and she would tell me bye and hug me when I left, and, most time I was just gone like one night at a time, you know. But, it was kind of fun, you know. It was a different type of job, you know. But I enjoyed it.

JG: Did you have to study a lot at home?

HC: Oh yes. We had to study a lot. The first year you had to learn about 2,000 post offices, I believe it was, in the first year that you were in the service. So you had to study about all the time during the first year. Then after that you didn’t have to study as much but you did have to keep up on the, how they route the mail. It was before the zip codes came into effect, and you had to remember what routes to send this mail on. And the zip codes really helped us a lot, when they had zip codes, you could route the mail with that, see, but before that we had to just figure out the best way to send the mail, you know. We had what they call schemes that had all that information and tell about what trains went where and all that. And I still got some of that stuff up in my attic. The schemes and things, you know. I’ve got one of those things where you practice, with the cards, you know. When you’re studying, I’ve still got one of those up in my attic. With the little pigeon holes in it.

JG: Did you like working with all the crews on the trains?

HC: Oh yeah, we had a good relationship, out there, it was, some of the crews just had like two men on it and then some of ‘em had 12, 14, so… One of the good runs to Cincinnati we had two long 60 foot postal cars on that and they were about 12 men on it I believe, something like that. But it was, it was kinda fun in a way, you know. What we would do, most of the crew worked together to get the mail caught up. It was sort of a disgrace to not get all your mail sorted you know, at the end of your run, so we’d always try to be sure we got everything worked out if possible. But everybody just pitched in a helped the other people, and that sort of thing, you know. Even though we had our own jobs assigned, but when you got through your job you pitched in helped other people, whoever needed help, you know.