Oral Histories: S

Railway Post Office Clerks

Irving Schneider

Mr. Schneider’s Railway Mail Service career began in 1943, but was put on temporary hold for military service in World War II. By 1946, Mr. Schneider returned from the war and went back to work for the Post Office. For nine years, he worked several jobs at the West Side Terminal in New York City, the terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the Airmail facility at LaGuardia and Idlewild airports. In 1955, he transferred to the New York and Chicago Eastern Division Railway Post Office as a regular clerk and in 1966 moved into the Mobile Unit Office as a Trip Account Clerk, in charge of payroll.

Irving Schneider (IS) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to work for the Railway Mail Service?

IS: I started to go to work for the railway, I took the examination in 1936 but because I was inducted in the army I couldn’t report ‘til 1946.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me about a typical day for you? When and where you would go to work, the sort of hours…

IS: Yeah, I could tell you where I went in. I first started to work in the terminal called the West Side Terminal in New York City as a substitute. And within three weeks I transferred to a small terminal in New Jersey, Hoboken Terminal, because there were trains running out of there and I was occasionally assigned as a substitute on the train for a day trip. And I worked there for about 8 months when I became a regular, a regular clerk under the McCormack Act, and I was transferred back to New York because I was from the New York list, and I wasn’t allowed to work in New Jersey at that time. Once I became a regular. And I worked in the West Side terminal as a regular ‘til 1947 and I transferred to the air-mail facility at LaGuardia Airport. At LaGuardia Airport I was a distribution clerk, and also a receiving clerk when I received the mail from the planes I did various types of distribution, and in 1950 or ’51 they opened up an airmail facility that then was called Idlewild Airport, which was later changed to J.F. Kennedy Airport. And I remained working there, I worked a number of jobs, as a registry receiving clerk, as an international parcel post clerk. In 1955 I finally had enough seniority to go on the New York and Chicago East Division Railway Post Office. And it took me 12 years, from 1943 ‘til 1955 to assume, to gather the seniority to go on this particular line that ran from New York City to Buffalo, Buffalo, New York. Out of Buffalo, I was on RPO line from 1955 to 1967. I held numerous positions on that line, and in 1967 I transferred into the office and I was promoted to what they call a trip account clerk, which is the payroll clerk for the Railway Mail Service.

And then I took a supervisor’s exam and the superintendent promoted me to an organization and assignment officer where I controlled the Railway Mail Service, that particular line, I was in charge of annual leave and sick leave, I administered annual leave, sick leave, for the Railway Postal clerks, I supervised the payroll position for that particular line, until Railway Mail was abolished. That particular line was taken off about 1969 and I was excessed, unassigned for a year and a half because they eliminated all the trains, and then I was assigned to various supervisory positions until finally in 1973 I was promoted in the Northeast postal region as a transportation contract specialist for the entire northeast postal region, where I supervised the adjustment of highway contractors, private contractors who transported the mail from various cities. There was no longer any distribution on the railroads, all the distribution was now in terminals, but we had private as well as the post office hauling the mail from city to city or placed in sealed boxcars and placed on a train and delivered that way. I can answer any other questions.

INTERVIEWER: When you were working for the Railway Mail Service, was it a job you particularly enjoyed, in the RPO?

IS: I enjoyed it immensely. I really enjoyed my work. I enjoyed the railway, I liked to travel and I liked the work. And you have to be, you have to have really a thick skin to work in the mail car because you’re working with 22 other men in the mail car, and you’re working shoulder to shoulder. And if you can’t get along with people, don’t work in the mail car.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever know anyone who was unable to get along with the men?

IS: I don’t remember… I got along with almost everybody. In fact we all had to get along together, because we depended… after all you’re working in a car for 12 hours, anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. If you can’t get along with anybody in such a small space … the car is 60 feet long, but it’s occupied with racks and all, so very close quarters and if you can’t get along with anybody, just get out beause you must get along with people. And we all had that attitude. We were very good team-workers.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything you did not like about working for the Railway Mail Service?

IS: I liked everything about the Railway Mail Service. I really enjoyed my work. If you don’t… if you enjoy your work all the bad parts you don’t even think about, you only think about the good parts.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever run into any dangerous situations on the train?

IS: Well I’ll tell you, I’ve been retired for over 30 years. And we had a number of reunions down here until 6 or 7 years ago and people started to die off and there’s nobody to take … you know what, we’re all in our 80’s, I’m going to be 93 in about 3 weeks, and we’re all, whoever’s still around, I haven’t seen anybody, I think 1 or 2 people are down there that I know of, but I still keep in contact with a couple of people up north, but we, we’re not that close contact anymore. But at one time we had a reunion; we had 150 people coming to our reunion down there. But you know, they’re disappearing after 30, 35 years, they start to disappear. So, but I really enjoyed the Railway Mail Service. And, you know, there’s plenty of stories I tell about it, in fact people ask me, I can tell plenty of stories. I try to write things down and keep in my memoirs so my grandchildren can read about ‘em. Yup. But it was a very interesting job and we had to do a lot of studying because we handled a lot of distribution, and when you handle distribution you have to study the schemes. But that was no bother for me, I had no problem with studying schemes, you know, distribution schemes. So, it was a very interesting job, very interesting. I was sorry to see it go, but you know after a hundred years, the government decided that there’s’ a better way to distribute mail. And who are we to tell the government what to do?

INTERVIEWER: Are there any of those stories that you said you have that you could share with me? We’re really looking for…

IS: Well, I could tell you one, if you’ve got a little time, I’ll tell you. I think it was my second trip out and the clerk I was replacing was breaking me in on the job and he says you know, you have to make 3 throws, that’s three nonstop deliveries en route while the train is moving. So he started to explain to me, you get the mail for this particular station and after you tie and lock up the pouch, you put it in another sack, canvas sack and place it in the door and you watch the landmark and when you see that landmark you started to count 20 telephone poles, and you’ll come to the station. Meaning you’re alerted when you see that landmark and when you come to the station you get ready to throw the bag onto the platform. You’re not on the platform, you’re about one track away. So he did it the first day, the second day was my turn to do it, and when I threw it he didn’t alert me to the fact that there may be a train going east, we’re going west, and sure enough there was a train going east, and it caught the bag and carried it up to the track. So at the next stop, which is Utica, New York, I notified the platform transfer clerk about it and he called ahead to the postmaster of that town and he had to send a clerk out on the track to pick up the mail. Now, the third trip out I had to do the same thing, make three throws. And the first throw, first station I came to was Canajoharie, New York, I made the throw perfectly. The second station was Little Falls, New York. Again, a train picked up the, train going east caught the bag of mail! So I again informed the transfer clerk in Utica and they picked up the mail along the track and that was the end of my session and I was, I had to, see we worked 6 days on and 6 days off at that particular job. So I had the six days off and I received the communication for the office advising what I could recommend to prevent something like this. So I looked up the rules, and the rule said when you’re going to make a nonstop throw you’re supposed to signal the engineer and they’re supposed to slow the train down to 45 miles an hour. I said that’s the reason I had this mishap, because the engineer didn’t slow his train down, I didn’t signal him, I wasn’t advised of it, now I learned something. So I wrote this response to the office and they accepted it. And I heard nothing about until about a week later when I was back on the job. We went, coming into Syracuse, we stopped at Syracuse, that was the end of our run, and we went to the restaurant to eat lunch before we went to the hotel to take a rest and we met the superintendent in this restaurant. And one of the fellas says, Mr........................................... I forgot his name. This is Mr. Schneider, one of the new members of our crew. Mr.

Schneider, he says, you know, Don Houghton was telling me about you, he’d like to talk to you, bring you in to talk. I said well, I’m going up to New York to take an examination so I’ll stop in to see him. So I didn’t know what he wanted to talk about, I assumed he wanted to talk to me about this mishap. I come into the office and, oh he says go take the examination, then come back in. So I took the examination and I came back and he started to laugh, I said what’s funny? He said I’ve had all sorts of excuses but your letter was the best I ever had. He started to laugh but he said why are you making the throws? I said because Eddie Siners told me I have to make the throw. He said Eddie Siners don’t know what he’s talking about, I’ll show you. And he showed me a table of organization; I’m not supposed to make a throw, the 11th clerk of that train supposed to make the throw because he’s assigned to the door, and he says… so the superintendent took this organizational assignment man, Don Houghton, and says, you prepare the bag for throw and then inform the clerk-in-charge, the foreman, to tell the other clerk to make the throw, that’s his job. So that’s what I did. And after that I didn’t have to make a throw, just because this one guy was with me, he said, he liked to make throws so he told me I had to make the throws but it wasn’t so. So I was relieved from making the throw. And I didn’t have to worry about that. I had enough to do, see I was in charge of what they call a pouch table. We had three racks of mail pouches where all the mail that was distributed in the letter cases was handed to me, as well as other mail that came on the train and I had to put it in the bag, and well there must have been about 150 bags. And we didn’t put off 150 bags at one stop, we put, as we went up the lines we put up bags for Utica, bags for Syracuse, bags for Rochester, bags for Buffalo. But that was my job and it was a big job because I had to prepare all the labels. On my time off I had to get all the labels and date them for these bags. And it was a big enough job as it is. So that’s one of the funny stories. And then I can tell you about another story where we were going out on a Saturday night, no, a Friday night, and as we went up the Hudson River, and it came to the town of Hudson, which is before Albany, the conductor came by and said this train is annulled at Albany, because of a very big wreck west of Albany. So we came in to Albany and the train was annulled, and we had to go and the general foreman called up for instruction, because our standard instruction is to keep going until we reach the outer terminal, which was Buffalo. And what they told him, they advised him to stay in Albany for the next train to continue on to Buffalo because we had to take the return movement back the next day, and we waited ‘til about 3 o’clock in the morning, and a freight train came by, and it was going on the freight track. So we got on the train and we went on the freight train at 3 o’clock in the morning and all of the… was going very slow, going very slow speed. We didn’t progress far, we progressed maybe about 30 or 40 miles, to the town of Morrisville, New York, and we stayed there. And the snow was piled high. And the conductor came by and said we have to wait, it was single track, ‘til another train came by going east before we could proceed. So we waited there ‘til about noon. In the meantime, we had no food. I had a half a dozen tea bags in my grip and nothing else.

Somebody else found a package of crackers. We used up all the water in the train for making tea, some had coffee, and then we started to melt snow to make more tea. There was piles of snow. And finally the train started to move and we finally creeped into Utica, New York about 6 o’clock at night. It took us from 3 o’clock in the morning ‘til 6 o’clock at night to get to Utica. 15 hours and normally it’s an hour and a half. So we couldn’t proceed further because we would miss the train to Buffalo, so we stayed at Utica, went out to eat, had dinner, came back and waited in the station, got on a train. When our train came by, it must’ve come by about 9, 10 o’clock. And then we got on the train. They had a skeleton crew that came from Buffalo, our whole crew came on, and we were able to distribute mail going back to New York. That was, that was a hardship. But we were on a continuous assignment because we never reached the outer terminal. So we were constant, we got paid for the time, it was very bad, very bad because imagine staying in, not a mail car it was an old coach tacked onto a freight train for about 15 hours.

There was no heat there except for one pump that we saw at the end of the car, so if you went to the other end of the car where the seats were you froze! So you wanted to warm up you had to walk up to the potbelly stove and warm up and go back to the cold seats. But we managed.

Russell Schofield

Mr. Schofield went to work for the Railway Mail Service in 1956. He worked until 1957, when he got his first Railway Post Office assignment on the Chicago and St. Louis run.

Russell Schofield (RS) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to work for the Railway Mail Service?

RS: Well, it was because I needed a job and, well to tell you the truth now what happened was I took the exam for the post office in Jacksonville, Illinois, okay? I got the highest grade, I was number one on the list. So when I went in for an interview, why the postmaster said, well you don’t live in Jacksonville! And I said, no, I know, I told them. They told me that I wasn’t eligible so I wrote and told them exactly where I lived, which was out in the country, and I said they told me I was eligible. So I took the thing and so he told me that he wouldn’t hire me so he took me off the list. So I wrote in and asked them if they could transfer that list to another post office, and they said no they couldn’t do that but I could take an exam for the Railway Mail Service. Well, I didn’t know what it was, but it was a government job, so I took the exam and at that time they had a hard time getting people because you had to go to Chicago, that’s where you went to it, and it started out at a dollar, let me think, a dollar ninety-two an hour. And in Chicago, everybody made more money than that. So when I went up there to go to work, hell they were dragging those winos off the street if they’d just work for one day, you know. So they were really shorthanded. And the only way… you couldn’t live on the salary, but I was assigned to work, the day I went to work they handed me a slip, assigned me to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for the next six months. So if you worked, that would be, let’s see, 80, 92 hours a week. Well, you could make enough money to live on that way. So that’s how I started out, up in Chicago.

INTERVIEWER: Did you start as a substitute?

RS: Oh yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And was the schedule, did you have many more hours as a substitute?

RS: Yeah, I worked from four o’clock at night ‘til four o’clock in the morning. And the thing of it was, like I said, they couldn’t get any regular employees to work there, because you had to get 80 hours a week or more in order to make enough to live on. So everybody was substituting and when a regular position… they had like… I was working at the airmail field and they had like 210 positions, regular positions, and 90 of ‘em were vacant. Because nobody would take it. Whenever it would come up, a guy would say hell no I’m getting 92 hours a week, I can’t live on 40. So then what they did, they decided okay, they started hiring people in as regulars instead of subs so, I remember there was about 20 of ‘em coming in at one time, and within a month they were all gone because, you know, you can’t live on that.

INTERVIEWER: Was it a lifestyle that was very difficult to get used to?

RS: No, I was in the, at the airmail field for quite a while, about a year I guess, and then I went out on, they call on the road, you know, on the Railway Mail Service, and that was, that was a lot different, yeah you had to get used to that, because you’d be gone from your family sometimes even a week or so at a time depending on what case you worked on. I started out working on a case where I caught the train at Springfield at midnight and got back into Springfield at 7 o’clock the next morning, and I did that 5 days a week. Well that wasn’t too awful bad, but then they switched me to one where I was gone for two weeks and then I got 10 days at home. That was kind of rough. My wife and my little baby, they used to come over to Springfield, Illinois, and we went through, so they’d stand out there and wave at me and I’d wave to ‘em and talk to ‘em for a few minutes while the train was stopped there unloading, see. So yeah, it was kind of tough to get used to. But jobs were pretty rough to get a hold of back then.

INTERVIEWER: Would you work on holidays too? Christmas, that sort of thing?

RS: Oh yeah, that meant nothing, yeah. You were assigned to work so many… like I said, the case I was on, you worked two weeks and you worked 24 hours at a time when you did. I would get on the train in Spring… I mean in Chicago, the one I ran on ran from Chicago to St. Louis. Okay I’d get on the thing at about 10 o’clock at night, and it would get back into Chicago… we’d go down to St. Louis first and we’d layover for about 6 hours, and you get back into Chicago about the same time you left it the next day. So you worked about 24 hours on at a time, see, 24 hours on, 24 hours off. You did that for 2 weeks and then you got 10 days off. Yeah, it wasn’t nothing easy.

INTERVIEWER: What would you say your favorite part of working for the Railway Mail Service was?

RS: I would say probably the people you worked with, because if you worked in the terminals, the terminals was, they were, nobody worked. They just sat around on their butt and didn’t do anything. And out on the road, you had a certain amount of mail, you left Chicago with a full load of mail going onto St. Louis, you had to have that worked up by the time you got to St. Louis, okay? So everybody got in there and worked. And the thing of it is the foreman on the mail car, he had the hardest case to work. So naturally he commanded a lot of respect. And everybody jumped in and did their job. You know, you had a good feeling camaraderie, see, and once in a while, say for example, every now and then we’d have somebody come from the terminal, gonna transfer out there you know, and about 9 out of 10 they were so damn lazy they didn’t want to work, by the time they were done with one trip they’d go back into the terminal where they didn’t have to work. And if you got somebody out there, nice thing about it was that you were out there by yourself all together, one group see, and like, there’s, if you had a guy come out of the terminal and was lazy and didn’t want to work, why when we crossed the railroad down there between East St. Louis and St. Louis, usually a couple of guys would walk back to the door, open the door back there, and explain to him that if he didn’t do his share of the work, by god, then the next time we went across that river he might accidently fall out into the river. So usually he either straightened up and started working, or he got his ass back to the terminal.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever run into any dangerous situations?

RS: No, I didn’t, I know, you know, I know a lot of the guys out there did. Closest I ever came to it was one time with, the car was plumb full of postal inspectors because they had had a tip that we were going to get boarded at Lincoln by some guys that were after some registered mail that we had. So there was about 8 or 10 of them in there, but we never did. There was a guy one time I remember… and he was on the road and he was in charge of the registered mail. And they got stopped, well they didn’t get stopped, but some crooks boarded the train, and when he saw, when he heard ‘em busting in the door he took this one package he knew they were after and threw it over into a whole bunch of pouches, see, and nobody knew which one it went in, in fact he was the only one hardly that knew who threw it down there. So they knew what they were looking for, so they came in and they asked him where it was when was when it wasn’t in his registers, and he told ‘em, I don’t know. So they got him and told him they was going to shoot him if he didn’t tell him what he had done with it, ‘cause they knew damn well it was on there, see. And they, so they put him down on his knees and put the gun to his head and told him, you know, this is it boy. Well, instead of telling ‘em he just started praying and said, if this is time to go, he’s going to go. So they didn’t shoot him, but he got a pretty high commendation for doing that. See, everybody was given a gun, and we were told to protect the mail with our life. And that’s the way we did out there.

INTERVIEWER: And then I’m just looking for any other stories, something funny or unusual, something that went wrong that you remember?

RS: Well, I’ll tell you what. It’s kinda funny like I said we were a group, individuals were all pretty much a group, but every now and then, you know you had some butthole come in, ‘cause we didn’t have the same crew all the time. You know, some guy was off, whatever. So we had this one old boy come into the crew, and he was, oh he was probably about 6 foot 4 and he was a real butthole. Always, you know, picking on people and thinking he’s better then them… so we had a little bitty short guy, named Mario Torcelli and he was just about like a round ball, you know, he was about as wide as he was tall, and so he used to be, at one time he was a professional wrestler. Okay, somebody mentioned to this guy that was a real butthole, so this guy he comes up there you know, and grabs him around the shoulders says, oh you used to be a wrestler did you? And old Mario tossed him up on his shoulder and gave him the airplane spin and body slammed him on the floor. He got up, crawled back away [laughs]. One time I remember when we were in Chicago and we were heading back to the train to Union Station, and it was about midnight, we were supposed to be at work at one. So like I said, everybody was given a revolver, you know, and you had to carry them. So we were walking across the bridge and, me and my buddy, and we came to this guy was stumbling towards us, looked like he was acting like he was drunk, you know? Hell, we could tell he was just acting. So he got up there close to us, and he says, hey fellas, you got any money? And we says no, we ain’t got no money. He straightened right up and pulled out a knife and said, you have to and bygone I’m gonna get it! So my friend pulled out this gun, said well I’ll tell you what, you’re going to start out with seven ounces of lead from this gun and the old boys eyes got really big, he turned around and took off running like a bat out of heck [laughs].

John Sipko

Mr. Sipko started off as a substitute for the Railway Mail Service in 1948, running on many local trains out of Pittsburgh, as well as the Pittsburgh and Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and Pittsburgh and Cleveland lines. By 1950, he had a regular assignment on the New York and Pittsburgh Railway Post Office, where he remained for close to 20 years. At this point, the Post Office began to eliminate runs, and Mr. Sipko transferred to the Highway Post Offices, running from Pittsburgh to Bradford, until eventually assigned to the Post Office in Johnstown.

John Sipko (JS) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to work for the Railway Mail Service?

JS: Oh I was working years ago in the local steel mill, and there were strikes and all kinds of layoffs so I took an examination to go on the Railway Mail Service.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about your schedule and the hours you worked?

JS: Alright. I, well I was a substitute for a good number of years. My main run was from Pittsburgh to New York. I would put so many hours and have a layover in New York, and the come back. And I worked 6 days on and 8 days off.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about the conditions in the mail car?

JS: Well, it wasn’t bad, although sometimes we had no heat in the car or something like that, but conditions were good. We worked hard and we ate our meals and everything in the Railway Mail car.

INTERVIEWER: What was your favorite thing about working for the Railway Mail Service?

JS: Well, for one thing it was a camaraderie thing. We got along so good with the crew, we were like brothers, and of course the layoff every other week was a big attraction.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything you did not like about it?

JS: No, I loved it. I was sorry to see it end, I loved it very much. I was 20 years running from Pittsburgh to New York.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the last run you went on? Was it a very sad moment for all the clerks?

JS: Yes it was a very sad moment, and they put me on a Highway Post Office running from Pittsburgh to Bradford, and I missed running on the trains very much.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember ever running into any sort of danger?

JS: I was in a train wreck in Lewistown, and we hit a tanker car that had chlorine in it and I was in the hospital for about 5 days. But that was the only serious accident I had.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any stories or memories from the Railway Mail Service? Something funny or unusual or something that went wrong?

JS: Not offhand. There was so many things that did happen, I almost would have to write ‘em down, we had so many unusual things happen.

INTERVIEWER: Well if you remember anything feel free to give me a call, I know it’s hard to remember…

JS: Well, I remember twice leaving New York on electric cars, and we heard a zap, and the train stopped and some young fella was hitching a ride on the electric car, like from New York to Philadelphia, and they were electrocuted. That happened twice. One time I opened a car door between the baggage car and our mail car and there was a young fella… it was cold and snowing, and he was just hanging on, trying to get a ride from New York to Philadelphia, things like that.

Robert Slack

Mr. Slack has dedicated over fifty years of his life to the Post Office. When he was working for the Postal Transportation Service, he made runs as a temporary employee on the Railway Mail Service starting in 1961. He ran out of Washington, DC, to Florence, South Carolina and Hamlet, North Carolina. His career was interrupted when Mr. Slack joined the army and fought in the Vietnam War, but upon his return in 1965, Mr. Slack earned a regular run on the Washington and Hamlet line. Unfortunately, that run was removed three years later.

Robert Slack (RS) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to work for the Railway Mail Service?

RS: Well, in 1961 I was working on the PTS, you know Postal Transportation Service upstairs, and they would always ask people to put in for people who called in, you know, for emergency leave, or sick leave, or absence for any reason, and we would… I was a temporary worker at first, and then when I became permanent, they had opened positions on the railroad. So I put in for one on the Washington and Florence, Washington and Ham, and I got it. So I worked as a temporary employment, because I used to be a sub on the road, until they had a permanent opening. And so I worked on the Washington and Florence about three years until they had an opening on Washington and Ham. And I took it and… in 1965 after I came back from the service, and I worked out there until 1968 when they, you know, shut the railroad down, because they was gonna, because they had what they call a reduction in force, what they call RIFs, and so then I came back over to the airmail field. And that was it. I worked out here about 5 years, 6 years… 8 years really if you count the military time. I went out there in ’61 to ’62, and went into the service, came out ’63, ’64, ’65, I was there until ’68. Then I went over to the airmail field over there as a transportation clerk and worked there until what, ’75 because I passed the postal, what you call it, [?] exam, and I worked as a mechanic until 60… until ’74. No I’m sorry, I got it mixed up. I worked from ’68 til ’74 as a transportation clerk over at the airmail field. And then from ’74 to now, I’ve been working as a mechanic in the ET over at the main post office. That’s it.

INTERVIEWER: How did working for the Railway Post Office compare to the stationary units? Did you prefer one to the other?

RS: Well I think I’d rather have a job working in the same city, because you know, once you get on the train in the morning, when you get off you were 350 miles away. So, if anything happened you would always be away from home. So when you started, you might start… a whole round trip because then you’d have to come back whatever distance you traveled on that day. So, but at the time I was a lot younger and it didn’t matter that much. I was married, and you know, my life was pretty settled, so when I got back home… you know you took about 12 hours to go one way, down to Florence, South Carolina, or Hamlet, North Carolina and you’d make what, three trips a week, and then you’d be off a week. So that was always great, you’d work a week and then off a week, so you have a full week to do whatever you want. But generally I would work overtime that week that I was off. So that, you know, enhanced my pay, so and then at the end of the year any overtime, any time that you exceeded your regular forty hour week, they give you comp time so most of the time I would work the whole month of December as overtime. You know, it had its advantages, yes. But when they, you know 1968 when they took it off, good or bad or any indifferent, we had to go find another job, which I did.

INTERVIEWER: Was the schedule much easier when you had a regular assignment rather than the substitute position?

RS: Well, it really didn’t make a difference because you still had the option to work on your comp time… your compensation time and I generally did. So, you know, it had it’s, I worked as a registered clerk on the Wash and Ham for about four years, but at the time it was just another job. Level 6 beats a level 5, and then I took the job as a level 7 on the airmail field as a mechanic, and then they had an opening for a level 9, which I figured one day… I took that one over here. So you know, it was just, follow the money.

INTERVIEWER: How did you like the men that you worked with?

RS: The men? Well it was, you get a, you always establish a comradeship with whatever group of fellas you worked with. That was a repeated thing no matter where I went, you always got acquainted with the people that you worked with, and you established some kind of relationship. So, until you know time passed and everything breaks up, as of now I’ve been over here for 35 years, on a mission, and now… my 53rd year, you know, everybody’s starting to break up, a new group is starting to go in. And just repetition, one after another.

INTERVIEWER: What would you say your favorite part of working for the Railway Mail Service was?

RS: Well it was a little different, you know. You’d get on the train at 6 o’clock in the morning, and if you had no problems you’d get off around 9 o’clock at night. But in most cases you would get there 12 o’clock at night and you’d have to get back on the train at 6 o’clock in the morning, come back up. But you know, as I say at that time I was young, had a lot of energy, and it didn’t bother me very much. I don’t know how I would make out now if I had to go out there.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever run into any sort of danger? Any train wrecks or robberies?

RS: No… they had wrecks quite often, because down at Petersburg I remember the train hit a truck loaded with hogs that were going to the market to get rid of their pigs and the train hit the car and you could see it burst into flames and the people expiring right there in front of us when we went back to see what happened. And that would happen, people race the train knowing that the train eventually would cross the road they would travel and they would race up there and hit the railroad. Or the train would hit them. But it seemed like that wasn’t a big problem with them. Sometimes they’d be on the side of the road shooting at the train, because they had weapons and things, but if you go down by the railroad track you’d hardly find a sign that didn’t have bullet holes in it. So I guess that sometimes they decided to shoot the train. But I never had any close calls with, you know people shooting into the train, but it did happen.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any stories or memories from the Railway Mail Service? Maybe something funny you remember that happened?

RS: Yes, I was a second clerk on the Washington Ham 5, and that means you had to throw pouches off the train, just to be on the fly some places like Manson, North Carolina, or about three or four nonstops that you take the mail in off the catcher pouch and you throw it out the door, and the people would pull up the railroad track to wait for the train to go by. And then the… would yell, “It’s a mail train!” and everybody would start backing up to try to get away from the track because I would have to throw the mail pouch off. And sometimes the wind would catch it and it would sail right down to where they were parked. So they would all be scrambling to get back and then many times, you know, if the air caught the mail pouch it would sail all the way down into the river or sometimes it would sail all the way into the station. And they would have a big piece of chicken wire over the windows of the station so the mail wouldn’t fly into the station and break the windows. And, you know, every day there was always something different. If there wasn’t a pouch that fell off the train, the train becomes unattached, a fire on the train. But like I say you were young it was just an experience. You didn’t know what was coming next but it always kept you interested.

Richard Spies

Mr. Spies joined the Railway Mail Service in 1949. He was appointed to the San Antonio district of the Railway Mail Service. His substitute student runs included the San Antonio and Laredo, and Houston and San Antonio lines. He also made many fill-in runs on the following lines: San Antonio and El Paso, Longview and San Antonio, Houston and Austin, and the Wako and Yoakum Highway Post Office. In 1952, Mr. Spies got a regular assignment on the Skidmore and McAllen Railway Post Office. In his time with the post office, he made several other Highway Post Office runs, and also worked at a transit mail office in San Antonio for cross-country mail going to Los Angeles, California.

Richard Spies (RS) Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: What made you decide to go to work for the Railway Mail Service?

RS: I guess from the time I was a kid I was a nut about trains. And my hometown of Yokum, Texas, was a service point for the Santon Aransas Pass Railroad way back in the late 1800s, early 1900’s, so that just… and we had two Railway Post Offices that came, one came through Yokum, into Kennedy, and then another one dead-ended from Wako down to Yokum. So I got to meet the mail clerks and just got real enthused about it.

INTERVIEWER: Everyone you met, they all really liked working for the Railway Mail Service?

RS: Yes ma’am, they were the clerks on the assignment. The one train from Houston came through about 9 o’clock at night, and I would, on the weekends I was dispatcher at the post office and I’d go down to the depot, and meet the clerk, and talk to him. They had a contract person to carry the mail down there. And likewise the Wako run came in about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and he’d come by the post office, I got to meet him that way. So just by meeting people.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about your schedule when you started to work for the Railway Mail Service?

RS: Most of the time I’d get assigned night runs. San Antonio was the district for the Railway Mail Service here in Texas, one of the districts, and when I first came here my first assignment was an afternoon run from San Antonio to Laredo, and when I got down to Laredo I was sick as a dog … the motion of the car and the excitement of the job and everything. They had theses two clerks assigned to that line, and it was a student run so I went up to their room that they had at the hotel and went to bed, it was still daylight, when the two clerks came in about 10 o’clock that night from their little imbibing and so forth. I woke up, I was feeling good, so I made the return trip the next morning from Laredo to San Antonio and I was into it then for sure. And the second run was one that I made to Longview, I believe it was, and my third trip was out on the run to El Paso, and it got off on Del Reo. Are you acquainted with the state of Texas?

INTERVIEWER: Um, no, not very much.

RS: [laughs] Because Texas is a big thing and we were covered with iron at one time. Railroads ran every different direction you can think of. And so that’s why, I just was enthused about it and enjoyed it for 19 years that I was on the road running. And later on after World War II, the passenger service on the trains began to decline, people were getting their own automobiles and they didn’t like to have to wait for a train. And so they were riding that way. Then they began to discontinue those mobile units on the trains, and in ‘41, I believe it was 1941, they developed the Highway Post Office system, first run there was from Washington, DC out to Harrisonburg, Virginia, err to West Virginia I believe it was, Harrisonburg to the west. And then I got on the run, you were assigned to a run from Beeville down to McAllen and back. And that was Highway Post Office, bus type vehicles. We did the same thing on the highway as we did on the rails. So it was just a continuation of it. Then sometime 1970, all of our mobile units in Texas were discontinued, so I went into a stationary unit for two years, then retired.

INTERVIEWER: Now we’re just looking for stories, or particular memories that you have, if there was, you know a train wreck, or something funny that happened…

RS: Okay. One instance I was assigned one time just as a replacement, the one man was sick and I was filling in for him, between Houston and Austin. The head out was from Austin, Texas, I’d get on the train there in the afternoon and run to Houston and then come back the next afternoon back to Austin. We had three clerks assigned to the line, and it was a one man run, each day was a one man run. So every third day I’d go back to Houston. And on one instance there we were coming out of Houston in the afternoon and got to a little town of Chapel Hill, just west of Hempstead, Texas, and the train westbound, we were westbound there, had to take siding for the eastbound train. And you know trains don’t just pass by themselves, you’ve got to have people to throw the switches and such as that, and in this particular instance, the switch must’ve got back on the track after we cleared it, and the siding and the other train passed. Instead of going up the front of the siding there, most sidings came in and went on through, the engineer decided he was going to back out. And when he did, we had 2 coaches, and the baggage mail car … consist, there were three coaches, three vehicles, cars in the train, and the back coach backed completely off of the tracks onto the crossties, the big logs that run under the tracks, and they tried to get it rerailed and everything and that didn’t work. So they finally got it clear of the main line and they moved the passengers from that back coach into the front coach, and we started out through the other end of the switch like we should’ve gone. And we were running late then, and somewhere along the way, this was a dark, moonless night, and somewhere around Elgon, Texas I think it was, we were having a hotbox in one of the coaches there. So they had to come out of it, this was all steam locomotives at the time, and they brought a bucket of water and some, I don’t know if you’ve heard of what they call waste rag content and threads and so forth, rope like, to put in that journal box on the wheel, and then poured water and oil in there to keep it cool. They didn’t have cooling systems like they have now on the railroads, and so we were late getting into Austin that night. Should’ve been there at 9 o’clock and about midnight we pulled into Austin, the depot there, and at the 9 o’clock connection I would’ve made a connection run to Longview and we missed that one so I had mail… they had another train coming through there from San Antonio, the Denison and San Antonio run, and they were going up to Dallas that way, and he was coming in the other end of the yard, there and I asked the mail handler there on the ground, the depot fella, is that the Katy? Yes sir. Well get this pouch to ‘em. And we got the runner to go over that way. So I can talk a lot above your head I guess and some of the dialogue, but hopefully you’re picking it up. So that, those were the most exciting runs we had, and one time we had a lot of rain, a hurricane went up through the lower valley of Texas, and we did not go back on the Highway Post Office, this was already at the Highway Post Offices, the highways down on US 281 was closed for several weeks and they were running the mail by just closed trucks through Laredo and down to Rio Grande City and on into McAllen to get the valley mail to its destination, so I didn’t make it down there for two weeks on the Highway Post Office run. And so I took vacation time at that point in time. But I came back and it turned out to be good running there. They had water all over the countryside, which we surely need now.

Darryl Stustny

Mr. Darryl Stustny followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a RMS clerk shortly after completing his military service. As a regular, he worked on the Omaha-Burlington and Omaha-Denver lines, among others. He joined the Railway Mail Service in 1950 and worked on the trains for 17 years until the RMS closed. After 1967, he took a position in a post office terminal, where he remained until retiring in 1984.

Darryl Stustny Interview Transcript

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

Darryl Stustny: Darryl Stustny, and I'm retired from the Mail Service.

INTERVIEWER: Did you work as a substitute or a regular?

Darryl Stustny: I subbed for several years then I was a regular near the end.

INTERVIEWER: What rail lines did you work on and which locations did you travel between?

Darryl Stustny: As a regular on the Omaha and on the Burlington and Omaha and Denver, and I subbed on several -- on the U.P. and the Rock Island. And I also served in two terminals, in Council Bluffs and in Omaha.

INTERVIEWER: How long did you serve as a Railway Post Office clerk?

Darryl Stustny: At least 20 years.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when you started?

Darryl Stustny: Oh, I started at the post office in 1950 and I retired in '84, and then I had three years military so I get credited with 37 years.

INTERVIEWER: Did you stay with the Railway Post Office until its closing?

Darryl Stustny: Yes. Oh, no, no. The railway, we got to the railway, put the railroad off and then they put me in the terminal.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and then being a Railway Post Office clerk until 1967?

Darryl Stustny: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. What made you want to become a Railway Post Office clerk?

Darryl Stustny: Well, when I come out of the service, there were no jobs around. And my dad was a railway mail clerk and I had a couple of uncles who were mail clerks. So that was just -- I took the mail clerk exam and passed it and took the job. That was in September, 1950. It was a good job at that time.

INTERVIEWER: What positions did you have while on the rail cars?

Darryl Stustny: I was just a clerk.

INTERVIEWER: And any type of job, like what types of jobs did you have?

Darryl Stustny: Oh, I did the paper and pouch racks. I pouched all the mail, worked the paper case.

INTERVIEWER: Could you describe a typical day on the rail car starting from when you first went in to work?

Darryl Stustny: Yes, usually we left Omaha on the Burlington by one o'clock and then we would go to work around midnight. We had an hour to load the train and then we left home, we start working. And we had a 30-foot car and there were I think five clerks working the letters and two of us working the pouch rack and the paper case.

When we get done with that we'd help -- everybody helped everybody. We worked, like if there was a paper out, then the pouch rack we'd go and help work letters. So everybody helped everybody, a good bunch of people.

INTERVIEWER: And was there any one job that you liked to do more than the others?

Darryl Stustny: I liked the pouch rack.

INTERVIEWER: And was there anything that you ever disliked about your position as a Railway Mail clerk? And this can be just like some small complaint that you just brushed off to the side or a serious complaint.

Darryl Stustny: Yes. Well, the only complaint I had is I was a non-smoker and that small car gets filled up with smoke from guys smoking. They did all the smoking, two or three of them did. That’s the only complaint I had.

INTERVIEWER: You pretty much answered my next question, which was what type of rail car did you work on? You said that you worked on the 30-foot cars?

Darryl Stustny: Yes, I worked mostly on 30-foot, yeah.


Darryl Stustny: When I was subbing I worked on both 30-foot and 60-foot cars.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever work on the 15-foot cars?

Darryl Stustny: No.

INTERVIEWER: When you worked on the railways, do you remember what your starting salary was?

Darryl Stustny: When I started at the post office, I was $1.28 an hour.

INTERVIEWER: By the time you ended as a Railway Post Office clerk, do you remember what your ending salary was?

Darryl Stustny: No, I don't remember exactly. I think it was $13 or $14.

INTERVIEWER: When you were working specifically as a Railway Post Office clerk do you think that the pay was fair for the amount of work that you had to do?

Darryl Stustny: Yes, it was because we all worked hard and we all got along real good. Mostly clerks were all from - excuse me - small towns or farms. They were all -- got along real good, worked hard, hard workers. I think we all enjoined our work.

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

Darryl Stustny: Well, I carried my lunch and my change of clothes and we all carried guns. As soon as we put the gun in the car -- we'd put our guns on. That was in my grip and I mean my change of clothes and my lunch and coffee.

INTERVIEWER: What was the longest trip you ever worked?

Darryl Stustny: Omaha to Denver. We'd go to work here one o'clock at night then we'd get back here at one o'clock, and we had the next day or the day off. Then we'd go back to work at one o'clock and back in Omaha at one o'clock then we had three days off. That I liked.

INTERVIEWER: When you left at one o'clock in the morning, did you get back to Omaha at one o'clock in the morning?

Darryl Stustny: Yes, 1:00, 1:15, right around that time.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever sleep or was it just a straight 24-hour shift?

Darryl Stustny: When we get to Denver we all got rooms and we slept for -- oh, then we can went through -- we slept 'til -- we didn’t go back to work in Denver until about six o'clock at night.

INTERVIEWER: And when you were a Railway Post Office clerk did you have a family?

Darryl Stustny: Yes, I did.

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

Darryl Stustny: Well, I was married. My first wife, she had two little girls when I married her and then we had a boy. And I think that my time schedule like really caused my divorce because I wasn’t home enough to really be around. I'd be gone for a day and then home a day and then gone for another day. She didn’t like that. So then I remarried and I get along fine with my second wife here. We've been married 46 years now.

INTERVIEWER: That kind of answers my next question which was how did your family cope with while you're away on long trips?

Darryl Stustny: They did not do well, not too well. They didn’t -- she didn’t like it but the kids are always glad to see me. She didn’t like it.

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

Darryl Stustny: Well, it's with the people I worked with. They were all good people, were hard workers and helped each other along. They were good friends. We just made good friends, most of them. Well, there's a few bad apples but the majority of the guys were good guys. They were all from little towns or from the farm, all hard workers.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that’s a part of your fondest memories?

Darryl Stustny: Well, you know, I liked the job. There’s no one thing really.

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

Darryl Stustny: Most of them are dead. There's been very few. My brother, he subbed like when they took -- he still subbed. He subbed for, I don't know, more than anybody else. And then he went to city carrier and he retired at 44 years. And then my other brother, he wasn’t a railway mail clerk but he got hurt in a post office truck, got hurt. They’re still living, both of them.

Darryl Stustny: Yes. I made a book one time with every little town in Nebraska, a book and a map.  When I retired I gave that book to a lady that was a Nebraska clerk in the post office. And one day she told me that she had donated that to the Smithsonian Institution. So I don't know. I don't even remember what happened to the map but the book, it should be around there somewhere.

The book, it was, well, a little ledger book with all the little towns. There was one little town that got the mail through other towns. And I had all listed alphabetically and -- yes, you'd be surprised at all the little -- there must've been 900 of them at one time. I made that book up and I gave it to her and she’s passed away now. She told me she gave it to the Smithsonian Institute so I don't know whether she did. I don't know what happened to the map or -- I don't know, so.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, I'll have to ask my boss about that.  She knows what's in the collection better than I do.

Darryl Stustny: Oh, but my name's inside the book. I put "Property of Darryl Stustny" and so maybe you can find that.

INTERVIEWER: All right. Did the post office ever issue you anything for your safety or for the position? I know earlier you mentioned a gun, but was there anything else?

Darryl Stustny: No, it was just a gun. We all carried guns but that’s all. On a mail car we had to throw mail off and we'd catch mail, other end, but we had a safety guard on the mail car. On the catch arm there’d be a safety bar, you could fall out of the car, either hold on to the car and catch you right. We never had any accidents, everybody was very careful.

INTERVIEWER: Were there ever times where you were in danger or put into a bad situation while on the railway?

Darryl Stustny: Well, we got these several wrecks. We killed a couple of people. And one time we had a bread truck and the gasoline sprayed all over our car. It caught on fire but we had metal cars, all the doors were locked, the windows, so it didn’t bother us inside. It just blew away but like that’s the only time we ever had any problems.

One time we were on the sideline and a freight train hit our tail, we did get all the way off of the side rail and hit our caboose but it didn’t hurt anything else.

Then we hit a car out of Lincoln, Nebraska and killed a man, but they're never any problem to us.

INTERVIEWER: Well, that’s very fortunate.

Darryl Stustny: Yes, we were lucky but we never had any problem, really.

INTERVIEWER: Did you hear of anybody who did experience something dangerous or put into a bad situation on perhaps your line or on a different line?

Darryl Stustny: Well, one night I was subbing and this railroad inching in the yard backed up -- he was backing up or pulling up the railway mail car and he went too fast, hit the -- taking us and hit the back stopper and several clerks got hurt. They called me up and went out, had to take the [indiscernible] on a run. The truth is the guys who were hurt had to be taken out. There were two guys, they were bleeding pretty good. The foreman, he stayed with us but I think he was kind of dazed. We didn’t let him work, he sat down and we did all the work. But that’s the only time we were -- I don't know, I wasn’t in the car when it got hit but there just shortly after.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. Did you ever hear any other stories of people getting hurt or trains getting robbed? This can be while you were a Railway Post Office clerk or something that occurred before you became a clerk?

Darryl Stustny: No, those are -- nobody ever hurt anybody, having to pull a gun or anything and I never heard of anybody else got hurt. The two guys that got hurt, they passed away. There aren't many of us left.


Darryl Stustny: I'm 82 and my brother will be 81 tomorrow.


Darryl Stustny: So we’re about the only ones that...

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever face or witness any type of racial discrimination while you were working on the railway?

Darryl Stustny: No, not once. We had very few -- we had two of Mexican descent but never, ever -- they were all -

- wait, I think we had one colored person. Now everybody got along swell, nobody ever -- no, nothing at all. When I was in mail services, the older guys were guys that, you know, suffered through the Depression. Then the younger guys were all World War II veterans, so everybody got along fine, no trouble whatsoever.

INTERVIEWER: Did you hear stories of anybody who did experience some sort of racial discrimination?

Darryl Stustny: No, none whatsoever.

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?

Darryl Stustny: Just the union.

INTERVIEWER: What types of things did you do with the union?

Darryl Stustny: Well, I didn’t do too much because I had another business going in my spare time. My mother had a bar and restaurant so I worked there a lot. And I started a floor cleaning business and worked that on my days off. So I didn’t have much to do with the union, go to parties once in a while.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position?

Darryl Stustny: No.

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

Darryl Stustny: Oh, just the people I worked with. Very few of them are alive and the ones that are I think have moved out of town. There aren’t too many here in Omaha. All the rest are -- most of them I knew are all passed away.

INTERVIEWER: For the last question, is there any other information or story that you would like to share with researchers about your experience or position with the Railway Post Office?

Darryl Stustny: Well, one thing is when we hit that car coming out of Lincoln, Nebraska, so the highway patrol's there and they come to the car and asked for help to push the car off the track. So we went to push the car off the track and I was on the driver's side. The door flew open and the man fell right at my feet. He was dead. That was kind of scary. But he got hit -- we hit him right on broadside and we were probably going about 60 miles an hour coming out of Lincoln. That was about the only thing. Can't think of anything else.

Oh, one time we were coming out of Denver and I had to put the mail off at Yuma, Colorado. The train took off before I got all the mail off so I yelled at the foreman. I didn’t get all the mail off so he pulled the emergency cord and stopped the train and flattened all the wheels on our railway mail car so they took it out of commission in McCook, Nebraska and we rode the baggage car back to Omaha. But that was about it.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any funny stories, funny events like certain sights that you just absolutely love to see?

Darryl Stustny: No, no, no. I think it was -- just everybody been working, got their jobs done and then we got off the train and went for breakfast and went to bed. I think they woke us up, we went back to work.

INTERVIEWER: And then any last words?

Darryl Stustny: Any what?

INTERVIEWER: Last words that you would like to say?

Darryl Stustny: No. I enjoyed my job. And I think most Railway Mail clerks did enjoy their jobs because everybody was hardworking, everybody's easy to get along with. And even the foremen, the foremen were working foremen although in these terminals, they weren’t allowed to work. So they knew all the jobs and it was a pretty good place to work. The only thing I didn’t like in there was all the smoke. I’d open the doors and let the smoke out.

James Stustny

Mr. James Stustny worked in the Railway Mail Service for almost two years in the 1940s. Previously, he had been an engineer, working in Washington DC through the Great Depression. All three of his sons pursued careers in the Postal Service. Mr. James Stustny passed away shortly after is 74th birthday.

James Stustny Family Interview Transcript

INTERVIEWER: Could you please state your name and how you are affiliated with the Railway Post Office clerk?

Darryl Stustny: Daryl Stustny and I was a railway mail clerk until they took them off.

INTERVIEWER: What about your father?

Darryl Stustny: Well, he subbed as a railway mail clerk then he took an appointment in the terminal. I think he only subbed maybe a year or two then he took appointment in the stationary unit and he worked the evening shifts. He never did take a regular role on the road. He subbed there for about maybe two years I think.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember which years those were?

Darryl Stustny: Well, it had to be ‘40s? Let’s see, 1942 to ’43 I think -- ’42 then part of ’43 I think it was. We came to Omaha in ’42 and I went into the mail service in 1950 and that’d be about right.

INTERVIEWER: Do you know what lines your father traveled on and in between which cities? Darryl Stustny: I really don’t know. I think he went mostly the Norfolk and then I think he went to Alliance on the Burlington. I really don’t know where all he went. He didn’t sub that long. I think he went mostly the Norfolk, Nebraska.

INTERVIEWER: You said that you lived in Omaha while he was a Railway Post Office clerk.

Darryl Stustny: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember why he wanted to become a Railway Post Office clerk?

Darryl Stustny: Well, we lived in a small town during the Depression, and he was a janitor for the high school there. He put an application in and got the job in Washington, D.C. with the Social Security building. He was an engineer there. And then also took the examination for postal clerk. When he got that, they called him so we all voted, and well come back to Nebraska. During the Depression he was making $60 a month and getting in post office they gave him a dollar or so an hour. That was a big deal.

INTERVIEWER: What types of duties did your father have on the rail cars?

Darryl Stustny: I really don’t know. I imagine he probably sorted and mostly pouch racks. I really don’t know.

INTERVIEWER: Do you by chance remember the longest time that he was away from home or what his schedule was like?

Darryl Stustny: I think the longest probably was maybe 10 to 15 hours I suppose, but he didn’t have that long a run. He ran mostly to Norfolk, Nebraska which is not far away, then turn around and come back. He wouldn’t be gone very long. I really don’t remember because it was long ago.

INTERVIEWER: Since he wasn’t away for too long, I’m assuming that he coped with being away from his family pretty well?

Darryl Stustny: Yeah. We got along fine. I was about 14, 15 years old. Sometimes we’d get left, you know, alone but we had no problems whatsoever.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember if he ever stayed overnight anywhere?

Darryl Stustny: I don’t think he did. No, I don’t think he did.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you used to do to help your father prepare for work?

Darryl Stustny: No. He was kind of a quiet guy. He did it by himself. I didn’t have to do anything. I remember he used to do a lot of studying. We had to take those examinations every nine months and you had to learn all these different states, how they got their mail. He did a lot of studying I know because we were pretty -- I was about 14, 15 years old when we moved to Omaha, 14 years old, we moved to Omaha. And he got the job. We came from Washington, D.C. and he went right to work as the railway mail clerk. We didn’t have runs. We all worked at the terminal, then we had to run and open, somebody gets sick or something and that’s how he took the road runs. My brother, Dean, he subbed on the road probably larger than anybody else.

INTERVIEWER: Now, when your father went to work, did you ever help to pack his lunch? Darryl Stustny: No. He did it himself or my mother did it.

INTERVIEWER: What types of things would he bring with him for his meal?

Darryl Stustny: I really don’t know.

INTERVIEWER: What were the things that you and your family did while your father was at work?

Darryl Stustny: Well, I had a job and my brother had a job. We went to school and had jobs and that’s about it. We studied. We didn’t have any TV or anything. We’d play cards and stuff like that. We got along fine. There were no problems whatsoever.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of job did you have?

Darryl Stustny: Me?


Darryl Stustny: I worked in a machine shop when I was 15 years old.  First of all, when I was 15 years old, I went back to my hometown and worked in the fields, in the florist fields and then I came back in the fall and I got a job with a machine shop and I worked there from 11:30 at night until eight in the morning. Then I’d go to school. And at that time, if we had a job we’d go about 11:30 in the morning and got the rest of the day off so it worked out pretty good that way. I’d go from work to take a shower and go to school. And my brother, Dean, he worked for a florist that grew flowers. My brother Rex, he was just too small to go to work.

INTERVIEWER: What were some of the ways your father kept himself occupied on the train after his work was completed?

Darryl Stustny: I don’t really know. He was always working. He was a mason, a bricklayer. That’s his trade so he had a lot part time jobs doing brickwork or cement work. He was a hardworking man.

INTERVIEWER: Because he was only gone for about maybe 10 to 15 hours, did he ever call while he was on the train?

Darryl Stustny: No, not that I know of.

INTERVIEWER: What are some of your fondest memories of your father as a Railway Post Office clerk? Darryl Stustny: I really don’t know. I know he used to like it. He liked the post office. I think he spent 30 years. I spent 37 counting my military time. My brother, Dean, served 44 years.

INTERVIEWER: Was he a part of any type of special organization, group or union associated with the RPO?

Darryl Stustny: He belonged to a union, yeah. He was a union man but I don’t know. He didn’t really participate too much. He like to keep busy doing everything else.

INTERVIEWER: This is the railway post office union, right?

Darryl Stustny: Yeah, right.

INTERVIEWER: Do you know if the union was fighting for anything during his time with it?

Darryl Stustny: Well, they’re going for -- fight for pay raise naturally. I remember I started for $1.28. I think shortly after we got the raise but I don’t remember. I’m getting old.

INTERVIEWER: While your father was away, did your family ever associate with any of the other clerks’ wives or families?

Darryl Stustny: No.

INTERVIEWER: Was there any particular reason why?

Darryl Stustny: No. He did have a friend that belonged to St. Paul Church and they had a basketball team. He was the coach. My brother and I both played for him. He was a real nice guy. The post office guys, they were all older. Those older guys, they were all members of the -- I mean, we all come through the Depression so they were glad to have the jobs. And then when I went there all the younger guys were veterans, so we had a good bunch of people, hardworking people.

INTERVIEWER: When your father was in town, did you guys keep in touch with other clerks? Did he ever call or visit?

Darryl Stustny: I don’t know. I think he did but I really don’t remember.

INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you did not like about your father’s job?

Darryl Stustny: No. He liked it so we liked it too. We’re all in the post office.

INTERVIEWER: Did anything dangerous or bad happen to your father? Was he ever put into a weird or awkward situation?

Darryl Stustny: I don’t think so. He never did say. He didn’t, no.

INTERVIEWER: Did he ever know anybody who did experience a dangerous situation?

Darryl Stustny: No.

INTERVIEWER: What was your father’s attitude towards the positions he occupied with the Railway Mail Service?

Darryl Stustny: I think he liked it. He never did say.

INTERVIEWER: He didn’t stay until the discontinuation of the Railway Mail Service but --

Darryl Stustny: He took a job with the terminal and worked at the terminal for probably -- he spent 30 years. He probably worked at the terminal for maybe 27 to 28 years, at least 28 years in the terminal and he always worked two or three shifts. He liked that real well. Get off at about 11:30 and be home by midnight.

INTERVIEWER: Why did he switch jobs from being a Railway Post Office clerk to working in the terminal?

Darryl Stustny: I think he wanted to be home so we had somebody there all the time. My mother worked and we all worked.

INTERVIEWER: What did he do while in the terminal?

Darryl Stustny: I think he worked mostly a letter case. I think he worked Wyoming mail and I think -- well, maybe California that he -- I know he studied that, well, he studied California, I know that for sure.

INTERVIEWER: For the last question, is there anything else that you would like to share with researchers about your father and his position with the RPO, any interesting stories he told you or just what you remember of him?

Darryl Stustny: Yeah. He was a real quiet guy and if something did happen he wouldn’t even say anything about it. But I don’t think anything ever happened that would be interesting. He was real quiet. He wasn’t like his sons.

INTERVIEWER: Why was he so quiet?

Darryl Stustny: Oh, I don’t know. It’s just his nature. He had three or four brothers. My uncles, they were just like he was, real quiet guys. That was just his nature I guess.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else?

Darryl Stustny: He didn’t drink and he didn’t smoke. The one thing he liked is he loved to go fishing. He’d sit there on a stool and he’d fall asleep but he always ends up catching the biggest fish. I don’t know. That sleeping did it I think. He wasn’t a very excitable person but he liked his job. He liked the post office. He loved to work and during the Depression anything was good towards that. He worked hard. He was a hardworking man. He’d be working with farmers and they wouldn’t pay him with any money so we’d get chicken and one time we got a goat.

INTERVIEWER: What did you end up doing with the goat?

Darryl Stustny: We gave him away. He got too mean. When my mother was hanging clothes out, this goat just butted her in the rear end and she said, “You get rid of that damn thing.” They gave him to some farmer. It was the cutest little thing but then he got mean.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else about your dad?

Darryl Stustny: No, that’s about it.

INTERVIEWER: All right. Well, that’s --

Darryl Stustny: He was always good to his kids, I know. He wasn’t the disciplinarian. My mother did all the punishment and she had a strong arm. But he wasn’t a violent man or physical. He would never spank us or nothing. She would.

INTERVIEWER: Did he inspire you to go into the railway mail service?

Darryl Stustny: Yeah, I think he did. He always talked well about it and he liked the job and I think that’s -- when I came out of the service, I took examinations for policeman, fireman and U.P. headquarters and the post office. Well, the post office called first and I was glad with that because I didn’t want to be a fireman or a policeman. Then the U.P. headquarters called me and I already took the post office job which I’m glad I did because the retirement wasn’t too bad, see I get... I got three and a half years military and total 37 years post office. I enjoyed my job especially railway mail.

I really liked that because everybody worked hard, everybody was easy to get along. We got along fine. Never had any arguments and I had some real good friends come out of that but they’re all gone now. But I had real good friends. We’d associate, bowled on the same team, played softball on the same team and we went out together a lot of times. The bowling team was all railway mail clerks. We’d go to places, Minneapolis and St. Louis and Denver to go bowling. We were pretty good.

INTERVIEWER: All right. Well, if there isn’t anything else that you would like to say about your dad, that concludes our interview.

Darryl Stustny: I’d just say he was a good man. He was 74 when he died. He just got up one day and sat in the chair, watched the football games on January 1st. He fell asleep and he didn’t wake up.  He died an easy death. He was a good man.