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192 MAIL BY RAIL

Credit is due, however, to many others for generally out-
standing examination records.- (See Note 22.)

In particular, we recall the unavailable record of A. J.
Quinn, a former N.Y. & Chic. (NYCent) clerk, who was said
to have made 100 per cent on "exam after exam"— he got so
irritated at the kidding about his pats that he finally with-
drew a card after an exam and stuck it in a "wrong" box;
but it had been wrong in the first place, the story goes, and
by coincidence he stuck it right and kept his record!

Ingenious system of memorizing have been devised by
many clerks to assist them in improving grades and speed.
Some imagine themselves running a train over each railway
on their postal-route map; others learn each county or each
line separately, devise poetic jingles or catch sentences, or
just grimly master card after card. Although others had been
using the general idea long before, one of the first system of
weaving post-office names into written "stories" was devised
by Haig Kapigian of Camden, New Jersey, in 1931. Another
clerk in Maryland, in his first substitute year, conceived in-
dependently a similar method, but with a ncAV, original sys-
tem of notation and procedure, in 1939; called the Supply



"Including J. R. Goodrich, Eureka &: S.F. (NWP), Retired; Substitute O. A.
Jensen, 11th (Texas) Division: E. S. Williams, Graf. & Cincinnati (B&O);
Substitute R. A. James, District 7, Houston, Texas; Thomas McCart, Mpls. k
Sioux City (CStPN'&:0)— thirty-nine 100-percenters; R. E. Rex, Louisville,
Kentucky; J. C. Shields, Mpls. & Des M. (Rock. I.); Substitute E. C. Bull,
Philadelphia. Pa., Terminal; \V. W. Allen, Jr., NY. & Chic. (NYCent), Re-
tired; H. B. Richardson, Cleve. SL- St.L. (CCC&:StL), who threw more cards
(82,406 at 99.89 per cent) than anyone else has reported; E. E. Evans, Pitts.
& St. Lou. (PRR), with five 100s in a month; J. S. Wegener, Ash. &: Milw.
(C&rNW); Harry Swift, Greenport X: N.Y. (LIRR), Retired; Substitute W.
Adams, District 4, Portland, Oregon; F. E. Ely, N.Y. & Chic. (NYCent); W.
O. Hare, St. Lou. & Texark. (MoPac), Retired; Justin E. Smith, Kan.sas City
&: Albuquerque (Santa Fe); Peter Koefer, Chic. S: Burl. (CB&Q), 1893 medalist,
who made lOO's on nearly all exams; H. W. Schuster, Columbus (Ohio) Termi-
nal: E. J. Eraser, Detroit 8; Chic. (NYC-MC). declared "most accurate" in 1890;
C-in-C A. B. Clark, Gr. Rap. R: Chic. (C&O), Retired; and several veteran
"steady lOOpercenter" clerks on the McMester & Amarillo (CRL'IP), referred
to us l)y Substitute William Mullen (also with a good record), whose names
were unavailalile. First clerks to become eligil)le for the new 50-merit awards
were William Shultz of the N.Y. & Chic. (NYCent) and S. K. Dinkins of the
Pitts. & St. Lou. (PRR), in 1950.



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194 MAIL BY RAIL

Narrative System, it is sold regularly by a small New Jersey
partnership. A second regularly advertised method was the
Case Examination Study System, written by Clerk F. A.
Reynolds of Roanoke, Virginia, based on home-drawn map
diagrams and charts and marked cards. Other methods and
devices, including cardboard "cell liners" and an aluminum
"Drudge Eliminator" for handling cards (by J. G. Mcllhen-
ny), are well-known,

A railway mail clerk covers an incredible amount of mile-
age in his lifetime. Some say the most outstanding record of
all was made by Keith Koons, retired off the Albuq. k Los
Angeles (Santa Fe), who traveled the astounding total of over
2,905,775 miles in the R.M.S. inclusive of the United States
Seapost, which was part of it for much of his career; 2,750,2vS3
miles was while actually on duty, and the remainder was
official "deadheading." But the highest rail mileage is the
generally accepted standard for sucii records, and the greatest
figure recorded for any known clerk by the writers (after
much publicity and research) was run up by Arthur Piper
as indicated above. The late John S. Wegener, a close
runner-up, was said to have done "nearly 3,000,000" miles,
but a check revealed the figure above as accurate. (Both he
and Richardson, in this list, had splendid exam records; see
last footnote.) The preceding list shows the highest total
rail mileages known to us; it doubtless omits many unknown,
equally good records.

Of the above clerks, believed now all retired, more is told
of Reed, Rench, Kilman, and Davenport elsewhere; see
Chapters 5, 13, and IG.

Then there is the P.T.S, "coffee man," one of the most
picturesque characters in American railroading! He is a
clerk who has been coaxed (or coerced!) into supplying all
his co-\vorkers with hot coffee daily at fi\e cents to eight
cents a cup. His big wooden box, loaded into the car with
the grips, contains all his supplies. Long before lunch he
preheats the pot of water on the steam cooker (if any), then
lights his alcohol burner and puts on the brew to percolate,
using an iron stand or hanging it by a chain— unless there is



AMAZING FACTS OF THE RAILWAY MAIL 195

an electric hot plate. (Some coffee men cover the pot with
an empty sack, "preferably well seasoned," giving the brew
a rich flavor of wet canvas— ignoring the juicy dirt drippings
which are all too likely to fall in!) The pot may or may not
contain the actual coffee; some men boil water only, supply-
ing jars of instant coffee, cocoa, and tea balls for self-prepara-
tion by the customers as desired. Others brew tea also.

At the crucial moment the coffee man spreads out the
materials— coffee, a can of evaporated milk for cream,
another can of sugar (usually containing a bent spoon for
serving it), and several stirring spoons in a glass. Then he
cries, "That stuff is ready!" or some similar phrase, or per-
haps rings the "lunch bell" by tapping the resonant light
globes with a knife. The tin cups are filled one by one as
the "nectar birds" or coffee-lovers step forward, often hurling
many a gay insult in his direction— with particular reference
to the various horrible things he is alleged to have brewed
the liquid from. It was such tradition that brought forth
Dan Moschenross's popular, slyly phrased Road Coffee
Recipe:

In the caldron boil and bake

Filet of a fenny snake.

Eye of newt and toe of frog.

Wool of bat and tongue of dog;

Adder's fork and blind worm's sting.

Lizard's leg and owlet's wing.

Tiun the steam do^vn very low

Then 'round the caldron dancing go.

The coffee man is constantly "accused" of reaping fabulous
profits from his "concession," especially if caught sporting a
new car; while he himself as stoutly maintains that he is
losing money and doing it "as a favor for the boys!" Prob-
ably the truth of the matter is somewhere in between. Most
P.T.S. coffee men turn out a fine cup of the brew indeed,
and the wise clerk will give him an occasional word of ap-
preciation along with his ribbing.

There is always the chronic complainant who declares
that tlie brew doesn't taste right and should be thrown out



196 MAIL BY RAIL

the door— usually eliciting the rejoinder that it didn't taste
right "because I decided to wasii the pot today for tiie first
time in ten montlis"; other coffee men make less printable
replies. Still another source of irritation is the old "free
coffee trick" by which the crew persuades one of the newer
clerks that "this is free coffee nioht; the coffee man's cele-
brating his birthday" or something like that.

"just walk right up and fill your cup, and thank him as
you go by," the new man is told. He does. The harassed
coffee maker, not in on the trick, sharply demands his nickel;
and both parties to the heated argument following are soon
enlightened by the amused merriment of all those looking on.

The coffee man has other trials too. Very likely he in-
herited the job involuntarily to begin with, having discov-
ered that it "went with" the assignment— he may despise the
stuff himself. With the total lack of food-heating devices on
many older cars (even on a key line like the PRR's N.Y. &
Washington) and with use of electric appliances often for-
bidden, he has a trying time brewing the amber fluid. His
little stove is usually homemade from a cup or can with im-
provised wick. And, if there is steam, he may have trouble
getting it. Needing some one day, a certain coffee man sent
a sub outside at the next stop to ask the engineer to turn it
on. When the sub jumped back inside he reported that he
couldn't find which end the engine was on, and all the con-
ductor would tell him, in response to his frantic inquiries,
was, "The front end, of course!"

Another man "inherited" a coffee job and rather liked it—
which was more than the crew could say for his brew. Finally,
one evening, the hefty pouch clerk walked up to him and said,
'Trom now on, I'm coffee man!" The chap responsible for
the insipid fluid looked him over, and meekly surrendered
his box!

There wms the coffee man, too, ^vho moved from Kansas
to two other states in succession, and his family left his big
pot behind each time. It finally caught up with him at the
start of a run, and he shoved it in a corner of the postal
car to take home. He couldn't find it at the end of the run;



AMAZING FACTS OF THE RAILWAY MAIL 197

it had been accidentally unloaded as a piece of mail and
sent back to his old address labeled on the box.

Then there are the furiously hectic days of the pre-
Christmas period. Extra cars and clerks (largely temporary
ones) are added to practically all lines; regular clerks are
given extra trips, or overtime in their terminals; and these
terminals, P.T.S. are flooded with tons of excess letter mail
(mostly Christmas cards) as well as gift parcels as train after
train, swamped at every stop, must turn over huge pouches
unworked. Half the cards are too \vide for train pigeonholes,
as noted, and can be forced into them only amid great delay
and frayed tempers. Terminal letter cases, often in storage
the rest of the year, have wider boxes and are worked largely
by uomen or youths called in as non-certified clerks. Addi-
tional "Temporary Terminals, P.T.S." are set up at places
like New Haven, Connecticut; Pocatello, Idaho; Toledo,
Oliio (all three consisting of cars set on sidings, at last re-
port); Detroit, Michigan (Convention Hall); Seattle, and
Midwestern points like Fargo and Aberdeen, South Dako-
ta. Late running (even to transferring to one's inbound train
before destination) and long continuous hours— up to forty-
eight hours at once— are common; road clerks seldom get
any extra pay, due to "deficiencies."

Most interesting, hoAvever, are the temporary Christmas
R.P.O. lines set up over new routes. At last report the
strangely named Walla Walla Sc Wallula (UP) was the only
complete one still operated, and not even this one is set up
unless schedules and conditions warrant. It connects with a
second Christmas route, an extension of the regular Mosco\v &:
Haas (UP) to Wallula; both are in W'ashington State,
although the Moscow & Haas is out of Moscow, Idaho.
The W^W. k Wallula is a one-man branch-line run set
up Avhen warranted in December and operated until the
twenty-fourth. No special postmarker is furnished the line;
it has used the former Spokane R: Moscow's (SCd'ARrP) can-
celler, and later an old Wallula Transfer Office "knocker."
For a period this Santa Claus line was absorbed by the sup-
posedly permanent Walla Walla &: Pendleton (UP), a short-



198 MAIL BY RAIL

lived route (only a few years old) now part of the Pend. &
Yakima. There was formerly a Wallula & Yakima (UP)
Christmas R.P.O. along this route. The t\vo "current" routes,
now seldom set up, were operated annually until recently.

Favorite Christmas stories include the one about the
Toledo R: St.L. (Wabash) "non-cert" who was given a big
holiday sack to "throw under the wheel," meaning in the
car's xuJieel bin ^vhere the brake wheel was; he asked in
amazement, "You mean throw it under the train?" And
Dan Moschenross penned a classic "letter to Santa Claus,"
published in the Railway Post Office, now the Postal Trans-
port Journal:

Dear Santa Claws:

When you come around agin pleez bring us pore postal
clurks sum . . . zippers fur our pouches and sacks. They
dunt cost much and we wud save enuf time to pay for
them quik. When there aint nobuddy lookin, paint
our leter boxes black inside . . . instead of the same color
as post cards . . . Bring all the postmasters what hang up
kctcher pouches a supply of tuff envelopes with return
to put leters with muney in. This aint as much as sum
folks ask for.

Yours trooly . . .

Some of the stran2:e facts involved in the routins^ and
"schemins: ' of mail in the P.T.S. seem unbelivable. Since
the P.T.S. headquarters furnishes no alphabetical schemes
and no official lists of no-ofhce communities to any clerk, they
may either "nixie" mail for such points (send to dead-letter
ofiice) or voluntarily learn the proper dispatch— which thou-
sands do. Two thirds of all United States communities have
no post offices, authorities say, and this is confirmed by one
clerk's hand made "nixie scheme" for New Jersey, thrice as
long as the postal scheme.

Regular scliemes contain some startling paradoxes. Im-
portant offices located directly upon an R.P.O. —like sub-
urban Pel ham, New York, on the Boston, Spring, k N.Y.
(NYNH&H)— may be "schemed" and dispatched entirely dif-



AMAZING FACTS OF THE RAILWAY MAIL 199

ferently (in this case, as a branch of the New York G.P.O.),
altlioiigh the R.P.O. is the main service for the towns on
both sides. The N.Y. R: Wash. (PRR) goes right through—
or under— the cities and towns of Weehawken, Union City,
Secaucus, and Harrison, New Jersey, without stopping or
supplying a single one of them. As "The Wash" continues
through New Jersey, in the heaviest-populated area along
our busiest railroad, it nevertheless passes two tiny way-station
towns without post offices— Adams (P.O. Franklin Park). New
Jersey, and Edgely (P.O. Bristol), Pennsylvania. And, in
Maryland, the line traverses a dozen towns served by closed-
pouch trains only— as well as still another, Cheverly, which is
served only from Hyattsville on the B&O's N.Y., Bait. & Wash.
R.P.O. miles away!

There are special reasons, desirable locally, for all of these
strange postal practices. As for others: For years, pouches
made for old Phila. 8: Norf. Train 449 (PRR, with R.P.O.
clerks on boat portion only) could contain no mails for
points local to that R.P.O. (except Fort Monroe, Virginia);
the actual train ^vas closed-pouch. Judging by titles, one
would expect New York to dispatch mails for Philadelphia to
the N.Y. k Phila. R.P.O. (PRR) and for Albany to the
Albany, King. &; N.Y. (NYC-WS) and so on; but that is never
done— fast trunk-line trains on other routes reach the same
points quicker and more often. For years Cape May, New
Jersey, was never "good" to the recently discontinued Phila.
&: Cape May (P-RSL) which once went there; and even today,
Mackinaw City, Michigan, is "no good" to the Mack. City &:
Cin. (PRR). Some northbound East Coast trains connect
three different R.P.O.s serving Buffalo, New York, as titles
indicate (Buff. R: Wash.-PRR, N.Y., Geneva Sc Buff.-LV, and
N.Y., Scrant. R: Buff.— DLR:\V^) yet cannot properly dispatch
Buffalo mail to any, because their direct N.Y. R: Chic. (NY
Cent) connection to that city is quicker!

Many R.P.O. trains actually dispatch mails to a distant train
leaving their far terminus before they arrive— by "advancing"
pouches over an earlier C.P. train during their distribution
before leaving. Other trains must distribute mail for a dis-



200 MAIL BY RAIL

tant state before that for a smaller nearby one, because di-
verging lines fan out at an earlier station to cover the faraway
state. Mails may be diverted hundreds of miles from a direct
route to secure earlier delivery by fast trains; at certain times
of day Richmond, V'irginia, dispatches mail for ofhces in that
state on the Phila. Sc Norfolk (PRR) clear to Washington and
Philadelphia to connect that line. Mail is often sent pur-
posely in just the wrong direction for miles, so as to connect
a returning R.P.O. train at an earlier stage in its journey
to allow more time for distribution (when faster dispatch
is unavailable, or to connect an inboimd local, as we have
noted). Mail for a given city, for which an R.P.O. makes a
direct pouch, is often xvilhlicld from that pouch for hours-
it is better "advanced" by some earlier connection.

Clerks must know the exact proper connection for mails
to a given R.P.O.— often best via the distant end, not via the
point of direct connection. Mails between offices actually in
sight of each other (as Perth Amboy, New jersey, and Totten-
ville, Ne"\v York) must often travel over a circuitous 50-to-
350-mile route— to save expense of a direct transfer by using
existing facilities; but in such a case clerks must see that over-
night delixery is ahvays effected. A letter posted at Iron-
wood, Michigan, about 5 P.M., for one-mile-distant Hurley,
Wisconsin, is a touchy example— it must be connected via
Ash. k Milw. (C^-NW) Trains 212 and 211 over a .S46-mile
journey! Mails from the New York area to Atlantic Citv, N. J.,
must cross the entire state of New Jersev fivice—v\3. the N.Y. 8:
Wash. R.P.O. and Phila. k Atl. City C.P. (both PRR).

A pouch must be made up when due, usually daily, by all
R.P.O.s for each office or line listed to receive its dispatches
—even if empty— in order to keep records straight without
using time-consuming written reports. On the other hand,
the heavy mails addressed to mail-order houses and other
firms often necessitate authorized pouches for such compan-
ies; thus trains distributing Philadelphia City actually
"pouch on" Sears, Roebuck R: Company and put it off at the
nearest station. Worked mails for suburban postal stations
may be similarly put off at outlying points. The volume of



AMAZING FACTS OF THE IL\ILWAY MAIL 201

mail received for offices pouched on, by the way, is often in
complete disproportion to population. On one Eastern
line most trains need to pouch on Schenectady, New York,
but not Albany (which is larger, closer by, and the state
capital!); some make newspaper-sacks for West Point and
Mt. Vernon, but not Syracuse or Buffalo, New York. Clay-
mont, Delaware (its second most populous city) is not even
made up on the state's primary racks in P.T.S. terminals, its
mail is so lis:ht.

P.T.S. state schemes reveal some other hard-to-believe
facts: That Clayton Lakes, Maine, is not served by any
United States mail route (only via Lac Frontiere, P.Q., on the
QC's Lac Front., Vallee Jet. & Quebec R.P.O. in Canada).^
That only two R.P.O.s directly serve Rhode Island . . . that
there are no R.P.O.s wholly in that state, Maryland, or Dela-
ware . . . that towns once of topmost postal prominence as
"junctions" of R.P.O.s have later lost both their R.P.O.s,
their post office, and sometimes even their identity in gazet-
teers (Red Bank, Pennsylvania; Araby, Maryland; and many
others) . . . that Weehawken, New Jersey, is not served by
either R.P.O. terminating there (Alb., K. & N.Y.-Ros. &
N.Y.; see Appx. I) and, from most standpoints, not even by
its ozvn P.T.S. Terminal . . . that strange P.T.S. sym-
bols and terms can arouse even a G-man's suspicions as
Clerk J. F. Cooper's wife discovered to her dismay. (She rent-
ed practice cards to clerks and mailed little correction slips to
customers reading ". . . Change Walnut Creek R: La Fayette
(C.C.County) to Baypoint k S.F. . . . Your ALO. rec'd O.K.
. . ." and so on, and was summoned by the FBI for investi-
gation!)

Few people know that they can walk up to any R.P.O.
car (or H.P.O.) door and buy a stamp; clerks-in-charge are
required to keep ones and threes on sale. Others, hastily
addressing a letter to some prominent newspaper, firm, build-
ing, or street followed only by a state name, would be amazed



•The Maine General Scheme shows supply only as "Lac Frontiere, P.O.",
followed by names of U.S. R.P.O. 's connecting thereto such as the St. Albans
k Boston (CV-B8dM).



202 MAIL BY RAIL

to see the clerk on an R.P.O. state case quickly recognize
the city for which intended (or rapidly thumb through letters
in his large-city boxes and often finding another missive
properly addressed to the same destination, permitting in-
stant dispatch). One substitute even successfully dispatched
a letter addressed by some half-wit to "My Father, Atchison
Co., Mo."; he sent it to the county seat, as per the P.L.R:R.—
where the family and the son's habits were known.

Which clerk has served on the greatest number of R.P.O.s?
The most amazing record seems to be that of Earl S. Levitan,
of the PRR's N.Y. R: Wash.— thirty-three R.P.O. lines, term-
inals, and transfer offices. Close behind him we find Fred A.
Perry, N.Y. 8: Salamanaca (Erie), Retired, thirty; j.M. "Doc"
LeConey, Pitts. Sc St. Lou. (PRR), Retired, twenty-seven;
Al Humpleby, also N.Y. k Wash., twenty-four; and many
others. Certain cities, too, boast innumerable R.P.O. con-
nections; five different R.P.O.s over the same track connect
Washington, D. C. and Alexandria, Va., while until recently
there were six R.P.O.s over five different tracks between
Norfolk and Suffolk, Virginia. And one route, recently dis-
continued, did not even provide a postal car for its clerk- the
Fond du Lac Sc Janesville (CR:NW, in Wisconsin), where
engines were removed from part of a locomotive unit to pro-
vide a space.

Unique among all United States communities is a colony
of retired postal clerks founded at Clermont, Florida, by
Railway Mail Clerk Ernest Denslow of Ashtabula, Ohio, in
1923. The Postal Colony Company there has erected hun-
dreds of homes for the old-timers there and has laid out
many acres of rich orange groves, providing both investments
and an avocation for active and retired clerks. It has its
own N.P.T.A. branch— the only one composed wholly of
retired clerks, and the only one not at a railway division
point or junction. Distinguished departmental, Senate, and
N.P.T.A. leaders visit it.

Such, indeed, is this amazing Postal Transportation Service
of ours. From the New York G.P.O. Building employees' en-
trance (where P.T.C.s are instantly ushered past by respectful



AMAZING FACTS OF THE RAILWAY MAIL 205

guards, while P.O. men must obey seven signs demanding
badges and package inspections) clear out West to those vast,
lengthy R.P.O. runs (like the SP's San Fran. R: Los A.) where
clerks are off duty 22 days each month (making just 4i/^ round
trips), the service presents a panorama of the unbelievable.
Even its N.P.T.A. has one incredible distinction— that of be-
ing America's only national fraternity which did not lose a
cent on investments or securities during the great 1929-39 de-
pression, and the Amsterdam Printing Company's official
P.L.&R. Qricstions & Answers contained until 1950 a startling
baby-talk boner "Engineer or motorman of R.P.O. train shall
give timely notice, by Avhistle ^vhistle or otherAvise . . ." But
many a clerk would agree that most paradoxical of^anything
in the entire Postal Service are those prominent post office
lobby posters imploring mailers not to post tiny, undersized
letters and greetings that might get lost— but saying nary a
word about those awful, unsortable, super-sized holiday cards
that torment every railway mail man.



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