Branch 693 was the original number of the White Plains branch of the Union. Other offices that are now in Branch 693 had their own local Unions prior to 1978, at which point mergers began taking place. Following is an article which appeared in a White Plains tabloid in November of 1975. The author, Bill Wackwitz, a former White Plains Letter Carrier, was 91 years young at the time. (Special thanks to the late Len Maenza, former WP Carrier). It gives one a look into the USPS (formerly US Post Office Department) and what the job was like before the Union gained collective bargaining rights in our first contract in 1971. What follows are the words of Mr. Wackwitz:
“If one wishes to reflect on yesteryear, it could be interesting to the reader to know what the life of a letter carrier was in the Post Office back in the year 1906 and the years that followed the ‘good old days.’ In 1906 I entered the service as a substitute carrier. The P0 was then located at the corner of Spring St. and Hamilton Ave. The first requirement on entering the P0 was a full uniform and cap, plus a whistle. Yes, once on the route, the patrons knew the postman was coming. We always rang the bell twice when the mail was put in the box.
The old Spring St. P0 had its problems. In the winter it was so cold we stood on several mail sacks to keep warm and we had to wear heavy clothing, even indoors. Then, heavy rains flooded the Davis Brook, to back up in our ‘swingroom’ a foot or more deep. We needed boots to get to our lockers.
A substitute had to learn all the routes and there were nine at this time. This meant learning to case the mail memorizing the names of patrons as they related to street numbers for, in the early days, very few letters were addressed to street and number. There were two deliveries a day in the residential areas, which meant that the substitute carried and delivered the mail for three and one half days before the regular advised the Assistant Postmaster that the substitute was qualified to deliver the route on his own. Believe it or not, those morning loads often weighed well over one hundred pounds. This was all for free. No pay. Often the regular carrier, to show his concern, would take off the afternoon of the fourth day. The sub would then deliver the afternoon trip on pay status at 22cV per hour, so, for three hours he received the sum of 66. When he worked a full day to cover a carrier’s route, he received $1.67. If you happened to work on a heavy day and you took nine or ten hours to complete the route, there was no overtime pay. You still received
When I was appointed a regular carrier, I had a three trip route —— morning, afternoon and evening. The evening trip was from six to seven PM, just first class mail, covering from Railroad Ave (ED: now Main St.) to the Carolyn Arms Hotel on South Broadway. Window service at the P0 was until eight PM. At Christmas time, working hours were forgotten. It was up to the carrier to get his mail delivered. There was no help of any kind or any extra pay. The carrier reported about five AM, ending his second trip between six and seven PM. To help during the dark evening, he had a flashlight on the lapel of his coat. At the end of the trip he cased mail for an hour or two as the emergency demanded.
To cope with the great volume of Christmas mail, we carriers hired a boy to pull a wagon or sled to which a laundry hamper was tied (courtesy of a laundry company) during trip one. For this service, we paid him $5 a week out of our own funds. Those were also the days of ‘back stamping’ all first class mail at the time of arrival at the P0. This served two purposes. First, the PM or supervisor could, by a glance at the carrier’s desk, note if any mail had not been delivered. Also the patron could check with the PM and see if the letter had been delayed. If either thing had occurred, the carrier could be on the ‘mat’ if reported.
We were all happy and proud to be a part of the great Post Office Department and I believe we all tried to give our big family of patrons the best service. As I remember, there were very few complaints. In fact, we had much to be thankful for. On hot days many a good soul had a cold drink for us and on cold wintry days a cup of hot coffee cheered and warmed us. (ED: maybe more than coffee!)
Most carriers have a dog following them around the route. I was no exception. I first met Buddy when he came jumping through deep snow as I was approaching a house. He put both paws on my shoulders and looked me in the eye. I did the same to him. Then, the old fellow licked my hand and became my faithful friend for many years, actually saving me from attack by a vicious dog once. On my way back to the P0 from trip one I passed Buddy’s home. If the owner was out, she left the kitchen door unlocked. I would then walk in, and give Buddy his dinner from the refrigerator ‘ice box.’
There were also always several children following me, holding my hand as we walked a block or two. I guess being kind to children paid dividends, for there never was a complaint if I made an error in delivery.
During World War I, a batch of letters would sometimes arrive from the boys in service while we were on trip two. Our PM, Henry Sutherland, was very enthusiastic about our idea of delivering these letters on our way home. We also called by phone, in the morning, to the folks who had received letters from the boys to let them know.
In 1906, top salary was $850 a year or just over $16 a week. Yet a dollar would buy a roast, a leg of lamb, or a chicken or two pounds of sausage. With 1O4 left over, two of us could go to a movie. Our first break came when Teddy Roosevelt became President. He made it known to Congress that the government should show the way in employee earnings. Shortly thereafter, the top wage was raised to $1200. In those early times there was no pay for lost time due to sickness. However, we carriers were always close knit. So we went a long way to help the carrier in distress. Pay day could mean sharing with the brother who was sick.
As I look back over the 45 years plus in the P0, I feel that the years were very rewarding and satisfying. I can say with pride that the letter carriers were a dedicated group. They did strive to give the best possible service to their public and the P0 Department Our greatest Postmaster (ED: PMG), James A. Farley, made it known that service must always be spelled with a Capital S, but the men in our office always did just that.
In 1906, the White Plains P0 receipts were $40 thousand. Now, in 1975, the receipts are in excess of $7 million. When the PG was first established it was not primarily as a profit organization, but rather as a service to the public. Newspapers and magazines were given a preferential rate since it was considered that the dissemination of news was vital in keeping the country united.
A regular carrier’s top salary now, 1975, is about $13,500. In 1906 the personnel was about 17 employees, total. Today, the White Plains P0 has 385 employees. Times have changed. Our pace is much faster and life is different. However, the P0 still performs a service to the public. May it continue to do so for many, many years.”
Bill Wackwitz, who retired April 1, 1955, passed away in 1978 at the age of 94.