Bless the postal workers who serve faithfully

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sitting in the Hamtown Barbershop chair Monday morning, I had a good view of a process I’ve observed for half a century — mail carriers organizing their daily delivery at the Smithfield Post Office. It’s always been an intriguing process to me, and a source of admiration for the workers who go about this daily ritual in summer, winter, sunshine, rain or snow.

The morning activities have been especially interesting to me. Every day, these postal employees head out to their parking lot and methodically check each of those small white-red-and-blue delivery trucks, ensuring that lights, horns, brakes — everything — works. There was a time, of course, when everything other than in-town delivery was handled in private vehicles owned by the carriers. That has changed with time and, I suspect, has created a safer environment, since the public knows when a postal vehicle is making stops.

More particularly, I have appreciated the working relationship with postal workers and most postmasters through the decades. The newspaper and Post Office have been next-door neighbors for more than 75 years, and during my years with The Smithfield Times, Post Officers consistently did their level best to ensure that our readers got their paper on time each week.

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Most weekly newspapers, their readers know, rely heavily on the U.S. Postal Service to bring their product into those readers’ homes. It’s a cooperative venture. The newspapers are expected to keep their mailing lists up to date and properly organized so that the newspapers, delivered in bundles to the Post Office, are ready to be delivered in the order that mail carriers make their runs along their routes.

Many years ago, we handled that process ourselves, most of it by manually sequencing the newspaper mailing list. Back in those days, we would deliver a set of subscriber labels on index cards to the Post Office and the carriers would “pitch” the cards into their sorting boxes in the order of delivery, then return the cards to us. Our job was to put our labels, first on old Address-o-graph plates and later in a computer, in the same order.

Over the years, mail delivery became more and more automated and route sequencing became more complex until we were forced to use a contract service to keep our list in compliance. Throughout all those years, and all those changes, the employees of the Smithfield Post Office worked alongside us to get the paper out each week.

We always contracted with a larger newspaper to print ours, and occasionally — and I emphasize occasionally — the paper would be late arriving at the Times on Wednesday mornings. When it did, postal carriers worked with us as best they could.

Of course, we also had the world’s best part-time employees in our mailroom. These folks, generally retired and looking for a few hours of work each week, would come in on their own as early as 4:30 on Wednesday mornings and begin labeling and organizing papers. Their dedication and good humor made working with the Post Office and anybody else a pleasure.

All of which is not to say there weren’t problems with postal delivery. Out-of-town delivery was always problematic, but as the Postal Service consolidated more and more operations into major distribution centers, out-of-town delivery became less and less dependable. Papers that once arrived at an address in North Carolina on, say, Friday, in later years might not get there until the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

But none of those problems were the fault of our local postal workers. They were, and I suspect still are, among the finest public servants that can be found anywhere.


Speaking of public service

There’s a long tradition in this community that will be taking shape once more this spring — the Citizen of the Year.

Since 1971, the Smithfield Ruritan and Rotary clubs have each year recognized individuals who have contributed uniquely to the community. The first person recognized was the late Dr. A.C. Rogers, who played a huge role in creation of the Isle of Wight Rescue Squad. Two years later, it was former Lt. Gov. A.E.S. Stephens, who in his role of presiding over the state Senate, cast the deciding vote to end massive resistance in Virginia. Since then, former fire chiefs, physicians and Boy Scout leaders have been recognized, among others. To date, 42 persons have been honored for their contributions.

The Rotary and Ruritan Clubs are now accepting nominations for Citizen of the Year, but time is fleeting. If you have a nomination for this prestigious recognition, submit it to Citizen of the Year, P.O. Box 1004, Smithfield, VA 23431 or email to