Christmas Vacation

by Jack Keegan


During my last days in High School I was fortunate to obtain a temporary job with the United States Post Office during the Christmas Rush.

I reported to work the week before the Holiday at the massive building located on Federal Square. Once inside I was instructed to follow a group of other temps. We wound up in the basement at the foot of a chute from the loading dock. Standing ankle deep in mail we were handed snow shovels and instructed to load it on the conveyor belts, which transported into the vast confines of the structure. Standing there with the snow implement in hand I thought of the US Post Office motto "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of there appointed rounds" as we shoveled mail against the seemingly endless tide.

Chance had it the next day I was assigned to sorting letters of outgoing mail. Standing in front of a large wooden bench with pigeon holes at the rear. Each box was labeled for one of our states. A large one for New Jersey and another for Newark, one for territories, possessions etc. and foreign. That was a welcome respite from shoveling mail. It was slow at first but soon you got into the rhythm as to the location of the respective boxes. With each passing hour the task seamed to get easier, practice makes perfect.
We worked from eight AM to six PM with one half hour for lunch with two 10 or 15 minute breaks for coffee or cigarettes if you smoked. We were paid 25 cents per hour for $23.70 for the week, a munificent sum for those days.

Working in the distribution room under the constant hum of the overhead conveyor belts time rolled by. One day a large package fell from one of the overhead belts and hit one of the temps, knocking him unconscious. He lay on the floor until Newark City Hospital Ambulance attendants placed him on a stretcher and removed him from the premises. Being temps we never knew what his fate was. That was the only unpleasant thing that happened during my brief performance with the United States Post Office.

Merry Christmas to all.

Jack Keegan


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