Newark Post Office - 1940s

by Seymour Pierce


I spent almost 50 years on the job at the Newark Post Office, until 1989. All memories seem to start and end with a PO related anecdote.

In 1939/40, about 1500 Newark "kids" descended on the huge 50 Church Street Federal Building in New York City to take a Post Office exam. Exams were for "letter carrier" and/or clerk. Job assignments were for the Main Office or any of the 15 branches.

First year or so was what "On The Waterfront" called a "shape up". Assignments as a "sub" were to replace "regulars" on their day off. First call, 6AM, if no work, report back at 12 Noon. If no work, we might be given an evening "motor [mailbox] collection" for three or four hours, weekdays or weekends. ONLY three or four hours pay (.65 cents/hr) for the "collection ", having been "on call " from 6 AM until 10 PM. At some point, this system was abandoned and we were GUARANTEED two hours "paid work" each time we "shaped up".

Later, when the DEFENSE INDUSTRY started up, many young people that were still home, abandoned the Post Office for a more lucrative career in the many, many "defense plants" all over Jersey . The pay was way up to $1.00 (one dollar) per hour, and plenty of work, until the military service called.

During the war years, the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark, had the monumental task of preparing , monthly, millions of DEPENDENCY CHECKS. These were sent through the Newark Post Office, to families of service people, needing assistance. This was done without the sophisticated machinery of today.

On a lighter note, the trucks that we drove for collections, I believe, may have been 1929 Fords (?). I remember they had to be CRANKED at the garage, by a mechanic (the driver "set" the "spark and the ignition"). We were warned, DO NOT SHUT OFF THE MOTOR! or "We will have to come out to crank it again to start it!

One other point, If there is anyone out there that may help me recall, I have a question. I know that in rain, we worked the wiper with one hand on the wheel and the other on the inside wiper handle. I do not recall heat or defrost. Question: How did we manage when it snowed or ice formed on the windshield??? We did collect the mail.

Those were the days, my friend, YOUTH !


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