Albany District Dutchmen hockey team, International Postal Hockey Tournament, Marlborough, Massachusetts, 1997.
Postal workers have had a long tradition of participation in sports teams. A 1969 article in Postal Life estimated that as many as 300,000 postal employees participated in some sport as a recreational activity at that time(1). Though this is an estimate, it is obvious that sports are popular in the postal community. Sports provide set times when postal workers can join together outside of work and are expected to cohesive teams for the success of the game, which inspires unity off the field.
1) Postal Life, November-December 1969, pg. 12.
Postal worker association with sports seems to have started with baseball teams in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These teams were set up in specific branches and would play other local public service organizations’ teams—such as firefighter and army base teams, like the San Francisco’s Tenth Infantry(1). There were teams in San Francisco, CA; Tacoma, WA; Washington, DC; Denver, CO; and Salt Lake City, UT. The District of Columbia team was apparently quite good; an employee magazine, Postal Record stated “the biggest attraction of the season…Cherokee Indian baseball club will meet the strong Post Office team, who defeated them two times in a double-header last season”.(2)
1) The San Francisco Call, December 12, 1903.
2) “Big Game Sunday,” The Washington Herald, July 18, 1912.
Bowling was also a popular sport among postal employees starting in the early 1900s. The practice began very similarly to the baseball teams in that they played other local non-postal employee teams. The Post Office League in Tacoma, WA existed as early as 1917.(1) By 1935 there was enough interest and teams for the Postal Employee National Men’s Bowling Association, PENMBA, to be created. The first tournament in 1935 was held in Terre Haute, IN and was attended by thirty-nine teams. PENMBA has since held seventy-two tournaments across the country. Today, the organization has evolved into... ( read more )
1) “City League to Meet this Week,” The Tacoma Times, January 29, 1917.
It seems softball contests bowling for the most popular sport among postal employees. Many leagues have existed across the country. One of the most active area was in Pittsburgh, PA. This branch has a summer softball league that includes charity games in its schedule, at which they collect money for different organizations, such as Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital.(1) There are also leagues and teams in California’s San Joachin Valley, Phoenix, Manchester, Maui, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and Las Vegas. Most of these teams include all crafts and every tour. Players have stated that they keep an eye out for each other and that they all feel young again, creating a greater desire to play.(2) Many players also bring their entire families to the games—both because of the game’s allure, and the influence such a positive environment has on the children. The sport facilitates the creation of specific communities within postal workers because of the time spent together outside work. Postal Life states the “enthusiasm for softball spills over to attitude about work, shared experience on softball fields becomes basis for trust and mutual respect at work”.(3)
1) “Everyone Wins,” Postal Life, November-December 1974, pg. 22.
2) “Softball,” Postal Life, Summer 1995, pg. 17-18.
Ice hockey is another popular sport for postal employees. The International Postal Hockey Tournament began in a US- Canada competition in 1977; today the National Hockey Tournament promotes friendship through hockey as its main goal. The club incorporated in the mid 1980s and began collecting money for charities during the tournament. Throughout the 90s, US postal employee teams traveled to Canada to compete. In 1997 the tournament traveled to Marlborough, MA. In 2001, the tournament raised over one million dollars for the first time. The next tournament, the thirty-fifth, takes place in... ( read more )
Like many other Americans, postal workers enjoy a nice round of golf. It is difficult to assess a number for postal involvement in golf because there is assuredly a large amount of individual practice. Though there are a variety of local postal leagues across the country, usually organized by union branches. Additionally, there is one national organization, the National Postal Golf Association, which holds a yearly tournament. Established in 1944 the National Postal Golf Association is open to all postal employees. Postal workers say that they enjoy getting together with other postal workers who enjoy golf. Many postal workers even bring their families along to the tournament as a family vacation.(1) There is a nominal entrance fee that helps cover the organization’s postage costs for the next year. Winners are presented with trophies, but as a participant stated, “the tournament’s biggest reward is the sport itself”.(2)
1) Postal Life, November-December 1969, pg. 12.
Chess, while not physical, is an essential part of the postal community. The Postal Chess-By-Mail Club was started in 1954 by Bob Smith, who had seen an ad in Postal Life about a group in Salt Lake City looking to start its own.(1) However, after waiting some time and contacting the magazine without success, Smith decided to create one himself. He began with eighteen members, which quickly grew to a large sixty-eight after his advertisement appeared in Postal Life. By the 1970s there were over 360 members from thirty-one states. A postal chess tournament occurs between two people using a First Class postcard with a chessboard outline on one side where the next move is drawn and a written record of the game’s progress on the other.(2) Each player is given seventy-two hours to respond once he or she receives the postcard. In Smith’s organization it could take up to four years to finish a tournament;(3) it is certainly a slow process. Thus, a new tournament was started every May so that games overlap and new players can join. For this reason, many players play multiple games at a time, using small boards set in place at home to keep track of each. Though there are several Chess-By-Mail organizations still in practice, it is unclear if Smith’s is still running, even under a new name. But postal workers still participate in these tournaments.
2) “It’s Your Move,” Postal Life, March-April 1974, pg. 11.
3) Postal Life, November-December 1969, pg. 12.
A group from Post Office Department’s Washington, DC Headquarters building began the Aero Club, an airplane-flying club, in 1969. It was the only such club for postal employees in the nation. They purchased an airplane for $15,000 with funds obtained after each member contributed money for the down payment. The club was limited to twenty members because insurance would only cover 30 passengers. There was an initiation fee of $30 to join and a cost of $15 per hour to fly—all of the money going to pay off the airplane. The shared nature of flying that was appealing to the postal workers. Eight of the members had pilot’s licenses and one member gave lessons to the other twelve.
In 1996 a group of 103 postal employees from across the United States joined together to run in the Boston Marathon. The marathon, held on April 15, was the Boston Marathon’s 100th Anniversary. The teamed named itself the Eagle Team, honoring their postal connection. Bob Pearson, a headquarters manager and volunteer team organizer put a notice in the November 1995 issue of Postal Life assessing interest in running. He was thrilled to find he received many responses and many qualifiers.(1)
1) “26.2,” Postal Life, July-August 1996, pg. 21.