Wayne Carrell Interview Transcript
INTERVIEWER: Could you please state your name and your affiliation with the Railway Mail Service?
Wayne Carrell: My name is Wayne Paul Carrell and I was a railway mail clerk until 1968 when they took the trains off. I started in '59. I went to Chicago, worked in the main office in Chicago until they transferred me out on the road as a substitute clerk.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever become a regular?
Wayne Carrell: Yes ma’am, I was out there approximately a year or so when I made regular. I was a regular in the Chicago office. When I hired in I hired in as regular up there but I didn't go out on the road until, I think it was 13 months I was in the main office.
INTERVIEWER: I know earlier you said that you ran on the Chicago line, where there any other rail lines that you worked on?
Wayne Carrell: Yes, when I was a sub, I ran on several different ones. I was assigned to a district that normally I ran Chicago to Omaha or in between. Sometimes I stopped but then I guess I had a good reputation because when I ran on some of the other lines that ran down to St. Louis and into Peoria and places like that, they occasionally do but in a different district, they knew I had to work so I did.
INTERVIEWER: What other locations did you travel between?
Wayne Carrell: That was mainly where I went, Chicago-Omaha. I take that back. The last assignment I had it was Chicago to Pittsburgh.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve already answered my next question which is, how long did you serve as a Railway Post Office clerk, which was from 1959 to 1968.
Wayne Carrell: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: Why did you want to become a Railway Post Office clerk?
Wayne Carrell: One of the local people here was a railway mail clerk and transferred into our local office as a clerk in here and he kept trying to talk me in to get into the mail service, so I took exams for the post master in the local office and got turned down because they said I didn’t have experience to handle money. But anyhow, so he talked me into getting another exam out in Effingham, Illinois and they called me up in Chicago right away. So it’s his responsibility.
INTERVIEWER: What types of job did you have in the railcars?
Wayne Carrell: In the railcars? Well, we had some guys who just worked letter cases and I had that part of the time too, but then part of the time I dumped first class mail out of pouches and then we distributed it into different mailbags and other mail that we were working in our cars and I'd see to it that the clerks that was working the letter mail would get it, and then I worked the paper racks part of the time. We worked primarily second class and a little bit of parcel post, and while a letter clerk, once in a while we handled registered mail. I was on that case part of the time. When I was subbing, I did a lot of various assignments; just about anything we did in the car.
INTERVIEWER: For any one of the jobs that you did could you describe a typical day on the railcar starting from when you first went in to work?
Wayne Carrell: Yes, we generally go to work maybe a couple hours before train departure time and we just do our regular work in there until we left. Any mail we could leave in the office, we’d leave it right there in the station, but we just did our regular jobs until it was time to leave.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have any type of layover? Wayne Carrell: Any type of what?
INTERVIEWER: A layover.
Wayne Carrell: A layover? Yeah, out on the west end. When I was running the Chicago to De Moines which is out toward Omaha, we’d go out one day and come back the next day, and same way when I went to Omaha but then I would have a layover in Chicago. The last case I had, I worked two days, off a day, worked two days and then I was off eight days and on the eighth day, I’d come home because I’m 200 miles south of Chicago.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any one job that you liked doing on the railcars more than the others?
Wayne Carrell: No, I don’t believe so. I enjoyed what I was doing. I liked my job and I liked my work. And most of the time we had good guys working with us and all of us worked. If we didn’t, they didn’t go.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever disliked about any of your positions or jobs and this could be just a small complaint that you may have brushed off to the side?
Wayne Carrell: No, I don’t think so because I was younger then. We didn’t get a lot of sleep sometimes on the other end before we had to come back if we were running late but, no, I can’t think of anything that I was unhappy about.
INTERVIEWER: What type of railcar did you work on?
Wayne Carrell: It was what they called the Railway Post Office. In our car there we had letter cases where guy’s [sounds like] cases are mailed in to, then we had racks for primarily first class mail, another rack in the latter part or back part of the car where we worked our newspapers and parcel post. Then sometimes if we had a car, we had a little storage in there but it was all built pretty well about the same.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the length of the car that you worked on the most?
Wayne Carrell: No, I would have to guess maybe 35 or 40 feet would be my guess, I just never did think about that.
INTERVIEWER: When you worked on the railways, do you by chance remember what your starting salary was? Wayne Carrell: No ma’am, I don’t. It was better; it was more pay than I was getting at home, I know that.
INTERVIEWER: What was your previous job before that?
Wayne Carrell: I was a mechanic for a farm machinery dealer for six years.
INTERVIEWER: From what you do remember about your pay on the railroad, do you believe that it was fair for the amount of work you had to do?
Wayne Carrell: I would say as I -– like I said, I worked quite a bit when I was a sub and we got paid every two weeks and when I was a sub, there was one time that I worked 199 hours in a two-week period and, of course, we didn’t get overtime. Back then they didn’t pay overtime but like I was saying before, they knew I’d work, they'd get a hold of me and I’d be there if at all possible.
INTERVIEWER: That is an awful lot of hours to work to meet.
Wayne Carrell: That just happened one time. But really what happens there was our trains, in the wintertime especially, would have a tendency to run late, you see the passenger trains and that particular time was, you know, sometimes I –- in fact, I came in one time and I was supposed to be done but our assignment clerk had gotten hold of the transfer office in the other end, in the railway office and they met our car when we came in and he told me that I was supposed to go back out on another train that was in the station then. So I reported to the other car as soon as I got unloaded and the supervisor told me to go get me something to eat and get back and we were supposed to leave in about an hour. So they covered my work for me until I got come back in the car and away we went. We had good guys to work for.
INTERVIEWER: What was the most amount of days that you ever worked at one time? Wayne Carrell: Well, continuously, like I said we had layovers in between but generally six days. But then like I said when I was a sub and if they can catch me, I wouldn’t even come back home, I’d just go out again.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. I was talking to a clerk before I called you and he said that at one point he counted that he worked I believe it was 32 days in a row.
Wayne Carrell: Oh yeah? I don’t know. Some of the guys -- like we had a Peoria run and those guys just ran from Chicago to Peoria and back the same day and they ran everyday but it was in a different district. I subbed in on that a few times but I wasn’t aware of anybody working that long at one time without any time off.
INTERVIEWER: What did you typically carry with you in your grip while you were on runs?
Wayne Carrell: Our journey I had a different set of work clothes and when I rode when I subbed, did end up in Chicago from home but then I had my supplies in there. We had facing slips that we put on the back of a bundle of letters when we tie them up. And then if I was running one of the pouch cases, well, then I had labels that we’d stamp them and we had to put our train and our name on them and just odds and ends that we needed, whatever we needed. I guess whatever we needed. We had twine normally in the car but sometimes I left some in my grip that I carried with me on the train. And we had to carry a gun though I never did have to use it but I had it.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the longest trip you ever worked?
Wayne Carrell: No, not really. I don’t know. Our night train journey was the longest run. I don’t know. We’d leave Chicago and then get out to Omaha, it was 500 miles approximately is the way I remembered but I don’t know the hours or [indiscernible] record.
INTERVIEWER: But do you maybe have an approximate time of how long it took to get from Chicago to Omaha? This can just be a rough estimate.
Wayne Carrell: I just can’t remember what times; that’s been a long time ago. I don’t know. It should probably take us 12 hours or so I would guess or maybe longer than that.
INTERVIEWER: While you were working on the railways, did you have a family?
Wayne Carrell: Yes, they stayed right here. I own my place here in Toledo and I must say my wife, she raises the kids.
INTERVIEWER: How did you cope with leaving your family behind on long trips?
Wayne Carrell: Well, I wasn’t happy about it but that was the job, that was part of it and traveling I wasn't excited about it but we had to have an income.
INTERVIEWER: How did your family cope while you were away on trips?
Wayne Carrell: Well, I think they got along pretty good. They couldn’t wait for dad to get home so that they could see what was going on.
INTERVIEWER: What were some of the things they did to keep themselves busy while you were gone?
Wayne Carrell: Well, my kids - both of them - carried the newspaper here in town so that kept them busy in the morning and of course when the weather is bad then my wife will take them around in the car or took them to school for several years. I reckon, they just did what kids do and my wife, like I said she raised them while I was gone.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of your fondest memories of working on the railroad?
Wayne Carrell: I don't know. Fondest? Working with a good bunch of people, I’d say that was the most important thing and it was different. When our line got surplused and they finally sent me over to Chicago-Pittsburgh, different bunch of people but we had in our line there are -- us guys we all got along, I don’t know of anybody that fussed or anything like that. It was just a great place to work. It was dirty, it was hard but it was good.
INTERVIEWER: Do you still keep in touch with any of the former clerks?
Wayne Carrell: Not where I worked up there but I know of some of them locally. Of course, a lot of them have passed away now; in fact, we just lost one recently.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the names of some of the people that you used to keep in touch with?
Wayne Carrell: Wayne Martin [phonetic] is the one I was in touch with most of the time and he lived in Mattoon. He passed away recently. He was, I guess, probably the main one. There’s a Chuck Hutchcraft [phonetic] that we'd go to NARFE - are you familiar with that - National Association of Retired Federal Employees. We have a meeting once a month and I see Chuck once in a while. And one of our ex-postmasters in Mattoon was a railroad clerk. I didn’t know it until I saw him up in Charleston when [indiscernible] and everything, anything that you're saying now. Kesterson was his last name, but that was about the only ones -- there’s another up in Charleston I was aware of but I really didn’t know him until he was in Charleston. He knew of me, he worked with my son who works in Chicago, I mean in Charleston office and he knew my son. None here where I live, there’s not very many that was a railway mail clerk.
INTERVIEWER: Did the post office ever issue you anything either for your safety or for your position?
Wayne Carrell: Of course, we had to have a badge that we carried all the time and this was a mail clerk badge. And a lot of times, like myself when I was going to Chicago to work, well, then I’d drive up to Mattoon and get on train there and I recall we did head to Chicago and all we had to do was show them our badge and the conductor in the journey give us a little slip of paper that we had to fill out and give to him. But identification that was the only thing that I had.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever experience a bad or dangerous situation while on the train?
Wayne Carrell: Well, once in awhile we’d hit somebody with our train or another vehicle or something. One time we hit a semi-truck out in Iowa that was hauling red wrappers. Of course, when we hit him, we can feel it in our car because we’d take up slack. We had bars on the top part of the car where you can grab and hang on to if you needed to. Sometimes it was necessary and in this case it was and there was lot of red wrappers flying around and we’d generally run the first car behind the engine so we were right there. Outside that, I never experienced any but some of the other guys did. One of our sister trains derailed up around Joliet, Illinois and one of the rails came up to through the car and hurt some of the guys, some pretty bad but I didn’t experience any of that. It was always on my mind though.
INTERVIEWER: That kind of leads me to my next question. Do you know of any other stories of other clerks that experienced a bad accident or they were just put into a bad situation?
Wayne Carrell: That would be the only one time that I was really aware of. I was subbing back then and I ended up -– the supervisor got hurt and so they assigned me to his job. That’s how I happened to know that. I don’t know, I run that case for quite a while before -– where they took me off that day train and we had a colored man that was second in charge, he was the next senior man in the crew and we had a crew of three guys and so he acted as a supervisor but he did his job and I did the supervisor’s job and everything was okay but –- and I didn’t know any of the other guys what happened to them but it was the only thing that I recall anyhow.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever hear of stories of train robberies or people being held up, and this could have been sometime before you got there, just something that other clerks remembered?
Wayne Carrell: Nope, never heard any stories like that while I was working anyhow.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever face or witness any type of racial discrimination as a Railway Post Office clerk? Wayne Carrell: No, not that I was aware of. Like I said, this one guy who was in charge when I was running for the supervisor, that colored man, he lived in Chicago. One time we were a man short and the Chicago post office sent a colored boy out to fill in and work with us to make that run. He came out with a paperback book in his pocket and this guy who was working as a supervisor, the colored man, he asked him, he said, “What are you doing with that book in your pocket?” He said, “Well, I’m going to read it.” He said, “You can just go right back to the post office and read it there.” We went out a man short, so he took care of his own as far as I was concerned. Talking to him you wouldn’t know that he was a colored man when he joked around, he was a good guy. And that was the only incident that I saw happened.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever hear of anybody who experienced or witnessed any type of racial discrimination, any stories from the former clerks?
Wayne Carrell: No, I didn’t. Most of the guys that I ran with going -- when I was running to Chicago to Omaha, most of those people were white people. We had a few colored, not very many. But when I went to Chicago to Pittsburgh, sometimes I was the only white guy in the crew and once in a while it would be two of us but I wasn’t there very long until they took us all for sure, all of us [indiscernible]. But I didn’t experience any problems.
INTERVIEWER: Were you a member of any type of outside organization such as a union or a club that was affiliated with the railway postal clerks?
Wayne Carrell: No.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position? Wayne Carrell: No, I was happy where I was.
INTERVIEWER: What do you miss most about being a Railway Post Office clerk?
Wayne Carrell: Well, studying probably, we studied a lot, took an exam every six months. But that's part of the job, I mean, you knew you're going to have to do that so we did.
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you miss?
Wayne Carrell: I don’t think, I don’t miss bad any other -- I can sleep now normally. Of course, I had been retired, well, see the post office, our trains came off in ‘68 and I was put in the post office in Champaign when they took them off.
INTERVIEWER: And when you went in to a stationary unit when the trains came off, do you like that position better?
Wayne Carrell: Did I –- pardon?
INTERVIEWER: Did you like your next position better than being a Railway Post Office clerk?
Wayne Carrell: I’m afraid not. I liked what I was doing on the railroad. Like I said it was dirty, it was hard and we had to study a lot but I liked it.
INTERVIEWER: Then for the last question, is there any other information you would like to share with researchers about your experience or position with the Railway Post Office, and this can be anything from interesting facts that you’ve learned or funny stories that you might have to share?
Wayne Carrell: Well, the only thing I can think of right off hand is something my wife says she has never heard any of the other clerks or railway personnel say. In some towns, especially in our day trains, we'd have to catch a pouch that was hanging on the rack as we were moving along and the journey we moved along pretty fast like maybe 70 or 80 miles an hour and we’d catch that pouch. Well, sometimes that pouch gets knocked down. When they get knocked down, of course, it’d go underneath the train and it was just like seeing a snowstorm in the summertime because that mail would get chewed up. And the post office of that particular town they would have a man out there that brought the pouch and hung it up and we’d generally throw one off at the same location and he would pick it up and take it back to the office, so he could see what happened if we didn’t catch it. But I never experienced anything like that and generally had some guy that was assigned to do the catching and that was his job. It was a dangerous thing to be doing but my wife thinks that’s kind of funny but it was bad because we destroyed mail too.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any interesting sights that you saw during your layovers or on the train?
Wayne Carrell: We generally didn’t have time to look around. The only time we had a chance to look around is sometimes after we got into our office in the railway station, like sometimes we’d get to see the passengers unload and they walk by the car and sometimes that was a sight. It gives something to do, you know, most of us were younger guys too.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything bizarre or unusual that you saw in registered mail perhaps? Wayne Carrell: No, ma’am.
Wayne Carrell: Generally, registered mail was all -- because, you know, it's sealed letters of course and then we put it in a regular pouch and lock it up. Only the register clerk generally is the only one that was aware of, but he never knew what he was handling.
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your job as a Railway Post Office clerk, anything else that you can think of?
Wayne Carrell: No, I can’t think of anything right now. I mean, I was just really happy with it. I really enjoyed that, except being away from home. That wasn’t too good.