Richard Jennings (RJ) Interview Transcript
RJ: Well let’s see, I worked… overseas, I got talking to some Railway Mail clerks. They were sorting mail. And decided when I was overseas. And when I came back, I took the examination in 1946, when I got out of the service, got married, and that’s the start of my career.
INTERVIEWER: What sort of jobs did you do on the cars? You know, registry clerk, pouch rack, that sort of thing. RJ: Well, through the years I did them all. But yeah, work the registry letters, work the pouch table, letter case.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any jobs that you preferred?
RJ: No, actually you bid the job that you wanted that had a peculiar, the particular days off. For instance, we had jobs that worked 6 days and off 8 days. And those were the ones that the old timers got. And, so, I didn’t get one of those until I became an old timer [laughs]. Years and years later.
INTERVIEWER: Did you mostly work day trains or night trains, or some of both? RJ: No night trains, mostly, all of the trains out of Boston were night trains.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. So was it hard to get used to that sort of lifestyle and sleeping during the day and that sort of thing?
RJ: No. You learned to sleep in snatches, you know, you’d get a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there, yup.
INTERVIEWER: Was it difficult for your family to have you away?
RJ: Actually, there was a couple of Christmases when the kids were small and at those times, in those days they worked the mail on Christmas. And that was tough. That was tough being away from home, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: What was favorite part of the job, would you say?
RJ: Oh, the windup trip and knowing that you had a full week off. You were dirty and tired and you had, you got home and it was really nice. It was very nice.
INTERVIEWER: So was there anything you really didn’t like about it?
RJ: I liked every aspect of it. It was a dirty job, but it was fascinating because it was handling letters that you know you were expediting that letter that was going from point A to point B and you were sorting it, and it got there that much faster, because maybe people like you were working terrible hours of the day and night. So, it was a job that got, the people just liked. They just loved. A lot of esprit de corps among our people. Out of 700,000 postal employees, there were only like 30,000 of us. So we got paid a little more money. Not much, a little bit more.
Yeah, it was kinda, kind of a nice, a nice job, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have to study very often at home?
RJ: Oh, that was another part that wasn’t too pleasant, but you did have to study quite a bit until, after four, five years you pretty well knew… for instance, I knew every post office in New Jersey going south, I knew Washington, DC, I could break down mail for New York City and coming north, Boston. We’d sort the mail going to North Station, going to Maine, and yeah. It, it was fascinating and very nice.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever run into any dangerous situations? Any train wrecks or anything like that?
RJ: Well, there was one that was real danger, I mean it was a real tragedy. But I was working on the Boston and Albany Railroad, one that ran from Boston, Wooster, Springfield, Pittsfield, Albany. But anyway, they were taking the mail car off at Springfield and the coupling broke and one of the fellas fell on the tracks, and he was crushed, crushed to death. Yeah that was tough to take.
INTERVIEWER: We’re also looking for any stories or memories that you have of the Railway Mail Service, maybe… RJ: Well, that was one bad memory, but the other memories… Well I associated the birth of the kids with what train I was running on, it was just a nice, quite a nice, it was a dirty job but it took a lot of memory and it was, we just loved it. We were a small band of lucky people in that job like that. We got dirty, but we had to use our brains, and we were doing a job that meant a lot to people that never even knew we existed.