Greg Lowell Interview Transcript
Greg Lowell: My name is John G. Lowell. I go by Greg, and I was a PTS clerk for the railway. They call it PTS; that was the Railway Mail Service. And I ran in section two of the Chicago mobile unit and that consisted of Port Huron to Chicago, Chicago Fort Madison, Kansas City, and I don’t know what else because that's the main ones. But I subbed for a long time also and that was the desired way to go that most guys wanted, most young guys anyway, didn’t want a regular assignment because you can make more money subbing. You can work as many hours as you could get and had the opportunity to run -- I think we can run in 13 different states pretty much out of Chicago.
Anything headed out of Chicago, we could run off, and that would be started from Chicago, St. Louis and then Chicago, West Liberty and Omaha, then Chicago Fort Madison, Kansas City, Chicago and Council Bluffs then Omaha. When I went to Ford Dodge, a couple went to Minneapolis and a couple of small ones that went like one went to Clinton, Iowa; one went to Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago and county [indiscernible] Chicago went to a county in Michigan - Iron Mountain up in there - and then the Bluffs in Chicago went to Detroit and when we got into Lake Shore which is New York Central. I can't think what the name of the RPO was, but it went to Buffalo, one that went to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh and Chicago. And one went to Memphis, Tennessee, Chicago-Memphis, and one went to Evansville, Indiana, and one went to Cincinnati.
I think that there may be a couple more in there but you could get the amount of runs that you are subbing versus there was no -- subs didn’t get any overtime in those days but you had extra pay for working on the mobile unit and the trains. We were at a higher level than the regular mail carriers. We were level five and they were four.
And I think when I started, I started out at $2 an hour which is almost impossible now. But for every I think it was every 42 minutes of your work, you got 60 minutes pay and it ended up -- sometimes if you worked it right, you can get 80 hours a week and that made for a pretty good paycheck.
We got per diem which was I think after eight hours on the road. You got for every six hours you got $3, I think. And by that time you got through with that, it was like working with no income tax because you’d get enough per diem to pay your income tax. So, you're like working tax free nowadays which would make a difference.
INTERVIEWER: How long did you serve as a Railway Post Office clerk? Greg Lowell: I think from '59 till '66.
INTERVIEWER: And what made you want to become a Railway Post Office clerk?
Greg Lowell: Well, I got out of the service at that time. I got out in '57 and there was a recession then. It's like up and down like we have nowadays and you really couldn’t find work down there so I got a lead from our mail carrier. He put me to the local postmaster there in Bloomington and I interviewed with him. He said I think I can give you a job or whatever for a railway mail clerk, and he sent me up to Chicago. I took the test and then passed the test and everything, got hired and went up there to work in the main post office till we got a little bit of training. And I had a couple of months and they're trying to assign you to a section, the mobile unit and I got into section two. That's the one I end up working for.
I subbed mostly on that section but you could work out of the transfer clerk in Chicago and somebody was always calling in sick or fill a vacancy so that way you can run on any line that’s headed out of Chicago. It was kind of exciting in a way because you never knew where you were going and you never probably see these guys again so it's like starting a new job every time you go to work. And after you’ve worked a while and you get the reputation of being a good worker and sometimes you run with different crews and they know of you and you make friends. INTERVIEWER: And what positions did you occupy on the railcars?
Greg Lowell: Well, they just called it a distribution clerk and you could have any job that you were filling the assignment for. It could be handling the registry keys on there, it could be handling weather case, it could be handling the newspapers and pouch rack and whatever they worked on there. But being unfamiliar with it, the area that they were going in, usually you just helped out what you could. But on the RPOs, everybody working till everybody was caught up and so when one guy was -- he got caught up, he helped the next guy. Everybody helped everybody; it was a lot of camaraderie there. That's what made it a good job and it was all guys so it would be kind of like being on the service, military service.
INTERVIEWER: Could you possibly describe a typical day on the railcar?
Greg Lowell: Yeah. You can go to work whatever time you were assigned to be there and you can go down to the train station that was heading out of. In Chicago, they had the Union station and the South Street station at that time, terminal station and the Illinois Central station which a lot of these trains have changed now so the stations are gone, terminal stations are gone, Illinois Central is gone. I think Union station is there and the Illinois Western Station is there - different names now.
Then you can get on the train at that time and tell the supervisor or the clerk-in-charge what you were there for and either assign you a job to do, asking your qualifications if you're new to the area you were going to. If you’ll work going to Michigan or something, if you knew the state of Michigan, you had to know schemes and know the different states. Usually, my states were Michigan because I was running out of Port Huron in Chicago - assigned to that mostly and -- because when you sub, you take -- I had Illinois. At that time, it was two sections [indiscernible] where all the post offices go, to what trains they’d go to. Now it's sectional centers, with sectional centers everything went through. So, if you were qualified on Illinois and Michigan and Iowa and Indiana and Wisconsin which you had to learn eventually, every six months you had a new scheme to throw and you have to be qualified on that. If you didn't pass it, you didn't keep the job.
That time we had to get, I think it was 97 out of 100 when you took the test. And if you didn't pass the test, you can come back another 30 days or something. But almost everybody passed the test because you had to study on your own time. Anybody who's in the RPO, they usually knew all the different states so it could be useful to whatever crew you're working with. Everybody worked out there. It's just there were no slackers and everybody helped everybody else, and it's just a bunch of hardworking guys and made it enjoyable because everybody worked. And if they didn't, you caught a sub out there that didn’t put 100 percent into it, they usually write a little note about it on the thing. We had one supervisor that wrote this man is not qualified for this type of work; somebody came out and didn’t do a good enough job and you’d never see the guy again.
INTERVIEWER: And out of all of the jobs that you experienced, which one did you like the best?
Greg Lowell: Well, when you run with a certain crew, you get to know them and you enjoy it. Everybody -- there’s a lot of different characters out there; they did at that time. Some were good and some were not so good, made it hard for you but on the whole, I think everybody was pretty decent. They’d show you around where you’re going to stay and you get up there because you always had to stay in a hotel. They had the rates of the hotels. At that time, it was like $2 or $3 a night. They'd give you a room. Like in Kansas City they had couple of hotels, pretty decent, right downtown, you stay there and it's just a sleeping room. And somebody will show you around, you pal up with somebody else that's in that crew and you can go out, eat and head and go back at the same time pretty much, catch the train back. Most of them, you had an overnight layover or day layover, while the night trains you slept the day and went back to work that night, going back on the other train.
INTERVIEWER: And was there anything that you ever disliked about any of your positions?
Greg Lowell: Disliked? One time, I made a run to Memphis and that was in the summertime and I end up in the back and those cars weren’t air-conditioned spaces. It was a very hot job on the summertime especially if you're running south and east so they ran with the doors open and that was the only air that you can get to stay cool. And of course every time you passed a crossing, the dust would come in and you’d be squinting all the time. I ended up getting Bell’s palsy out of that one trip I made down there. I came back, I had to carry the milk that I was drinking for my lunch and every time I’d take a drink, it would come running down my chin, kind of had a hole in it. And then I found out that I had contracted Bell’s palsy by squinting the whole day before, so a nervous disease and it can -- you can get -- some people get that from straining all the time like that.
When I got back to Chicago, I told the clerk-in-charge that I would really have to go up to the dispensary at the main PO because there's something wrong. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. They went up there and they were going to send me to the marine hospital and I was up on the north side of Chicago up on Marine Drive I think about 4200 north. And I said, no, I'll just take sick leave, and I went to a federal doctor and had to lay off for a couple of weeks and they gave me cortisone shots everyday for a couple of weeks till it finally went away and haven't had it since. But it was from the squinting all day long and the dirt in your face and all that kind of stuff.
That's what they told me.
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you disliked about your position?
Greg Lowell: No, I enjoyed it. When I had that, they’ve had to throw me off that night. I just stayed out there 40 years. I think the limit was 41 years and nine months to get the full retirement, and they did away with it because airlines started taking the -- airlifting the mail.
But at that time when I was running on the Port Huron to Chicago, they had a train that went up there at night. At that time, they printed the Wall Street Journal at one place and that was in Chicago. Nowadays, they set up a computer to another town. The same way with newspapers and they print them all over the place, like the Tribune is printed in Danville and every place else in Illinois. That way you don’t have to send the copies; they can make the copies right there.
But anyway, the train that left Chicago that night and late evening, we had to wait for the Wall Street Journal to get there for the state of Michigan. And anybody that had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal in the state of Michigan, upper and lower peninsula, got it in their mailbox the next morning because all the connections that we made across the state, we’d catch a train that’s going the other way and we put the mail up for them. It was really something. And they would hold the train up for that Wall Street Journal because that's how much clout they had. INTERVIEWER: And what type of car did you normally work on?
Greg Lowell: It was a 60-footer, what they call a 60-footer. They had 30-footers and 60-footers but the train I ran mostly on was a 60-footer. They carry a lot of mail. We had letter cases in there and a pouch rack on one end where they sort the mail that they took on. In Chicago, you start out with a whole load of mail from Michigan and they break it down back in the pouch rack and the guys would work the letters in the middle. The other end, they had newspapers and a few parcels and they'd sort those, put them up for the towns. They were made up along the way.
INTERVIEWER: And earlier, you mentioned that when you started out, you were making approximately $2 an hour. When you ended your career on the Railway Mail Service, do you remember what your ending salary was? Greg Lowell: Yeah, I think it was around probably $6. And right now, you'll probably laugh at that but if you get to recall, that would be about pretty much in the '60s. And at that time if you made $10,000 a year, that was pretty good money. And now, I think probably your regular mail guy probably makes $50,000 a year if he gets a little overtime in there. They don't start out at that but I think the guy now probably makes $20-some an hour.
Everything was just like --
Some of the guys I worked with, when I went out there, I was 22 years old and when I got out, I was 30. I was there about mid-20s. The guys I worked with, they had started to work on that train in 1933, some of them, and they were telling me at that time if they ever got a job making $2,500 a year, they thought they were really taking in the chips. And so that’s how time has changed. Even then, let’s take for instance American Express card, to get an American Express card it was $5,000 a year. Now, it's probably $35,000 or $40,000 that would have been your income. We were at $0.5 or $0.10, cigarettes were maybe a quarter a pack if you smoked, and gas was probably $0.25 to $0.30 a gallon, and a car was $2,000 to $3,000 - average car. I remember I think in the late '50s, you can buy a Corvette for, list price was $4,000. So times changed, money changed and it all goes up.
INTERVIEWER: So I guess it's safe to say that what you were paid, you thought that it was fair for the amount of work that you had to do?
Greg Lowell: Yeah. We thought it was fair. There’s always somebody makes more money but the average Joe six- pack if you made $100 a week or $125 a week that was enough to raise a family on because everything was a lot less money. The house, they cost $250,000 or $300,000 now; was about $20,000 to $21,000 then, and everything was relative, including what it costs now for a car and a house.
INTERVIEWER: Right, okay. What did you typically carry with you in your grip while you were on runs?
Greg Lowell: Well, you'd carry change of clothes and underclothes and a toilet kit, a Dopp kit so you could shave and clean up and all that. And probably you'd pack a lunch. Throw that in there, too. And you can get something on the way back at the local restaurant, whatever it takes to get on the way back, and there's always somebody on the train that made coffee, everybody chipped in for that. Some of the best coffee I ever drank. And they made an old pot that’s never been cleaned out and they just dump it out and then rinse it out, throw in some more, just put it in there in a stove in the back and a little lavatory, a sink and a toilet in there. It was all guys so you only needed one. And drinking fountain with ice in it that kept the water cold and a little hot plate or a steamed container where you turn on the steam and make the coffee. And they put the water in there, throw the grounds in there and then boil it then throw a cup of cold water on top of it to settle the grounds and that was probably the best coffee you'd ever drink, not like today.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything else that you carried in your grip?
Greg Lowell: Yeah. Everybody had a gun. You’re issued a pistol, a revolver and usually a little like Smith and Wesson, the little two-inch barrel like a Detective Special, .38 caliber and they'd give you ammo for it, too. And every six months, you'd have to go up and take a gun test. I think it was every six months. Like now in the main PO in Chicago, the turrets on top of that -- there's one turret on top of the main PO in Chicago that was a pistol range and you had to qualify on that and they’d be all there counting on your qualifications. And you had a conceal and carry permit that you kept with you all the time. You carry that gun with you anywhere you went and matter of fact, I still have the permit, I didn't turn them in, dated 1960. I don't think you can get those in Illinois anymore but it was issued by the government.
INTERVIEWER: And what was the longest trip you ever worked?
Greg Lowell: Let's see. The longest I ever had to be away was like maybe night and you'd come back the next morning -- not the next morning. You stay up there the next day and then you come back the following night on the next train -- not the next train but on the return part of your assignment. So you'd be away, let's see, you go over there one night, stay up there all day and you come back the following morning. Then you'd have a day at home or a hotel or wherever you're staying depending on your head out. The head out is where your train, your job starts and ends.
A matter of fact, a lot of guys didn't live anywhere around it. We have one guy on our crew that lived in Tennessee. He’d come up here and stay up here a week and then he had a week on and a week off. That was the good part about being on the RPO. If you had a regular case, you'd have a week on and a week off pretty much. Some guys have five days on, nine days off. That was probably the choice job because most people have another job besides so you'd end up working two jobs. Maybe one guy was -- lot of farmers on there, they worked as a farmer in their week off and somebody else working when they're -- their family worked when they were gone.
And some guys have those side jobs or little businesses that they own and somebody else ran it when they weren’t there.
Some of the guys were salesmen. One guy sold farm equipment every other week and tried to get a job on the -- matter of fact I was going to get a good job on an armory car on the week off but the guy said I can't hire you every other week. He said if you find somebody that works the other week for you, I'll put you on. But you'd have to have a job where you can pick up and work a week on and week off.
But also, if you didn't work you got to -- you made enough that you could survive that way but you'd make twice as much if you had another job; but you can get a lot of stuff done around the house, I'll tell you that. It’ll be [indiscernible] didn't have to do much.
INTERVIEWER: And while you were a Railway Post Office clerk, did you have a family?
Greg Lowell: Oh, yeah. I have a wife and the two boys were born while I had the job. And it was a tough assignment at that time because I'd be gone overnight like that and she was an RN and she worked at the hospital when I got back. So we kind of took care of the kids and alternated and you’ll work it out if you have to, you can do things that you have to do and we didn't have anybody to help us take care of the kids or anything. We just do what we have to do and everybody got by. It’s kind of like now, people coming and going all the time, the wife works and so is the guy but usually they have day schools and preschools and all that kind of thing. And if they had it then, we sure didn’t know about it. We raised the two boys like that and they all turned out okay.
INTERVIEWER: You just answered my next question, which was, how did you cope with leaving your family behind on long trips? What are some of your fondest memories of working on the railways?
Greg Lowell: The people that you meet. As a matter of fact, everybody -- I had met a lot of good friends out there and kept in touch over the years. As a matter of fact, I'm still in touch with a friend of mine from out there. He passed away I think seven years ago but I still kept in touch with his wife. She just wrote me a letter the other day because my wife and I go and take her out to lunch maybe once a year. She lives in another town and she just told me that today she’s 91 now. She's very active and she lives with her daughter up there. So a little get-together, take her out to lunch. Mostly these guys were on World War II that I worked with and so was he. Of course about all of them are dead. I was in my 20s when I was out there and most of the guys that I worked with are in their 40s and 50s. We got old and they’re dead one or the other.
INTERVIEWER: And are there any that you still keep in touch with that are alive?
Greg Lowell: Well, just some of the guys in this [indiscernible] a matter of fact, we just headed off to the Illinois Railway Museum out there on Union, Illinois and the man that puts out the Elgin News, that's kind of a newsletter they put out once a month, clerks have subscribed to it and everybody writes in to it to keep up with all the guys that are dying because they are and it's like World War II. You don't know how many died over there. I think it’s a couple of hundred or something like that.
But anyway, they just had this thing here a few weeks ago and the guys had it through this paper. He called me on the phone and asked me if I’d come up there. If they had enough guys, we could all work the [indiscernible] around back and forth on this little rail line and they catch the mail from a crane on the side, and people watch them how they used to catch the mail and you can board this railroad, RPO car. I think it’s a 30-footer and you can see how it worked. And the guys that are the old clerks so worked the car and I think they have one down in [indiscernible]. Right in the middle of the town, they have kind of like the railroad days down there and they got guys that worked the car and showed you how -- if somebody wants to get on there, they'll show you how they used to worked the mail and the car and all that.
Kind of interesting if you’ve never been up to Union, Illinois, it’s open every day. And you can go up there, it’ll cost you $8 or something to get in but there's a world of things to see up there, all the different trains. You can ride on some of these cars and they’ve got a place to eat up there. Of course, a souvenir shop and you can buy all kinds of train paraphernalia, RPO stuff. It's just something to see. A lot of people go up there. It's worth the trip especially if you got kids, they’ll never see that any place else.
INTERVIEWER: Right. I know earlier you said that the post office issued you a .38 revolver. Was there anything else that the post office issued you for your safety or for your job?
Greg Lowell: Oh yeah. Our registered mail has a certain kind of a lock on it and it’s got a number inside that turns every time you open it. So you know when you get this pouch that’s got this lock on it, it contains registered mail which is probably the safest way to send anything to somebody that is with any substance. It's a way of insuring the mail for -- you can probably insure $100,000.
People send money through the mail like that. They'll send the cash. We used to get sacks of cash on the train, just being the money bags. You'd have one bag, say, another bag $25,000 or something in cash and they just put it in the money bag and they tag it and seal it in kind of a register pouch and we deliver it like up there in Michigan. They pick it up maybe, say, at Lansing, you take it up to some bank in Port Huron and they knew that they need the cash for something. That's how they send money through the mail. They knew the connections and the train’s running so probably a safe way, if we could send it for maybe $10 or whatever it cost to send it up there and they’re going to it in a few hours.
Anyway, we had a key for that, a big long key, maybe about four-inches long and it’ll only open the register locks that the post office had. We also had a key to open up these little locks that they put on mailboxes. Every time the train would stop -- not every time but certainly how they had a mailbox there were people could drop mail off at the train station and drop it in there, and the guy would get off the train, he'd run over there and we used to call that robbing the box. He’d go over there and pick the mail out of it, take a sack with him, pick up the mail and then take it back to the train, post mark it and send on where we're supposed to go. Even the RPO cars, some of them had a mail slot on the side where people drop mail in the train stop. People that were in the know knew that that stuff existed so they would use it.
I had manuals that you had to have, you had the schedule you got to keep up. They send you changes for it all the time to all the different trains that run out of Chicago. You have a little book that you had to keep up and also on the scheme so you know where the mail went. They had a little book that you had to keep up for that. There’s a little small notebook, maybe about 4x7 or something like that and a little binder that they’d come out with the changes and you keep it up so you'll be up-to-date on the trains and on the highway post offices and where the stuff went and what time. That was all part of your job.
INTERVIEWER: And were there ever times where you experienced a dangerous or bad situation while on the railway?
Greg Lowell: Yeah, a lot of them. You run into a lot of cars. Not a lot of them but that happened occasionally, probably four or five times a year or something like that. You'd hit a car, or somebody decided to do away with their self, they jump in front of the train and then, they hit somebody, they had to wait till the coroner comes or somebody gets killed so they have a delay with the train. Then usually, the [indiscernible] comes over there and washes the blood off the front of it. Some people -- I was just in Chicago the other day, there was a guy that jumped in front of the train, metro guy killed himself, makes a big mess. We’d stop and we'd be like this second or third car in line next to it, you’d have a good chance of seeing all the gory details there, pieces of skull laying out there and that sort of thing. If you had a stomach for it, you could jump off there and go take a look because you’re going to be sitting there till the guy came and everybody got a little handle. It's part of the routine, I guess. INTERVIEWER: Right. And did you ever hear of anybody experiencing anything dangerous on your line or perhaps on another line?
Greg Lowell: Yeah. On our line one time, we had also a 30-foot car that went up there, came back from Port Huron. That was what they called the fast train. It got to Chicago in record time and it didn't stop at all those stations, only the main ones, and they were building some factory up there. This train, it was a passenger train of course and had maybe four or five cars on the back of it plus the RPO which is a 30-footer and they went pretty fast. Some guy had to track the trailer, load of I-beams that he was taking to this factory and it was like middle of the morning, like 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.
That was around the curve and there wasn't any crossing the headlights or anything, just a regular crossing and this guy, he didn't know the train was coming. He pulls out there with the tractor trailer load of I-beams and of course the guy couldn't stop the train and they hit the van and derailed, turn them all over. I just told a friend of mine, I said, why don't you get sick or something, take off so I can run for you? Because I was subbing at the time. He happened to be on that car and one guy has his back broken and this friend of mine was in a hospital up there in Michigan for a month because he got shaken up pretty bad, broken bones and a lot of bruises and cuts because they left the rails and rolled downed on the track and the engineer and the fireman, the head fireman at that time, they were both killed and all the cars derailed I guess. That was a big mess.
But all the clerks survived. They were shaken up and injured and that but they all survived. This guy, I happened to be on the RPO going back the other way when he walked back, when he got off the train to come back home. He says, well I hope you're happy now. Because I was running for him. It was a joke. I said I didn't mean for that to happen. They all survived so that was all that counts, but the guys up in front, the engineer and the fireman did not. Trains going like 70 to 80 miles an hour and hits a bunch of I-beams on the back of a truck. That's like running through a brick wall or worse. That was the only wreck that I know of that we had on that line.
It happens every day, you see these train wrecks and somebody gets hurt. [Indiscernible] passes train a bunch anymore. Certainly the RPO cars, I'm sure if it went nationwide back in those days they probably had a few of them. When I had a run on the one that ran to Evansville, Indiana one time and that was back in that Cuban missile crisis, and unknown to us, they had missiles on the car in front of us. That was because I was a sub, I would go back to go get the coffee and I think at Kankakee or someplace where they stopped. So I jumped off of there and ran to the coffee shop and got the coffee and I’m running them back because I had a gun belt on with a pistol strapped to my side and I’m carrying this paper bag and I'm running like crazy up here and there's this marine standing there armed with a rifle. I didn't know what he's standing there for and he didn't know what I was running for.
So he’s ready to do something because the missiles were on the car in front of us. Nobody knew it till up to that time and then we all found out about it where they were taking them down to Florida for the -- in case something happened when they had those missiles over there in Cuba. Castro and Khrushchev and all of them, you know they had that Bay of Pigs thing. And it was all a hush-hush deal but it's scary when you get involved with something like that because you’ll get shot for no reason.
INTERVIEWER: Did you face or witness any type of racial discrimination while you were a post office clerk?
Greg Lowell: No. Everybody got along with everybody else. Like I say, it was a lot like the military and everybody's over 21, you just don't do that stuff. You know the drug situation wasn’t like it is today, that’s got a lot to do with it. In those days, you could walk down probably any street in Chicago and not have to worry about a thing. A matter of fact, one night as I walked all the way from 3300 West where I was staying down to the main post office and that goes through a lot of different neighborhoods. It can go from the Italian neighborhood; you're walking down the street at night because I didn’t start work till 10 o'clock. You’ll walk in the Italian neighborhood, the Mexican neighborhood, the black neighborhood and other than dogs, you didn’t have a problem in the world.
Nobody will -- you just didn’t have to worry about that.
They got all this drug stuff going on in some places; you wouldn’t go down there if you had to. Like I tell you, my son is a stunt man, sometimes they work in these neighborhoods in Chicago. The police go down there to guard them while they're doing something. The cops told him -- he said if you guys weren't down here, we wouldn't even be down here. That’s how bad it gets.
INTERVIEWER: And did you ever hear of anybody who did experience or witness racial discrimination while on the railcars?
Greg Lowell: No, I never did.
INTERVIEWER: And were you a member of any type of outside organization such as a union or club that was affiliated with the railway postal clerks?
Greg Lowell: Union or club, no. At that time, I don't think they had a union. No, definitely not because when I got surplused from the RPO, I went to work in north suburban which was brand new at that time also and the union was just forming there because I knew the guy that was starting the thing up. I think that went about 1971 or something when they had the -- it went from the post office department to the postal service. It used to be just the post office department. I think it was '71 when they went into the USPS. They called it the postal service. I never saw any. I mean there could have been some but I never saw any. There were a lot of guys, a lot of white guys you can't get along with, but we all just learned to live among each other. We had black guys in the crew sometimes and most of the, 99 percent of them were all right. We laugh and joke with them. Like I say, a lot of it was like in the military, you just learn to get along.
INTERVIEWER: And was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position with the railway?
Greg Lowell: Do you mean the postal service?
Greg Lowell: No. I enjoyed all the time I was out there. It was kind of like being in an elite group because you just were and it's kind of like a marine as opposed to a sailor or army guy or something. A lot of esprit-de-corps by working that part of it because you got extra pay, you got extra benefits and it was kind of fun riding a train; it’s a different kind of a job. Like I said and I heard that said by many mail clerks, if they're still out there, had been out there, all the time I could stay out there [indiscernible] it had a lot of benefits.
INTERVIEWER: What do you miss the most about being a Railway Post Office clerk?
Greg Lowell: I don't really miss anything. It's just part of your life that you go through and there were good times and I'm sure there were bad times. You don't remember the bad times. I like the camaraderie, I like the guys. I'm assuming they like me and we all got along. And it’s like any other job, you stay there long enough, you get to know everybody and it's enjoyable. I'm sure there's got to be some bad times there but like I say, you don't remember those. I forget that stuff.
INTERVIEWER: And for the last question, is there any other information you would like to make accessible to researchers about your experience or position with the railway post office? And this can be anything from an interesting tidbit or a funny story.
Greg Lowell: No, I think I told what I thought was a funny story, that interview there with Nancy Pope. I kind of wish I didn’t afterwards because they’ll probably never use that on the -- I saw the interviews with one of the guys I was with up there at the reunion up to that railway museum but that was only his. I thought well, maybe you didn't put mine on there because a little tidbit I put on there about -- it was about a practical joke that we used to play on each other.
We were working mail from Canada. They had Canadian RPOs, too, and they would send their mail over to us and Port Huron is right across the river from Sarnia, Ontario, and they have an RPO over there and it comes through a tunnel underneath to Port Huron and then they put on the American mail car and they put the Canadian mail on there. Well, a lot of times they would have items in Canada that came through the mail that probably would get over here but by the time we get it here, it would be pretty beat up. The packages were coming down too some time; had women's panties and nylons and stuff like that. You didn't know where to put the stuff. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to toss it in the garbage? We used to try and hide it in somebody's suitcase so when he went home, the guy usually gives his -- his wife will tell him, give me your dirty clothes, I’ll put them in the wash. Some guy that's really handpicked [indiscernible] nylons and one of them in his grip, and he’ll give it to his wife and she'll catch that. What’s this? And he's like in trouble. I said that today in the interview that Nancy Pope gave us and that's what I said. I wish I didn’t because the other guy looked at me as was like, why did you say that? Well, to each his own.
INTERVIEWER: All right. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Greg Lowell: No. I think I pretty much spoke my piece with that. Right now I can't think of anything but I'm sure I'll think of something some other time. I wish I’d thought of it, then. That's just one of those things. But it was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the job and everybody that I talked to who has been in that type of service, would say the same thing, I'm sure. That's one thing they would always hear, pretty much the same comment from everybody, it was a fun unique type of job from when they started it till now.
I read this book this guy wrote down there in South Carolina or whatever, about the RPO service and as a matter of fact, I even bought the book. It really was nothing like we have up here because you know, where they stayed.
The first thing, there were no blacks in that crew because it was all segregated at that time.
When I was in the army, Harry Truman had just -- Korean War was over and he just had segregated the military. When you go through that -- there was a station down in Texas, probably in the mid-50s and they had colored waiting rooms, a guy couldn't go in the barber shop and stuff like that and restaurants where they couldn't go in. It’s just a whole different world. A lot of resentment then and still around because you can’t blame them. It’s just one of those things. You know, I didn't have any slaves so don’t say nothing to me. That's part of living. I guess you touched on that a little bit, race relations; it's after being in the military, you just learn to get along. That's all.
INTERVIEWER: Well, is there anything else that you would like to add?
Greg Lowell: No, not at this time. I can't think of anything.