Darrell Mack Interview Transcript
Darrell Mack: My name is Darrell Mack and I worked on the Chicago and Council Bluffs RPO which was the CB&Q Railroad.
INTERVIEWER: Were you a regular or a sub?
Darrell Mack: I was both sub and then I made regular and then for part time I was in the Postal Inspection Service then came back to the Railway Post Office.
INTERVIEWER: I know earlier you said that you worked for the Chicago-Council Bluffs line. Did you work on any other rail line?
Darrell Mack: When I was a sub I worked on -- you want the names of them? INTERVIEWER: Yes, please.
Darrell Mack: I worked on the Chicago, West Liberty and Omaha which was the Rock Island Line. I worked on the Chicago, Marion and Omaha which was the Milwaukee Railroad and I worked on the Chicago and Omaha which was the Northwestern Railroad. I worked on the line in Chicago to Kansas City which was the Burlington Railroad, CB&Q and I worked on the Santa Fe Railroad which was the Chicago-Fort Madison and Kansas City RPO. I was on every one that crossed Iowa, except the most northern one which was the Illinois Central; I never ran on it.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the cities that you traveled to?
Darrell Mack: Primarily, Chicago to Omaha. That was my primary work for most of my career, and secondly was then to Kansas City so Chicago to Kansas City and Chicago to Omaha were my primary areas of work.
INTERVIEWER: How long did you serve as a Railway Post Office clerk? Darrell Mack: Fourteen years.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what years those were? Darrell Mack: It was ‘54 to ‘68.
INTERVIEWER: What made you want to become a Railway Post Office clerk?
Darrell Mack: My father was a Railway Post Office clerk and at the age of eight, I got on with my dad at the -- in those days, it was called a doodlebug and that was just a one-unit. It was the engine and the RPO and a few passengers. And that seemed like it was an exciting career for me and as I got older, I made a few more trips with him on the so-called doodlebug which was really fun and I thought that was really neat to do.
I studied engineering at Iowa State University but I think underlying all that, I really wanted to be a Railway Post Office clerk. And when the opportunity came, when I was in school at that time, all the jobs were going to veterans and at that time, I was obviously a nonveteran and I was the first nonveteran hired after World War II. I became a veteran though later on.
INTERVIEWER: What types of jobs did you have on the railcars?
Darrell Mack: About everything. We called it a pouch rack; that’s where you dump up the bags as they come in and then distribute that to the various RPOs. And I also worked letter case for several years. I had the Iowa letter case which is almost the whole side of one RPO and it was divided into three sections and that was a pretty big job to work, the state of Iowa. And then also for a while I had the paper case and then I worked registers and I think I was clerk [sounds like] back where I think I studied -- I believe at one time I figure I took exams for 12 different states.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a lot of states.
Darrell Mack: Yeah. Well, actually, I figured out how many post offices that was at one time but it was a bunch. Going out west when you get into Idaho and Wyoming, even Nebraska, South Dakota, not a lot of post offices in those states but Illinois and then Michigan, Wisconsin, those are more densely populated so it took longer to learn those. I also learned Chicago city and that’s quite an undertaking too to learn all the streets in Chicago city.
INTERVIEWER: For any one of the jobs that you had, could you walk me through a typical day on the railcars starting from when you first went into work?
Darrell Mack: Well, I guess the most interesting I had that I enjoyed the most was when I mentioned I worked the Iowa letter case. When we first go in the morning, we would all -- they call it dress the rack, that’s to hang all the pouches, and we would do that as a team. We’d be about a 10-man team all together and we get that all hung or dressed as we say. And then as soon as the letters start coming, I’d start working Ohio or start working Iowa and break it down. You had to break it down as you cross the state. Obviously, the first towns you came to that was the first ones you worked obviously.
And then as we got into Iowa, start distributing that to the different RPOs and then I did the local across Iowa to throw the mail out and then catch the nonstop mail as we crossed the state of Iowa. Then we get to Omaha and then I’d have a day layover there and then going back, I worked the registered mail, Wisconsin, state of Wisconsin and in what they called mixed states, was just the small town would give you a bundle that it was literally the whole United States and you had to separate it down to the different directions of course; one the way you were going and then we have what we call go back which we’d give that to the next train that we would meet that was heading the opposite direction. And I enjoyed that.
And then when we got to Chicago, we had to tie up all the bags for the different RPOs and break them down to the different stations in Chicago. We had the Northwestern Station and the South Street Station, different stations and then I ran into Union Station which was the CB&Q Railroad, the GM&O Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad and the Milwaukee Railroad and then the others were broken down to the various RPOs that ran out of that particular station. And I got into Chicago at 4:15 in the morning and we would have worked all of Chicago City and had it broken down to the different substations in Chicago. And we arrived at 4:15 at Union Station which is almost downtown Chicago. And every piece of mail we had for 66 substations in Chicago, they were all delivered that morning so I don’t think they can do that anymore.
INTERVIEWER: When you became a regular, what kind of a schedule did you have?
Darrell Mack: I worked four days on and then had six days off and that just kept going like that, four on and six off, four on and six off. And our day was broken down at every six hours and I don’t know who came up with this kind of a figure but for every six hours and 25 minutes out on the railroad, we were paid for eight hours and that other hour and 35 minutes was time that was allotted for preparation you had to do at home to get some of your labels and supplies ready. Also, that was compensated for your study time to learn the different post offices in those states.
So early on in your career, you would spend more time than you were actually allotted but later on in your career when you were taking those same exams for the second and third time all it took was a little brushing up. So the tail end of your career, that six hours and 25 minutes was really liberal. I suppose over the course of a career it would probably -- somebody figured that probably balanced out. I’m still amazed at how someone came up with six hours and 25 minutes but, anyway, that was the rule.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any one job that you liked doing more than the others on the railcar?
Darrell Mack: I guess the job I liked the most was, well, I liked the work in Iowa. It was fun and also since I live in Iowa, it was interesting to find every little crossroad in Iowa and of course early on in the career, we worked before there was any such thing as a zip code. Zip code gives you -- well, it tells you what area of the state it’s in but you had to memorize - in those day - where the towns where and what rail line went through there. So I guess I liked the work in Iowa. That was a favorite job of mine and I did enjoy doing the -- they called it the local, to throw the mail off at the nonstop town; I enjoyed that a lot. I didn’t enjoy it so much in the wintertime as I did in the summertime, sticking your head out the door in the wintertime and the snow flying, not a lot of fun but still it was part of the job.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever disliked about any of your positions even if it was just a small complaint that you brushed off to the side?
Darrell Mack: No. There was -- on Thursday nights, we had the train 8 on Thursday nights. Well, we had the train 8 every night but on Thursday nights, all the little towns across Iowa have what they called single wraps and they were about a little larger than a pencil, I guess. They were just three or four pages. I think they’ve all been discontinued now but you would dump up one of those and my god, they were going to people that had moved away years ago and it took forever to sort those out. It seemed like we didn’t have enough time to get that done but -- here again, I think the neatest thing about the Railway Post Office was that we had a so-called job description that the -- so I got done with my job, I would help another clerk and if he got done with his job, he would help me and so it was really a team effort so it was all the mail belonged to all of us so I enjoyed that part of the esprit de corps, if you will.
INTERVIEWER: What type of railcar did you work on the most? Darrell Mack: Sixty-footer.
INTERVIEWER: Did you work on any other type of railcar even when you were working as a sub?
Darrell Mack: I did work on a 30-footer which is only about three men in a 30-footer. Most of my time was in a 60-foot car.
INTERVIEWER: When you started working on the railways, do you remember what your starting salary was?
Darrell Mack: $1.71 and 1/2 per hour. It wouldn’t go far now, would it?
INTERVIEWER: When you ended your career on the railway, do you remember what the ending salary was? Darrell Mack: It was just about 10 times. It was $17 an hour and oddly enough maybe that’s your next question, but when I started stamps were $0.03 for a first class letter and when I retired they were $0.30 for a first class letter, so everything multiplied by about 10, my salary and also the cost of postage.
INTERVIEWER: So was that your salary in 1968? Darrell Mack: Yes, uh-huh, $17 an hour.
INTERVIEWER: Do you believe that the pay was fair for the amount of work that you had to do?
Darrell Mack: Yeah, I think it was fair. I think we had to have more knowledge I think than maybe we were given credit for, and a lot of the older fellows were college graduates that had started back in the ‘30s. In the Depression you couldn’t find a job so we had a lot of fellows that were well-educated and very intelligent and I suppose realistically, I probably think that the pay probably should have been higher for that kind of work. We did have a tremendous amount of things to memorize and I’ve always wondered, people say well, you must have been really smart but I don’t know about the smart of it, but you did have to have a good memory so I don’t know if those two go hand in hand or not but I’ve never considered myself really smart. Anyway, you did have to have a good memory.
INTERVIEWER: What did you typically carry with you in your grip while you were on runs?
Darrell Mack: All my work clothes. We had street clothes and we went back and forth. Of course I lived in middle of Iowa, so I had a deadhead to Chicago to get my run but even the guys who lived in Chicago, they would come to work in street clothes and you change to your work clothes which is mostly blue jeans and a denim shirt primarily. And then also in there, I would have all my labels for the week that I was on the road and I carried a revolver and that’s about it.
A lot of times I would take my study cards with me so that when I would be laying over either end of the road, in the motel or in a hotel or whatever, I would be able to study my cards during my layover time so that way I didn’t have to spend that kind of time at home. I did it while I was away from home. I had ring knives and, yeah, just change of clothes. That’s about it. It was pretty heavy.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what the longest trip you ever worked was?
Darrell Mack: The longest one was train 7 out of Chicago. We were trying to figure that up the other day. I think from start to finish I believe it was about 16 hours from start to finish and it was a long way. We had joke you could read the morning paper and the evening paper and shave twice and we had all kinds of things about that train. And oddly enough, I don’t know, some commission said it was not a humane train to work that many hours and the flipside of that was you had to have about 25 years’ seniority to even get that job on that particular train simply because working those long hours gave you several days off. So their cycle was four days on and seven days off, four on and seven off, and then four days and nine off. I never had enough seniority to get that particular job but my dad had that job and he just loved it because you put in four real lengthy days and then you had a whole week off. Well, the neighbors wondered what kind of work you did that you could be home so much.
INTERVIEWER: While you were working as an RPO clerk, did you have a family?
Darrell Mack: No. I was single all the time I was on the RPO. It’s sort of a tough job for a married man. A lot of fellows would come out there and work maybe six months and I don’t know if they got homesick or missed their wife or what but we had a lot of fellows who would come out for six months and then either quit or go into the local post office. It was a job that was not for everybody. We weeded them out.
INTERVIEWER: How old were you when you first went into the Railway Post Office? Darrell Mack: I was 21, I believe.
INTERVIEWER: So you got married in your late 30s then.
Darrell Mack: I didn’t get married till I was 34. I was going back and forth between Chicago and Omaha so I really didn’t have time for romance.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of your fondest memories of working on the railroad?
Darrell Mack: My fondest memories - if I had to pick out one thing, my fondest - I guess it’d be the people I worked with, the camaraderie and the fellowship of the people you worked with.
INTERVIEWER: Do you still keep in touch with any of the former clerks?
Darrell Mack: Yes. I’m 75 and I’m about the youngest in our group that worked on the RPO and we get together once a year, have a little reunion and we’re down to about 10 or 12 fellows. That’s about all that we have that we get together anymore. And one of our fellows does a newsletter every other month and send out to us. Some of our fellows are in the nursing home and of course, you know, we lose one or two every year now so it’s not -- my wife always says, “How is it you talk about -- tell the same old stories.” Every year we get together, you tell the same old stories and talk about the same fellows that have passed on but since the RPOs are gone we don’t generate any new stories anymore. But it’s good to get together with friends and share memories.
INTERVIEWER: Did the post office ever issue you anything either for your safety or for the position you worked? Darrell Mack: Oh, the only thing I can think about maybe in safety was when you do the nonstop local. They issued us goggles to cover your eyes to do the nonstop local. All the labels we had and they called them facing slips, you put that on the back of every bundle you tied out, it had your name and the line you worked on so if there was an error in there they knew who made that error and then you’d get a slip back from the office that you had a missed one. Have you interviewed anybody that told you about the merit system?
INTERVIEWER: A few of the clerks have mentioned it but you can explain it again.
Darrell Mack: It’s very interesting. You would get merits for passing an exam. We had PL&R, postal laws and regulations, and so you could build up points, so to speak, or merit points, I guess that’d be the proper term. You build up merit points by taking good exams, getting good grades and passing all the postal laws and regulations. And then on the other hand, any mistakes you made, you would get demerits. So suppose you had a piece of mail that you sent wrong, you might get five demerits and if you would fail an exam, you might get as many as 20 demerits if you failed it. And the rule back in those days if you had 100 demerits, you would get a letter from the superintendent as to “please give cause as to why you should not be removed from the postal service.” To my knowledge I never knew anybody that got a letter like that but -- and they sort of had the hammer on you if you were really -- I guess in my career I never met any screw ups like that but I guess they did have the hammer that if they had to remove somebody from the service that just was not performing that they could do it. So that was an interesting concept they had and it was a good system.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever experience a dangerous or a bad situation while on the railway?
Darrell Mack: No, I can’t say I did. One of the trains I worked on in the day ahead of me, it left the track and we had a couple of fellows that took a disability retirement. But as far as myself, no, I was never hurt in my career. My dad had a broken wrist one time doing that nonstop local but, personally, I never had any kind of an injury at all in my career.
INTERVIEWER: Even outside of the train, like were you ever on a train where they hit a car trying to cross the track?
Darrell Mack: Yeah. I’ve been on a train that hit a road grader and it mashed up the diesel so bad that they had to get another diesel. Also, I was on a train that hit a car with a young girl trying to beat the train across the track and threw her out of the car. I think she subsequently died. And we’ve hit numerous animals, you know, cows that got on the track or deer or whatever so we’ve hit numerous animals, but what comes to mind is just the road grader we hit and then the car with the young girl who was trying to beat the train across the track.
INTERVIEWER: Were there ever any fires on the train?
Darrell Mack: Not on the train, no. We never had any. That was a rule that they really enforced. That was sort of a no-brainer I guess, you know, with all the mail around them. Early on in the career we tied all the packages out with twines; later on that was rubber band. A fire would have been a disaster in an RPO car so that was a rule that was strongly enforced obviously. We had a lot of the older guys, they chewed tobacco and that was sort of a messy thing in the RPO.
INTERVIEWER: I know that you’re talking about the train in front of you that went off the tracks. Did you hear any other stories of other clerks who did experience a dangerous or bad situation? And this could have even been before you even got onto the railway mail system.
Darrell Mack: No. I guess, you know, like way back in the early 1900s and all that, I guess they had one, I think. They always had a joke, you know, back in those days, it was a wooden car. The older guys always told us that early on that the RPO, they had iron men in the wooden cars and in my generation, they had wooden men in the iron cars. But I guess there were even robberies back in the early 1900s and even in the 1920s, I guess. But, no, I don’t have any knowledge of anything even before my time. It sounds good but I guess I’m too young.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever face or witness any type of racial discrimination as a Railway Post Office clerk? Darrell Mack: Yes, I did. I love my job and as I would travel I would stop at the terminals like Atlanta and I’d visit the railroad station and I’d stick my head in the door and introduced myself and, you know, just sort of say hi to the guys and we had a common bond there. And I was in Nashville and the RPO was between Nashville and Atlanta and this would have been in the 1950s and all the guys in the crew were white, except there was one colored fellow - I guess now it’s proper to say Afro-American; in my time it was colored or Negro. And their boss invited me into the car and introduced me to everybody but the colored man and I thought that was sort of sad that he would introduce me to everybody but the colored man in the car.
But on my line, when I first started we didn’t have but about one or two fellows early on and they were very good workers and I never saw any case of any kind of discrimination at all in my RPO.
INTERVIEWER: Did you hear of any of the other clerks who did experience racial discrimination or witnessed it? Darrell Mack: Well, later on when we had some of the new -- do you like colored or Afro or what do you want me to say?
INTERVIEWER: Whatever you’re more comfortable with.
Darrell Mack: Well, I’m comfortable with colored I guess or Negro. Later on when we had the younger guys coming in and that would have been in the ‘60s, we had some younger colored boys coming in and they were real sensitive to anything that looked like discrimination and they had experienced it where they were from, so yeah, I had heard of it first hand, but we treated them, you know, they were just one of the crew. We had one fellow that came out and he went into the railway, he wanted to work the letter case which was the prime job really instead of dumping up those pouches and work in papers sort of a dirty case and he came to work and he just wanted to work the letter case. He didn’t want to get dirty, had on a white shirt and everything all nice and neat. Boss told him that his job was to work on the pouch rack, dumping up the bags. Well, we got to Burlington which was, I don't know, only a couple of hundred miles out from Chicago and he got off and quit right there.
Well, anyway -- and that wasn’t discrimination. We had colored boys that couldn’t handle the job and we had some white fellows that couldn’t handle the job either so it was just based on how you could perform, not your ethnic background at all. I never saw any on my time.
INTERVIEWER: Were you ever a member of any type of outside organizations such as a union or club that was affiliated with the railway postal clerks?
Darrell Mack: Yeah, we had -- it was a union, but you know, government, you’re not allowed to strike anyway so it was more like just a -- I guess they called it an association, the railway mail clerks association. And we had another we called line committee, and the line committee would work with the offices to set up the jobs and the running cycles and they wanted just enough crew to handle the job. Yeah, I belonged to that group.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything that you ever wanted to change about your position?
Darrell Mack: No. I was very happy in my career so, no, nothing would come to mind that I would change. No. It was just really a good job and surely that’s what you’re hearing from most of your interviews. I think if you didn’t like it, it was not a place to be because it was hard work. I have a farm now and a big garden and sometimes it’s hard work too. It’s the same situation: if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be there so I guess that’s the way I would say that. I wouldn’t change it. I’d go back in a minute.
INTERVIEWER: What do you miss the most about being a Railway Post Office clerk?
Darrell Mack: Well, here again, I guess it was a lot of it was, like I mentioned earlier, the camaraderie, the people you worked with, just a great bunch of people. And it was, I think, a great sense of accomplishment like that Iowa case, I had every piece of mail I handled that day would be delivered the very next morning all across the whole state of Iowa. So I guess pride in your work and sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie of the people I worked with. I guess those are the things that I really miss.
And when I went -- see, I finished up my career in the post office and actually, I can just about honestly say none of those things existed. We did not have the camaraderie. You did not have that sense of accomplishment, you had no pride in your work and the people you worked with didn’t seem to have any pride in their work either. So I don’t know if it’s just an old man talking or what but -- and I was not old when I went in the post office. That’s what I miss the most, the camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any other information that you would like to share with researchers about your experience or position with the Railway Post Office? This can be anything such as interesting things that you saw while on the railway or funny stories, the pranks that you used to play on one another.
Darrell Mack: Pranks that we used to play, well, for one, one of the things that sometimes if a fellow I’m working and was a new man in the crew, sometimes they would load his grip up with a bunch of extra locks so that when he went back and forth from the station to the hotel, he’d have an extra load to carry. He wouldn’t know he had it till he got to the hotel with all these locks in there. That was sort of a prank we played.
We had one fellow who’s quite a comedian that people would bring like boiled eggs to work and had it for their lunch and he would bring a raw egg and exchange the raw egg for one of those boiled eggs. And also sometimes he would glue a piece of money to the working table there and somebody tried to pick it up and it was glued to the table. Yeah, it wasn’t all work. We had a little play time too.
My wife just called my attention, we had two guys that, oh, they sort of act like they got into it and they did occasionally actually get into it and there’s one day that they both had blanks in their guns and they called each other names and they were at the opposite ends of the car and they acted like they shot their weapons at each other, you know, with blanks and everybody in between of course was ducking and ran for cover. Only the two of them knew that they had that made up.
All those things would have been probably -- those demerits I mentioned earlier, that horseplay that would have been horseplay that probably got you a few demerits because they frowned on that kind of stuff. But after you worked 12 and 14 hours, I guess you need to let off a little steam sometimes but at the end of the road, there was always, you know, always have lunch and usually a cold beer. And a lot of guys played poker. I never was much of a poker player so I never got too involved with the card playing but anyway, that’s about --
Sally Mack: About the flooding of the Mississippi [inaudible] train.
Darrell Mack: Yeah, that’s what I enjoyed. I enjoyed the detours. That was a lot of fun. Sometimes we cross the Mississippi down here. If it has been out of its banks then we had to take detours and sometimes the track would be just completely washed out and bridges were washed out and we’d take detours. So that was fun. I always enjoyed the detours. Obviously, you wouldn’t get the mail that you were supposed to get so there wasn’t as much work to do and you see a little different country. I enjoyed the detours. That’s about all I can think of interesting stories or pranks or whatever but --
INTERVIEWER: Did you see any sights that you really enjoyed?
Darrell Mack: Sights that I enjoyed, well, I’m sort of a railroad buff. Even yet today I enjoy the trains and I always kept track what diesel was pulling off. But, you know, crossing Iowa, if not -- I hate to say that but it’s not really a scenic thing like this time of year, you know. You cross Iowa and you see corn on one side and soy bean on the other side of the road, so I always figured the guys out there that went from Denver to Utah across the Rockies and all that, I figured they must have some pretty spectacular scenery although -- but you don’t have a whole lot of time. There’s not a whole lot of time to see where you are. You know more of where you are by the track or how many bridges you crossed or how many curves you went around, and so it really wasn’t a sightseeing type of job. We used to do that too, like if we were heading westbound and another train was coming eastbound, we knew approximately where up and down the track we would meet them. If everybody was on time, we’d meet at the same place in passing and so a lot of times, we would get a big glass of ice water or something and they’d be looking at us to wave and we’d be looking at them to wave and somebody throw a bunch of ice water at you. In July and August that felt pretty good actually.
But as far as the scenery and interesting, I enjoyed working on the different RPOs. That was a lot of fun meeting different fellows and seeing a little different scenery. And matter of fact when I heard the trains were coming off, I went into Chicago. I mean I’m a die hard RPO guy and I said I’ll work on the Santa Fe to Pennsylvania to New York Central or Milwaukee, I didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to stay on the RPO.
But there in 1968, it just about all went down. In fact, I couldn’t believe some of the trains that were going down because it’d been such a backbone of the RPO service then. Anyway, they’re all gone now and we have zip codes and optical scanners and all that kind of stuff and the mail moves slower than it ever did.
Sally Mack: [Inaudible]
Darrell Mack: Yeah. We have one fellow that is still working in Chicago. He’s the last one that is still actively working. Last time I saw, retired from wherever and he’s got a little over 60 years now I believe with the post office. In fact they tried to give him a 60-year pin and they didn’t even know what to give him. They do have a 50- year pin that’s got a diamond in it but he’s actually still working in Chicago. And for the life of me, I can’t figure why. I mean, he must be working for just a couple of bucks an hour based on what his pension would be after all these years. But anyway, he loves his job.
INTERVIEWER: Well, if you stayed with it for 60 years, I think you have to like your job.
Darrell Mack: Yeah. Well, like I say, he was on the RPO but now he’s a technician and he keeps all these bar coders and optical scanners and all that high tech machinery. He keeps it going. He was lucky when he went -- when they did away with the RPOs. He fell back. He had the training for technical work like that so he just loves his work - people, machines. Machines go on. In fact, he told me in Chicago a couple of years ago they canceled a million pieces per day and now with the email and everything and the volume down to about 500,000 a day that some of the machines, they don’t keep running all the time now because mail volume is so low. I guess that’s one of the reasons they want to raise the rates that the mail volume is down. I don’t know how that would will out.
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything interesting that you saw in the mail, just something that was just completely random, something that we may not ship through the mail today?
Darrell Mack: That went through the mail? Well, like in the registered mail, a lot of times we would have somebody’s ashes, you know, have an urn that went through the mail, registered. I guess the one thing I thought was interesting, we used to get whole bag of money out of Denver. It would be paper money that was not usable anymore and they would cut it all in half and then send half of it to D.C. and then after that arrive safely then they’d send the other half to D.C. so a lot of times I’d have multimillion dollars worth of money but it would just be cut in half.
And it had a lot of coins. With the mint being there, we have a lot of coins that would go through the mail. But that’s about all I recall that was of any real interest at all. I’d have coins so heavy sometimes I could hardly lift them. But that’s about -- I’m sure if I would think about it or was able to recall that far back, I’m sure there were probably some more interesting things.
That’s something I enjoyed about it. The work was never really dull because each day was different. Even though you went through the same towns, days of the week made a difference as to what kind of mail you received and what you had to distribute. And some of our connecting trains didn’t operate on Sundays so we had to work it through the different so-called standpoint and that was interesting.
When you first start out, you don’t have enough seniority. Everything was seniority and you would get a job just like you had a lot of seniority and you bid every job that was out there and you might be cleared down to your 20th choice maybe but you would bid them, your preference for what job you would like to have. And about every two years, something would change, the train schedule would change or something would cause it to just throw all the jobs open for bid, so then everybody would bid again and you might have a totally different job. Somebody might take the job that you had.
Even after I became regular and had regular days off and a regular running cycle, by the time I was home for five or six days, I was always ready to go back to work. I like running in and out of Chicago. I go to a ball game frequently, go out and see the Chicago Cubs or the White Sox and the museums. So I really enjoyed it. I hated to see it go.
Once I left that RPO and went in the local post office, oh my God, what’s happened to me now. I gave it a lot of thought to quitting and I didn’t. My dad, it worked out just right for my dad. He had his time in, it was 1968 and he had over 30 years in and he just went ahead and retired until he had -- all his whole career it was on the RPO but it didn’t work out that way for me.
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else that you would like to add to the interview?
Darrell Mack: No, I think you’ve covered pretty good. You asked me about everything I could think to relate about the RPO. It’s been a fun interview. It’s always fun to talk about the RPO.
I guess once again, I’ll just reiterate that the camaraderie and the people you worked with. Since I was the first nonveteran out there, all the fellows I worked with were veterans and really a bunch of dedicated guys. They’ve been to places that I had only read about: Iwo Jima, Monte Cassino and all across Germany and France. And I don’t know, I guess I really looked up to those fellows because they had really been there. I felt like I was sort of a fuzzy cheek kid but it was my pleasure to work with them.