Bill's Vignettes

This is my story. It will consist of little pictures, snippets, or vignettes, from my past. It is a legacy to my children and grandchildren and those that may come after and hopefully will also be of some interest to the casual reader who doesn't know me from Adam.

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The First Bearded Postal Worker

Posted by sundoulos2005 on September 25, 2007

My first enlistment in the Navy ended in April of 1967. Within weeks I was hired as a postal clerk at the United States Post Office in Rochester, NY. The Post Office Department, as it was then called, operated along military lines. There was a definite chain-of-command that had to be followed. They had a dress code which included being clean-shaven. After three years in the Mickey Mouse club, I had no problem with meeting the Post Office’s requirements.

I was hired as a substitute clerk. That means I did not have tenure or any right to the job. If I behaved well for two years I could expect to become a regular clerk. That would give me more job security but few other significant privileges. Under the Post Office Department everything in the Post Office was done by seniority. I had none. With no seniority I was assigned to wherever I was needed, which was the New York State sorting section.

As a New York State clerk I was required to learn all the post offices within the state and the sectional centers they got their mail from. I also learned, although it was not required, where the nixies went. Nixies are towns without post offices.

One of the jobs I frequently was assigned to was the incoming mail sorting belt. There were several of these. The incoming mail had to be canceled but certain items could not go through the machines. My job was to get those off the belt before they jammed. Another belt was sorting the tons and tons and tons of film that Eastman Kodak or Dynacolor, both local firms, had processed. That job was tedious and I hated it. In fact, I dreaded it.

My immediate supervisor was not a supervisor but an expediter. Expediters were straw bosses. I don’t know that they had any real authority but they sure acted like they did. Over him was a supervisor and then a general foreman, who was also the shift supervisor. My expediter was a likable fellow and handsome. He had a nice, well-groomed mustache.

Day after day, I would see this gentleman walk by with his mustache. Then I would think about it. Didn’t the postal personnel regulations require their workers to be clean-shaven? Each time I saw the expediter my thinking went a step farther until I determined that if clean-shaven allowed for mustaches it must also allow for beards. Wrong!

I started to grow a beard. Now, remember, this was 1967. Exactly three days later Mr. Expediter told me, “Go home and shave that stubble.” I replied, “But I’m growing a beard. And, besides, if you can have a mustache and be clean-shaven then I should be able to wear a beard and be clean-shaven.” My remonstrance did not meet with acceptance but it did gain me a little time. “Well, don’t come in tomorrow if you haven’t shaved.”

Of course, the next night I punched in with another day’s growth. I was immediately put on report. Now I had to go see the Superintendent of Mails, a wizened and gnarly old man. I fully expected to be fired when I entered his office, but he found my reasoning to have some merit. He agreed that if clean-shaven meant no facial hair than it had to apply to mustaches as well as beards. “I’ll tell you what,” he intoned, “you shave that beard and I will personally take this to the regional superintendent in New York when I go there later this week.”

I went home and shaved the beard. Two weeks later I was called back into the Superintendent of Mail’s office and presented with the decision from New York. “You can grow your beard,” he said.

When you see a postal worker with a beard, you can trace that privilege back to me, for I was the first.

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