Friday, December 17, 1999
After 31 Years, a Mail Carrier Says Goodbye
She grew up in Carlisle on Stearns Street in the white farmhouse where her great-uncle Albert Davis once lived and where her mother Mildred Davis still lives. As she reminded me, the Davises go way back and were related to other longtime Carlisle families, the Duttons and other Davises, including Roger and Gary Davis (Superintendent of Public Works). She went to school in the Highland School when there were two grades in each classroom. She graduated from the Concord High School, was married in the Congregational Church, has raised three children and been widowed twice.
Joan Pierce, the woman I'm talking about, is ready to say goodbye at the end of the month to the job which she has held for 31 years and 10 months, and plans to spend time with her grandchildrenfour in Woburn and three in New Hampshire. "I've no retirement plans, I'm just tired and it's a long time to be on the same job," she told me as she was finishing her route on Friday.
When she first started the job, the post office was located in the Long Block in Carlisle Center (formerly the Wheat Tavern). The postmaster at that time was Elizabeth Russell and there were only one and one-half routes. Now there are six routes with six carriers, plus several substitutes, three postal workersKevin, Rick and Andrew on "the window," and Carlisle Postmaster, Dana Atkinson in charge. During her tenure, the post office moved to the first floor of the old Congregational Church at the corner of School and Church Streets, and then in 1989, to its permanent headquarters at 70 Bedford Road. Of all the locations, Pierce most enjoyed working at the Congregational Church site. "There is a wall behind the clerks in the new post office. In the church basement, it was more open and you could see the patrons come in and out and you could hand them their mail. It was friendlier," recalled Pierce.
Leaves home at 6:15 a.m.
Joan Pierce leaves her home in Woburn at 6:15 a.m., allowing enough time to get to work by 6:45 a.m. She begins the day sorting the mail in the order it will be delivered: first the magazines and newspapers, then the letters. Usually by 10:30 she is ready to start out on her delivery route which takes her up Stearns Street to Baldwin Road, Woodridge Road, School Street, Russell Street, Robbins Drive, Autumn Lane, Indian Hill, Kibby Place, Estabrook Road, Bellows Hill Road, Spencer Brook Road, Concord Street, and Palmer Way. She has 299 houses on her route.
"When I start out in the morning, my car is packed to the brim," said Pierce. " I used to get to the end of my route by 12:30 a few years ago, but now it can be anywhere from 1:30 to 3 p.m. before I finish," she added. "Delivering packages is what takes the time." With more people doing their Christmas shopping on-line this year, it has meant more package deliveries for all the mail carriers.
The fact that Pierce makes an effort to bring packages to patrons on her route has been greatly appreciated. "She could leave the yellow slips in the box and I'd have to drive down to the post office, but instead she has always brought packages to the door," said postal patron Signy Johnstone of Russell Street. "She's a very thoughtful person. She always has a smile or gives a wave whenever I'm out in the garden. She has a wonderful attitude."
There are many kind words for Pierce, who is one to put an extra Mosquito in the mailbox if your picture has appeared in the Mosquito that week. Jean Keskula, another patron on her route who lives at the end of a fairly long driveway, recently remarked, "Isn't it nice to have your package delivered to your door, instead of having it dumped in the poison ivy at the edge of the road."
A very physical job
"This is a very physical job," stressed Pierce. "Delivering is easy; it's the standing and sorting that is the hardest." Pierce may say delivering is easy, but this observer has noted that reaching into 299 mailboxes with an armful of mail, especially when it's from the driver's side of the car, takes a lot of strength and stamina. Pierce drives her own car, as do most of the other carriers, and "that reach" is a long one.
"I've had enough and I just want to enjoy my grandchildren," Pierce admits, "but I'll miss the people. I enjoyed getting to know the people on my route."
That feeling is mutual, from all accounts. I'm told that before she retires on December 31, several patrons in one neighborhood are talking about meeting Pierce at the end of the driveway with a glass of champagne to toast 31 years of first-class mail delivery.
So here's to you, Joan. Your patrons are really going to miss you.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito