Friday, February 13, 2004
Saying good-bye to a friend at the post office
Are you still trying to identify that kid in the kitchen sink in the photo at the top of the Friends and Neighbors page in last week's Mosquito? If you haven't figured it out yet, let me tell you. It's Postal Worker Rick Moscatel of the Carlisle Post Office. The picture was taken in 1950 in the kitchen of his family's fourth-floor walk-up in East Cambridge. As the caption hinted, that "familiar post office face" will be retiring on Friday, February 27, after 25 years of service here in Carlisle.
Moscatel, better known as Rick to his friends and customers, came to work in Carlisle in 1978 when the post office was located on the bottom floor of the former Congregational Church at the corner of Church and School Streets. The Carlisle Mosquito also occupied a small room on the same floor in the back of the building. Before applying for a position with the U.S. Postal Service, Rick had worked as a salesman for a roofing company in Dracut doing business in the towns surrounding Carlisle. Once he had taken and passed the postal service exam, he was given a wish list from which he could pick three towns where he would like to work. Remembering Carlisle from his roofing days, Rick put Carlisle at the top of his list. He was interviewed by Mary McPherson, who was filling in for Postmaster Ed Martin who was gravely ill at the time, and shortly thereafter learned he had gotten the job.
A city boy coming out to the country
Reminiscing about those early days in Carlisle, Rick describes himself as "just a city boy coming out to work in the country." He recalled being interviewed by then Police Chief Dick Hersey. "In those days you had to be interviewed by the police chief when you took the job, just like in Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show" he laughed. "They don't do that anymore."
When Rick started in 1978, the Carlisle Post Office had a postmaster, three carriers, three permanent clerks (Mary McPherson, Marty Williamson, and Rick) and one substitute clerk. There were three postal routes for a population of 3,400. Now there are six routes for a population of 5,317. "Over the first two years in Carlisle, I worked under ten interim postmasters until 1980 when Tom Canada became the postmaster," recalled Rick.
Church sold to Hensleighs
At about that time the Congregational Church, which was sold to Howard and Janice Hensleigh, was converted into an antique/gift shop and an apartment above, while the post office remained on the first floor. In 1989 the post office finally found a home of its own at 70 Bedford Road in a building built specifically for the postal service by two local builders, Richard DeFelice and Bob Koning.
For the first couple of years, Rick worked flexible hours, which meant a daily schedule during the week of 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. with time off and then back again from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. "Sometimes I'd just go back home and then come back in the afternoon," he remembered. After the first couple of years, Rick has had more regular hours. "For the first 18 years, I worked six days, 30 to 50 hours a week. During the past seven years, I've worked five days a week for 40 hours or more.
"The town has been like a family to me," said Rick. "It's like in that song from Cheers, 'Everybody Knows Your Name.'" Rick remembers a day when he brought one of his young sons out to Carlisle and took him on his shoulders up to the Superette. On returning home later in the day, the son told his mom "Daddy had to wave to everyone walking up to the store."
"I became well known in Carlisle when I took a part in the town play When You Are Over the Hill You Pick Up Speed, back in 1982," said Rick. "Being in the play did it. Besides it was a lot of fun and a lot of work.
"You got to know people so well, especially when they came into the post office every day," continued Rick. When his children were young he remembers asking Pediatrician Dr. Nancy Hendrie for her advice whenever one of them was sick. When his children were a little older, he recalls asking Dr. Peter Morey what kind of dog they should buy. "He advised us to go to a pound for a dog, but my kids wanted a bulldog," laughed Rick. "It was like being a bartender behind the counter and everyone here was so accommodating. I know more people out here than I know back home in Arlington."
The post office after 9/11
Describing the Carlisle Post Office, Rick recounts how it has changed over the years that he has been here. "It became a real post office with more security, a flag outside, more business-like and after 9/11, we had ID tags and uniforms." After the anthrax scare following 9/11, Rick explains that in the back of his head he had legitimate worries about something blowing up at the post office. To illustrate just how nervous one might become, he describes a recent incident in the post office parking lot. "There was a car circling round and round in the parking lot and finally I went out to see what was going on. It was some guy trying to adjust the compass in his car and he left once he learned of our concerns."
At age 55, after 25 years with the postal service plus two years' service in the infantry during the Vietnam conflict, Rick has decided to retire under a new early retirement option. Happily married for the past 30 years to his wife Kate, a real estate agent in Arlington, and with his three children grown up, college educated, and now settled in the Boston area, Rick will be looking for a part-time job. "I'm open minded [about a job] and if anyone has an idea, I'd be more than happy to entertain any suggestion," he said. He admits to being a family man who enjoys having his children close by for easy interaction. As for his other activities, he looks forward to continuing his volunteer work at the Billerica House of Correction and teaching CCD at St. Agnes in Arlington. "Once I'm retired and have the time," said Rick, " I can't think of a better way to start the day than attending 7 o'clock Mass on a daily basis."
"I have been fortunate to work with lovely people here in Carlisle," he continued. "It's unusual [for a postal worker] to stay in the same place. Small towns keep people staying for a long time."
Townspeople will most likely agree with Carlisle resident Bonnie Miskolczy, a frequent visitor to the post office, who had this to say when she learned of Rick's retirement, "We'll miss him. He has a wonderful, caring way of doing post office business. He has a personal touch that fits a small-town post office, like the one in Carlisle."
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito