Tag Archive for post office

I Surrendered to God…and the USAF!

What age were you when you decided to follow Christ?  What do you remember about that?

 

I guess I thought that, because God’s word was so much a part of everything that went on in our lives, that I was just a Christian by birth. But at one evening service, my little sister walked down the aisle to the front, made her confession to the church, and my dad baptized her.

I didn’t let Nancy beat me at anything, and lo and behold, she beat me at becoming a.Christian! I was 12 years old. My dad and I did some serious talking that week, and I was baptized a week later. I don’t think I understood real repentance and commitment until after I started preaching, and I think my real conversion took place one day down at Wilson Shoals on my mail route.  

It was during the Vietnam War, and fighter jets from Barksdale AFB would ‘fly that crooked Trinity River’ to practice before going to Vietnam and Cambodia.  Johnny Price’s mailbox, Rt. 2 Box 30, was right on the.riverbank, and one day one of those jets flew right at treetop level right over my little International Scout mail wagon!   It scared me so bad because Peter said whenever men are wondering “Where’s the promise of His coming?” And responds to his question with, “The heavens and earth which are now, will pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”  By then, I’d been preaching long enough that I was familiar with that scripture, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is it!’  I really expected the fervent heat any moment, and I’d always hoped I’d have time to say one last little prayer to kinda ‘clean up’ anything I might’ve missed asking forgiveness for. You see, I really didn’t understand ‘grace’ back then. Anyway, I opened the door and fell out on the ground on my face, begging God to forgive me for all those unconfessed sins.  Not long after that, I had brother Gaylon Embry baptize me…as a man who still believes that I had “my road to Damascus experience” at Rt.2 Box 30!

I was far too immature at 12 to truly understand what real repentance and conversion is all about.

Magic on the Mail Route

What’s the funniest story you remember from your days of carrying mail in Midway?

 

Letters to Santa.#1.   Karen riding with me and how I would put quarters in the dashboard knowing that if you’d slam your fist on top of the dash, a quarter would roll out….she believed it was a magic trick! :))

#2.   Shanda & Sheila Bryan wrote to Santa Claus at the North Pole.  I took their letter, opened it, and then wrote a letter from Santa assuring them that they would get everything they had asked for on Christmas Day.  You’ll never convince them there’s no Santa!

#3. On one occasion, Don Brooks, my dear friend from Groveton, Texas, was really griping about the postal system.   I told him, “Don, you can write any way in the world in Madison County, and I’ll get it….however you address it!”   Sometime after that, one day while we were sorting mail getting ready to head out, Ms Elma said, “Look at this letter that was forwarded to us from Madisonville.”

She handed it to Dickey, who looked at it, then handed it to me.  The only address on it was:  
               Reverend Leroy
               Madison County, Texas

Whoever forwarded it had written in bold:

  TRY MIDWAY…..

I asked Ms. Wakefield what she was going to do with it, and she said, “I guess I’ll have to dead letter it, because there’s no return address on it….only a postmark from Groveton. I said, “Can you open it? Maybe the context will give us a clue who it might be.”  She opened it and, as she started reading, she just fell out laughing!   It read:

Dear Lanier,
If by some chance you get this letter, I will never say anything else about the Post Office as long as I live.   

I asked ms Elma if I could use the phone, and I called the bank in Groveton where Don was Vice President.    His secretary answered, and I said, “May I speak with Mr. Brooks?” She replied, “May I tell him who is calling?” I said, “Tell him that Reverend Leroy is calling,”

When Don got on the phone he said, “You gotta be kidding me…Dang it, I’ll never say anything else about the post office for the rest my life.!”:))

The Route to Rural Route

So how did you go from being a “parcel man” to carrying a rural route?

 

I followed Mr. Lynn Ratliff’s advice.  He told me when he hired me to be the sub for the two new city routes and the parcel deliveries, “Lanier, I’m going to hire you because I know you can pass the civil service test, but i want you to prove me right and take the test the first time it’s offered again.”   I took his advice and passed with a 96 of 100 possible points on the test.  That changed my status, or rank, in the Postal Service from that of Temporary Sub to that of a Career Employee.   The reason Mr. Ratliff wanted me with that rank was he knew I had a family to raise and he knew I needed more hours than just the 2 hours per day that the temps were guaranteed.   And sure enough, he was right!

I began work in September of 1967 as a temp sub in the Madisonville Post Office.  In around June of 1968, Mr. FM Cleveland, the.carrier for Rural Route 1 in Midway, retired creating a vacant route.  The rules for filling those routes were like this–anytime a route vacancy occurred in a post office, it was always offered to any other carrier in THAT office who was a career employee (unions had put these rules into place). There were only 2 rural carriers in Midway, thus Billy Dickey changed from Rt 2 to Rt 1 because it was the longer route and it paid more. So, now Rt. 2 was vacant.

The way that Postmaster and Rural Route vacancies were filled up until 1968 was that those 2 positions were ‘political plums’  that allowed the senators from the party in power to appoint men (yes, men) to those positions.  The system was called the patronage system. The men appointed were generally patrons of the party in power. The President in 1968 was Richard Nixon (who was a Republican), and the man appointed rural carrier in Midway needed to be a voter (patron) in good standing with Senator John Tower, who would make the appointment.

The two people who wanted the job real bad were: Pat Wakefield and Dorothy Wilson, but there was a major problem….both were die-hard Democrats!   I found out there was a Doctor Wilkerson down in Conroe who was the Republican committeeman for our district who would be ‘the man’ to recommend someone in good standing with the Party.   When I called him, he told me, “Look, we don’t get much money from your county.” (yes, that’s what he said) And when I told him I didn’t have any money, he said, “Well, do you know anyone who knows that you’re a Republican?”   I told him that I had worked to elect John Tower when we lived in Quitman from ’62-66, and that the county chairman (Kyle Milner’s dad) was my friend and Jim Paul, a dear friend of mine from Sulphur Springs, was John Tower’s campaign chairman in Hopkins County.   I gave him both their phone numbers, and he called me back in about 30 minutes with this statement, “Man, you must be really in tight with those guys, Mr Stevens.   There’ll be a letter on John Tower’s desk in the morning recommending you for that appointment.”    I thanked him so much and, when I hung up the phone, my conscience began to bother me so much that I couldn’t sleep that night at all.   I lay there thinking how cheesy that whole system was.

 Every Sunday I had to preach to Pat Wakefield “do unto others”…and I had just ‘done it unto him’!  Same thing with Dorothy Wilson, I’d ‘done it unto her’ as well.  That morning before I went to work in Madisonville, I called John Tower’s office and left a message that I was mailing them a letter requesting that the senator disregard the letter from the doctor in Conroe, and that I’d rather the vacancy be filled through a competitive exam and let the best man win.

When I got to work in town that morning, someone asked, “Lanier, have you seen the headlines this morning?”   I told them I hadn’t, and one of them handed me a Houston Chronicle newspaper.  It read something like this: PRESIDENT NIXON REMOVES THE POST OFFICE FROM THE PATRONAGE SYSTEM…No longer will postmaster and rural mail route positions be political appointments, but will be filled from within the postal system itself.”  All I could say all day long was, ‘Thank you, Jesus’, even though no one knew what procedures were going to be used ‘within the system’.

Here’s where you can see God’s hand in it all.   After a few weeks, there was a postal bulletin published which said, “all such vacancies shall be filled through a procedure which shall be called ‘extending ares of consideration'”. For instance, if a rural route becomes vacant, the first area of consideration would be any other rural carrier in that office…the second area of consideration would be any rural carrier in that county… The third area of consideration would be any career employee in that office who might want the job….the fourth area of consideration would be any career employee in that county who wanted the job.    The postal unions had pled for such a system to help the morale of employees often overlooked because of politics.

#1. The only carrier in Midway had already taken the better route.

#2. The other rural carriers in the county, Roscoe Mills & Bruce Woods (Madisonville),  Matt Stewart (North Zulch) didn’t want it

#3. The only other career employee in the Midway post office was Ms Elma Wakefield, the postmaster and she didn’t want it.

#4. Any career employee in the county.  Just two other post offices in the county….North Zulch had 2 career Positions …..Matt & the postmaster and neither of them wanted it …… Madisonville had 2 city carriers and 2 clerks, and they were all content and didn’t want to apply for the vacant route in Midway……soooo,  guess what?   Who was the ONLY career employee in the county eligible and wanted the Midway position?  His name was Lanier Stevens.  Because of my Lord Jesus Christ and Mr Lynn Ratliff, who had insisted that I become a career employee, I was in the right place at the right time!

 

Going Postal

How did you come to work for the post office?

 

My working for the post office was so much an accidental thing that you’d almost have to think that God had a hand in it!  In my first two years of college, all I thought about was football and golf. I was studying accounting and business courses, because I was good at math and typing.   My focus on sports and school changed when I met Betty Jo Farris on August 20, 1961.  All I wanted to do from that point forward was to marry her and for us to have a family together.  You may ask, ‘What does that have to do with working for the post office?’

I was introduced to the post office by Ocie Milner, the postmaster there, who was the father of one of my guitar students in Quitman.  He told me how he had been given that job through the patronage system.  That system involved getting your appointment from a senator or president who rewarded his supporters with postmaster or  rural carrier positions when they became vacant.   I know that system stunk, but thank God it wasn’t changed until I got my rural carrier position.

When Betty and I moved back to Midway in 1966, we did so because we were starting our family, and I didn’t want to move my kids around like my dad did us.   Didn’t know exactly what I was going to do for a living….I bought a service station from Betty’s brother Don Farris…when it burned down in 1967, I got a job as a carpenter’s helper with a crew from Vick Lumber Yard.  

I was preaching at both the Midway Church of Christ & the Mount Tabor church.  Each church was paying me about $50 per week and, when Ben was born in November of 1966,  I knew I needed to make more money than that–so I took the job with M.Y. Vick.

We were building the Methodist parsonage on Panama Street here in Madisonville, and our lead carpenter on the job was Curtis McVey, one of the guys from the Mt Tabor church.  He popped off one day and said, “Preacher, you ought to throw your hat in the ring for one of those new mail carrying jobs at the post office.”

Up until 1967, if you lived in the city limits of Madisonville. you had to have a PO box or pick up your mail in what was called General Delivery.  They were creating two new City routes in Madisonville, and they were taking applications to take the Civil Service test for those positions, plus one substitute who would also carry a parcel route for all the businesses around the square.(this was pre-UPS and FedEx).

I turned in the application, but forgot to go take the test.  The postmaster at that time was Mr.Lynn Ratliff.   He came driving up to our house in Midway, asking me, “Lanier, why in the world didn’t you go take that test?  Now I’m going to have to hire a woman for one of the new city routes, because out of the five men who took the test, only one of them passed it!”  Geraldine Hahn was on the hiring roster, but they (at that time) only hired women for clerk jobs inside the Post Office.

Lynn wanted me to have the job real bad, and he told me he was going to hire me anyway to be the sub and parcel man in his office.   It turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened, because I was in exactly the right place at the right time due to some major changes that were to take place in the postal service in 1967 and 1968.   That all is another story for another day!  :)) Dad