14-mile walk all in a day’s work for mail carrier

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
One mail carrier for the Hillsboro Post Office has no problem getting in his daily exercise and staying fit.

Leonard Frantz, 54, walks about 14 miles a day-five days a week-as part of his full-time mail route.

“Around 9:45 a.m., I walk strictly out of the post office and just keep walking until my day is done,” Frantz said of his route that includes the business and residential sections of the community of about 3,000 people.

As the mail carrier for the City No. 1 route, Frantz is responsible for mail delivery to half the town. He begins at Lincoln Street and runs a north-south route until he stops at about 3:30 p.m. on the west side of town.

“I don’t just absolutely go north and south,” Frantz said. “I do jog back and forth across streets and pick up the side streets.”

His route includes a total of 730 deliveries.

The other half of town is covered by a mail carrier driving a truck and walking, but Frantz’s route is all on foot.

“There’s not too many of those left any more,” Frantz said. “In the bigger cities, a lot of them have their own vehicles, and they’ll do a drive and loop. That’s drive and do a part of it, and drive to another section, and do a part of it.”

Growing up on a farm, Frantz always thought he would be involved in agriculture for a living.

“And back in 1981 and 1982, I had a pretty good-size hog operation, but the prices really took a downside,” Frantz said.

“So financially, it was quite a burden, and an opportunity opened up for me that’s really been a blessing.”

While working for Klassen Inc. north of Hillsboro, Frantz heard of civil-service tests being offered in the area and took the exams. But two years elapsed before he heard from the Hillsboro Post Office that a position was available.

He was called in for an interview 18 years ago and hired by the local postal service.

The postal system offers new employees flexible part-time hours when they are first hired.

For the next five years, Frantz averaged 20 to 24 hours a week until he was able to gradually add more hours as the years went on.

Three years ago, a mail carrier retired, and Frantz was offered a full-time position. By that time, his hours were close to full-time.

Today, the post office has six part-time employees. The postmaster, two rural-route carriers and Frantz are full-time, and that guarantees him a 40-hour week.

Work begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., with 30 minutes off for lunch.

Upon arriving at the post office, he gets the day’s mail from the clerks and sorts it into cases appropriate to the way he walks his route.

Letters and flats-which are the bigger pieces of mail-are bundled according to relay boxes positioned along his route.

“Once I bundle it up, I write on there which box I need them to throw it in,” Frantz said.

“The other carrier drives and walks part of his route, but he also delivers my mail while he’s delivering parcels. And he’ll hit those boxes for me.”

About 14 relay boxes are located on the corners throughout his route.

“I carry between 20 to 35 pounds at a time,” Frantz said. “I walk that out, and I’m at my next intersection or relay box, and I load up again.”

The math adds up to as much as 535 pounds of mail carried in his satchel every day.

And a rough calculation of a route that has been basically full-time since 1993 would mean that Frantz has walked about 33,600 miles in the last decade of his life with the postal service.

After his route is completed, he returns to the post office for clean up and preparation for the next day of deliveries.

“If I have some mail left over or some incorrect stuff, I correct that and put things away so I’m ready for the next morning,” Frantz said.

As well as limits on the amount of pounds he can carry at one time, the post office restricts the volume per day he carries to about 8 feet of mail.

“That’s actually footage,” Frantz said. “If the letters and flats were stacked up, and it’s over 8 feet tall, then I’m allowed to have auxiliary help.”

His job includes two days off a week-Sunday and Thursday. On Thursdays, or days he has over-the-limit volume, he gets help from substitute carriers, such as Brenda Bernhardt. And she will also take his route when he gets vacation time.

That time has built up to a total of four weeks during the year.

“The more years you work, the more vacation time you get,” Frantz said. “I kind of split mine up during the year because my kids are involved in 4-H and FFA. A lot of times on weekends we do stuff, so I never really take a full week off.”

The postal service allows its mail carriers an allotment of money to spend every year for uniforms. They can choose from warm gear for the colder months and light-weight clothing for the hot summer months.

And the miles do take their toll on Frantz’s shoes.

“You want to find a good pair of shoes-it does make a difference,” Frantz said.

He’s tried the athletic shoes with the special air-cushioned soles, but they only last about six months.

So he now uses some of his allotted money to buy sturdier walking shoes from the postal-service supplier.

“The pair I have now has lasted me over a year,” Frantz said. “But most of the time, in a year’s time, you’ll have them worn out.”

Having a job that requires spending the majority of the day outside suits Frantz just fine. Growing up on a farm, he understands what nature has to offer to those who appreciate it.

“I enjoy the spring and fall a lot,” Frantz said. “I like the fact that in spring, you get to see nature-the flowers coming up and the trees budding. And there are some squirrels that chatter a lot when you come by.”

And what about nature’s other watchmen-the neighborhood dogs?

“We don’t have a real dog problem here,” Frantz said. “I haven’t been bitten, but it’s been close a couple of times. Most of the time, if you respond and give a command, most dogs will back off.”

The familiar postal-service motto, “Neither rain nor sleet nor hail nor gloom of night will keep me from my appointed rounds,” brought a smile to Frantz’s face when asked if it was still appropriate today.

“It’s important,” Frantz said. “That’s part of the service that we offer through the postal system-that we’re going to be there every day.”

In the years since he has worked for the post office, he could only recall one snow storm that prevented the office from delivering to everybody in the area. And that was because the outside delivery truck couldn’t make it into Hillsboro.

“But other than that, we usually make it-one way or the other,” Frantz said. “Most of the time, you just put your head down and keep going until you get done.”

In addition to enjoying what nature has to offer along his 14-mile route, Frantz said he takes pleasure in getting to know the people he serves.

During the hot months, when the temperatures can soar up to the 100s and above, caring patrons help cool him off along the way.

“I’ve enjoyed when people put water out for me when it gets hot,” Frantz said. “I’ll have a few places where they’ll put out a glass of water with some ice in it. That kind of makes my day.”

Having a specific route year in and year out means he’s made friendships along the way, too.

“We watch out for people, and if somebody’s walking by and needs assistance, you stop and help out-give them a hand,” Frantz said.

“It just becomes a part of your family, and that’s what I enjoy.

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