3 postal staff reach 30 years

Hillsboro Post Office workers (from left) Leonard Frantz, Kathy Woelk and Eddie Weber interrupt their appointed rounds long enough to pose for a photo. The trio started their careers within eight months of each other and say they still enjoy their jobs and each other. Patty Decker / Free Press
Hillsboro Post Office workers (from left) Leonard Frantz, Kathy Woelk and Eddie Weber interrupt their appointed rounds long enough to pose for a photo. The trio started their careers within eight months of each other and say they still enjoy their jobs and each other. Patty Decker / Free Press

Hillsboro Post Office employees Leonard Frantz, Kathy Woelk and Ed Weber started their careers within eight months of each other.

Now, more than 30 years later, they still enjoy their jobs and each other.

?What?s helped us last so long together in the same place is that we like to laugh,? Woelk said.

Weber started as a rural carrier in June 1984 and continues in that position today.

Frantz, a city carrier, accepted his part-time position in December 1984, leaving Donahue Corp. in Durham after 10 years of employment.

Woelk, a retail associate, was hired in March 1985.

Hillsboro Postmaster Rebecca Tibbetts said the threesome is a rare kind of loyalty in a changing world.

?These three employees are just awesome,? she said. ?They each care and assist the customers they see every day.?

Rural carrier

Weber started delivering to rural homes in the Hillsboro, Durham and Tampa area before 911 addressing began.

?I had two days training and no idea where I was going,? he said. ?There were no street signs. I just had to remember places?turning at an old barn or asking someone for directions.?

The job got a lot easier when the emergency addresses were put in place.

Weber said it wasn?t unusual to get stuck in a snow.

?I started learning where those snowdrifts were, though,? he said. ?One time, and before cell phones, I got stuck in snow and had to walk two miles (for help).?

Woelk jokingly asked Weber how many cars he?s been through in the past 30 years. He drives about 125 miles each day and is on the road for five to six hours.

?I probably bought a (used) car every year or two,? Weber said.

Retail associate

Woelk said she started as a part-time employee.

?I was a flexible clerk,? she said. ?I have always been a clerk, but my title today is retail associate.?

When she started, Woelk said everything was figured with pencil and a pad of paper.

?It?s much easier today to figure everything on the computer,? she said.

Having a stamp meter also means she isn?t attaching stamps to parcels and envelopes like she did 30 years ago. First-class stamps cost 22 cents then.

With the automated machines, Woelk said it doesn?t take as many employees needed to sort the mail.

?We used to have three clerks who came in to do parcels, letters and other jobs,? she said.

Pointing to several flat trays, Woelk said with the machinery in Wichita, the letters come back to them sorted. Some local sorting is needed, but it isn?t anything like it used to be.

?I interviewed for Leo?nard?s job as a carrier and I sure am glad I didn?t get that because I am not sure I would have made it (walking his route),? Woelk said.

Not a career move

Frantz said he didn?t see his start at the post office as a career move. ?I was looking for a wage increase,? he said. ?It started that way and I stayed in it.?

As a carrier, Frantz walked his route until three years ago. Frantz said he liked walking the route, but his age has made a difference.

?I think we got our vehicles just in time or I might have considered retiring,? he said.

Tibbetts said Frantz has one of the longest walking routes she has seen in her 20-year career.

?He makes about 895 deliveries and he walked 15 miles a day,? she said.

Frantz said some people complained about putting mailboxes up a couple of years ago, but that reduced walking time by almost four hours.

Frantz is no stranger to hard work. Up until a couple of years ago, Frantz milked cattle at Klassen Dairy.

?I got up at 3:30 a.m. and chored over there, did my chores (at home), came here and then chored at home again,? he said modestly. ?It fit for me because I lived near the dairy and could go there, then here and home.?

Technology

With Hillsboro mail being processed in Wichita, Tibbetts said the days of manually forwarding mail are over.

?Now it?s put in a tray and gets run through a machine that puts stickers on the mail,? she said.

Woelk said she remembers putting the forward stickers on the mail?it took a long time.

?We had a file and would get the stickers from Wichita to put on the letter to be forwarded,? she said. ?Now with mail sent to Wichita, it goes through that whole system.?

Another change from years before is the number of people in a household.

?It used to be one or two names, but that?s not the case anymore,? Tibbetts said.

Even though email and other advances in technology have caused the number of letters to decrease, Woelk said parcels have increased.

?People go on the Inter?net and buy items,? she said.

Up until two years ago, postal employees took a civil service test, but that?s not the case today.

?People are hired off the street and given a mini test,? Frantz said. The new workers are trained and after 90 days they are hired one year at a time.

?Eventually, they are hired as a regular employee,? Tibbetts said.

Sustaining

The three veterans have served under four postmasters during their 30-year careers: Clyde Hubble, Rose Duncan, Norman Bouwie II and now Tibbetts.

?They have raised a family in the Hillsboro area, supporting and watching each other?s families grow,? Tibbetts said. ?This core group of the Hillsboro Post Office has no plans yet for retirement, but they each smile with the thought that a well-earned retirement is in the future.?