1 Introducing Ancestors
2 Childhood and Youth
4 Shifting FortunesThe Railway Mail Service
Politics of the Depression and World War II
Weddings of the Children
After the Railway Mail Service
5 I Retired and Retired and Retired . . .
6 The Ending
The Railway Mail Service
|Lloyd A. Read|
My duties were to sort mail, which came directly from the post office or from a connecting line. Say there was mail for Salem, Woodburn, Albany, and Eugene all in one mail pouch for the Southern Pacific line. I would route it and separate it. The letters would go in a separate box for each city. The highest number of separations was 110 cities. I never looked at the label; I memorized the case. Generally I had 78 separations and worked it down to the carrier route. I’d learn the systems of the different cities on my line. I had a record once, 38 letters a minute for 25 minutes with one mistake, because a pigeonhole was too low. They used a stop watch to time me; it was like a survey.
Diary excerpt, May 21, 1940: “Drove to town. Took Black Book exam, at Baker’s office. Passed 100%. Got 25 merits on all exams.”
A typical mail run went something like this excerpt from my diary:
“January 28, 1940: Lillie, Carl, Alice, Marjorie, and I left home about 3 P.M., for Portland. Got to my folks’ place before 4, stayed more than an hour. . . . Folks took me to the depot. Out to the car at 6:40. Changed clothes. Hung sacks, and labelled the rack. Mail very light all evening. Did not do half an hour’s work before 9 P.M. Cleaned up everything near Bonneville. Train on time all night. Still much snow at Hood River. Some snow all the way. Mail light at Pendleton. Napped most of the way. Felt better by daylight. In Baker on time. Heavy frost; but, clear sky. Ate breakfast at Walt’s. To bed about 8:30.
“Monday, January 29, 40. Got up about 1 P.M. Shaved. Answered some correspondence. Walked up town. Bowled two games with Mr. Baer. Was away off. Lost both games 136-108 and 138-78. Got razor blades and pencils at 15¢ store. Back to Walt’s, to eat soon after 4. Up to the room. Put a fire in the stove, as there is now a chill in the air. Wrote in this book, for more than an hour. Finished to here, just as Tr. 44 came in, a few minutes late. Dow Phillips and Chet Lewis were the crew. Chet’s father, nearly 76, is no better. He will likely not last long. Down to Jess Smith’s to get ice cream and a writing tablet. Back to the room, to write a letter to Ross. Over to the depot, to change clothes at 7:20. Our train came at 8 o’clock. I worked Washington and No. 1 & 2 Oregon papers, finishing near Gibbon; then, helped Davis on City letters to Boardman. Rested a little to Arlington. Got lunch there. Bitz was helper. Finished City mail as we got to The Dalles. Robbed the box there. Cleaned everything up, just below Hood River; and rested to Portland. On time there. Helped put the mail out. Took the registers to Northern train. Changed clothes. Walked up to Post Office to leave a letter at the Chief Clerk’s office. Then up to the bus depot.
“Tuesday, Jan. 30, 1940. Got coffee and donuts at Lewis Cafe. Bo’t a round-trip ticket to McMinnville. Left for home on 7:30 bus. Got to Mc. at 8:40. Bus now takes the direct route. I got off at 5th & Baker. Walked two blocks to home. Breakfast. Took a nap. Stamped slips and labels after supper. To bed early.”
The chief clerk was critical about my attitude on smoking. His name was Fred Tuey, and of course he was a smoker. The colonel was the medical examiner at the Veteran’s Administration and he declared me to have a total disability. I had headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, and it was because of the smokers. I retired in December 1944 and was then on the U.S. Civil Servant Retirement Board. I got $240 a month as my highest salary, which translated into $1000 a year retirement, or about $83 a month.
Politics of the Depression and World War II
In 1929 the financial troubles of the Great Depression had no repercussions on us. A few in the church felt it, but not us. Pert near everybody had to retrench a little. Our wages at the R.M.S. were guaranteed. Throughout the Depression we did well; in fact, along about 1931–32 we began buying new cars instead of used cars.
Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932 on the New Deal platform. He initiated the Parcel Post system, which gave us a more solid body of business. There were more clerks hired. He put the Federal Reserve into effect, and he held a firm whip over the Congress. I went along with Roosevelt. I liked what he was doing. But Uncle Henry Porter said to me in 1936, “Do you think Mr. Roosevelt will be elected a second time?” I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “Oh, I fear for the safety of the country.” Uncle Henry Porter was a better religionist than Republican anyway. The New Deal was so innovative; something new was passed every Congressional session. It was radical, but it was for the good of the common people. The common people are still reaping the benefits of the New Deal. When the news came over the radio in April 1945 of Roosevelt’s passing, they said, “The Old Warrior is gone.” I was very much saddened at his passing.
Along in 1939 when World War II was starting, we had had warnings of what was going on. Hitler had signaled what he was going to do, but the world waited until he struck. It redoubled my hatred of the German people, for them wanting world domination and for believing in the superiority of the Teutonic race. Chamberlain was an apostle of peace, not necessarily wanting peace at any price either. He was ready to negotiate, but the Germans put him in a position where he couldn’t negotiate any more. The German forces struck and Chamberlain’s idealism was crushed.
Diary, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 1940: “This is registration day for all men ages 21 to 35 for military service. First time that this country has ever had peace-time conscription. We hope our boys do not have to fight. Perhaps the show of strength will be sufficient.”
On December 7, 1941 we were surprised! We were in church, and afterward John and Viola came to visit and told us about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We were stupefied. We were dealing with a heathen nation there. You look what goes on elsewhere—you can’t Christianize Mohammedans any more than you can Jews. They do everything they can to persecute Christians. “Treachery!” was the only thing we could say on that day. Roosevelt got on the radio and said, “This day will live long in infamy!” because they had struck under cover of diplomatic negotiation.
It was not the time for the Millennium to begin, but people thought of that at the time. Some of them were so silly, they went out on the hills, made Ascension robes and wore them out there, thinking they were going to meet Jesus Christ at his second coming and be bodily carried up to meet him.
The war rationing affected us. We had to have stamps for groceries, and gas was allowed only so much a week. We found we couldn’t go in to Oregon City to church every week, so we put our membership in to Stafford Baptist Church for a year or so. There were higher prices during the war; there was profiteering going on that was not necessary but present due to greed. We had to put up with inflation.
The emotional impact we felt was in what our sons-in-law encountered. Herb was too old and was not called up, but John Crawford, George Jones, Carl, Clarence, and Claude were. George served in the South Pacific and went to New Zealand and back up through the South China Sea up to Okinawa. He was among the first to set foot on Japanese soil; he landed at Hokkaido and went up to Tokyo from there.
John went from New York to North Africa and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He was with the occupation army in Italy. He was ferried across the Mediterranean and was under fire all the way up to the French border where the Germans made their last stand. They came near wiping out the Allied army, but they turned their flank and barely won through. John was among the first to be mustered out.
Carl and Clarence went just to training camps; they didn’t have to fight. Carl went to New York City and to the area of West Point, training with the Army. Clarence went to bombardier school in Roswell, New Mexico with the Air Force.
We were living at Stafford most of the time. Loretta was with us for almost a year while George was away. Rodney was born while she was with us. Alice was also with us for a little over a year, but not at the same time. Claude was in the Navy out in the Pacific. His family had lived just behind us over the hill in Stafford.
Truman was responsible for the bomb, the atomic bomb that they dropped on Japan. I agreed with it, but I had no inkling of what it meant until afterward. But the end justified the means, though Christ said, “Those that live by the sword shall perish by the sword.” Ours was not a war of aggression, it was a war of defense. Your motivation for fighting a war puts you either on the side of the aggressor or the victim. And then you have to accept the consequences.
In 1952 when the Korean War started, I voted for Eisenhower on account of his war record. I felt we were justified in going into Korea; we had to prevent the spread of communism. The aggressors were aided and abetted by the Chinese communists.
It was the same for the Vietnam war. We bombed Hanoi when the Pueblo was seized. We had to go in there and bring the Pueblo out!
Diary, Spring 1945:
“Have neglected this for more than a year.
“Much has happened. My run was arbitrarily changed again. . . . I had to go on the night train again; and, have to work City mail again. Have no alternative, due to seniority rules. Have to work on a four-day schedule, too. Assigned to work with Roomed at Crabill Hotel at Baker. Poor place to stay. Have decided to apply for retirement as soon as I begin to feel bad again. Made my trip on March 27th. Felt my trouble coming back again; and, rather than risk being disabled, I laid off until July 6th. I drew full pay until May 12th. I was on personal leave until I went back to work again. I started building a house for Carl on our place. On May 12th I fell off a ladder and hurt my knee and right arm, and bruised my nose. Was laid up for several weeks and felt the effects of the fall for almost a year. I drew $147.00 disability, from the Federal Employees group insurance. When I went back to work, I was placed on the Arlington helper run on Trs. 26 & 25. It was the worst assignment I ever worked.
“I had to work every other day. Had more time at Arlington than at home. I laid off for most of the month I was on the run. Went back on Trs. 18 & 17. My application for retirement was still pending. I was ordered up for a physical exam on Aug. 18th (1944). I was up at Veteran’s Hospital nearly all day. Had to hurry to get to my work on time.
“Soon got a letter from the Civil Service retirement Commission asking if I still wished to have my retirement considered. They said my superior officers had said I wished to withdraw my application. It did not take me long to tell them that at the least they had been mis-informed. About October 12th I got a letter from my Chief Clerk’s office, stating that due to my work on my farm, I was neglecting my work on the road. I did not reply. About that time, I also received a proposal for demerits for defaulting the Washington examination, from that contemptible Hicks, a misfit in the Examiner’s office. About October 18th, came notice of my application approval. Chief Clerk Twohy received it on Sunday, two days after it came to me. He was so dumbfounded that he called me on Sunday. He asked me what was wrong with me. I told him that they would not tell me.
“I made arrangements to finish my work on the road with the trip out of Portland on Nov. 14th. I came in on my last trip on Tr. 17 on the morning of Nov. 16. Due to accumulated leave, I received full pay for November.
“Certainly enjoyed several months of working around home. My first annuity check came on Jan. 10th, 1945. Since then, they have arrived regularly on the 5th of each month.
“Loretta and Donnie are still with us. George is now in The Philippines. He was wounded on March 31st, their wedding anniversary. Their second boy was born on January 20, 1945, at Hahnneman Hospital. They named him Rodney George. George and John were both here on furlough about Nov. 15th, 1944.”
Weddings of the Children
|George and Retta on their wedding trip|
|Ernie Redding and Charlotte, 1939|
Diary, October 6, 1940: “Ate dinner about 1 p.m. Clarence was the only one of the family not there. He had to take care of the store. Of course, this was our wedding anniversary dinner. There are now 18 of us—quite a tribe. The two new ‘daddies’ Ernie and John ‘cut quite the figure,’ walking down the street, trundling baby buggies.”
In 1941 after he was mustered out, Carl worked for Boeing in Seattle and met Dorothy. She was a member of the Sunnyside Brethren Church. They were married there in early 1943 and Lillie went, but I didn’t because I was working. Clarence,Alice, and Marjorie went too, with Holly Davenport. Dorothy’s parents lived there in Sunnyside.
In 1945, Alice married Bud, Thelma’s brother, in Vancouver. We knew it wouldn’t last. He was too jealous. We gave it a couple months, and that’s what happened. She got an annulment. Now Claude had been in the Navy and his family had lived on the hill behind us in Stafford. The kids used to pick strawberries together. When Claude got out of the Navy and came to see Alice, she said, “Tell him I’m not here!” But she soon changed her mind. They went to Bothel, Washington to get married.
Marjorie met Fred at a dance. You never know who you’re going to meet at a place like that! They got married April 2nd in Stafford Church. It was a nice church wedding.
|Myra and Clarence wedding, August 1948|
Barbara married Walt in our Mill Creek home. Earl Lyda married them. She had met Walt while picking beans. His folks would come over every night. We enjoyed them. At their wedding Myra and Clarence and Loretta were there.
After the Railway Mail Service
After I retired from the Railway Mail Service, I had to get another job. Charlie Munroe [a cousin of Lillie’s] had a carpentry concern in Oregon City and we had built 11 of our own houses by then, as well as helping build churches and other houses. I liked house building, from the foundation to the roof. We even did the finishing carpentry. He didn’t use union men. He paid us cash, $1 an hour and no deductions. We were out in the weather though, so it was largely seasonal. We were living then at Stafford, early spring of 1945. Charlie worked steadily year round.
We had a bunch of chickens. Once a week we’d take the eggs into town and peddle them. We had a regular egg route. I drove the school bus for West Linn High School until after Marjorie graduated. That was $5 an hour. When I quit I went back to carpentry.
In 1950 I went to work for the Clackamas County Assessor, Rufus Wood, as a real estate appraiser. I appraised houses for county tax purposes. I’d take pictures, measure, inspect basements, look at the construction details such as the joists, centers, etc. I gave a conservative value and depreciated older homes. I was earning $240 a month and got a 7¢ a mile allowance for using my own car. My boss lost his job in the next election in 1952, so, so did I. He was a member of the Oregon City Christian Church. He was not too hard to get along with, although we quarreled occasionally.
I went back to Charlie Munroe and found that he was looking for a business. John Crawford and I went down the coast looking at motels. Nothing looked good. He contacted two guys who were contractors at Port Orford, Webber and Scribner. They wanted a little money to establish a building supply at Port Orford so they could get supplies. Somebody came up here to buy a truck, for $8,000. It was a GMC diesel truck. We contributed $2,500 cash each. John was not in on that part of the deal, but he came in later.
Webber’s son drove the truck for $8 a day. I stayed up here and met with the son and went to wholesale houses and picked up stuff with him. We rented an old building with double doors down at Port Orford. A wind storm blew the door off and ruined our stock. The owner charged us with negligence and we won. They called me and I went down in January 1953 for several weeks. While down there I had to deal with Les and told him, You’re fired! So then Scribner drove the truck. I had to make my headquarters down there, so I left Lillie and Barbara and I moved down just before school ended. I hired a carpenter to be the third man with Scribner and me when Webber quit from our partnership. I told John that Webber wanted out. John dealt with him, paid him $800. Scribner then wanted the truck in a certain warm locality with its back broken, so I bought Scribner out; John gave him $500. So I had a business of my own.
|Beach at Port Orford|
In July 1953 we moved Lillie and Barbara down. We rented one end of a duplex at first. Then we started running our Mom and Pop business, which we ran for eight years. I hired whomever I could get to drive, log truck drivers or whomever. After Lillie was down there, I’d go along to do the buying. Claude and Alice came down in September 1953. Claude drove the truck through the winter and I’d come along. In spring ’54 he put in a body and fender shop. We hired Tom, Dick, or Harry to drive truck for a year. In the spring of 1955 I tried to drive, but it had a bum shift and I would kill the engine.
Once I hired a driver to make the trip named Einer Holmquist. He thought we ought to drive at night. We left in the afternoon and got to Lincoln City, where he lost control. He had booze in his jacket pocket and was sipping it with a straw as he drove! We left the truck in a yard and he went to the hotel. I told him, “You show up in better shape!” I went to Retta’s to stay over night. Next morning before 7 I went to the yard to start the truck and warm up the motor. Then I went to a restaurant to get breakfast. I said to the staff, “If Einer comes in . . .” and they interrupted me, “Your driver was here and left a note.” It said, “Mr. Read, I’m not in shape this morning to drive.” I started and drove out, I was so mad! I had a dozen calls to make to pick up the whole load. After I was done I went back to the truck terminal. The driver had been in once. If he doesn’t meet me, I thought, he’ll get left! I got out and went home. I got home at midnight. His wife came in and I gave her $5 for groceries. Alice saw her later drunk outside of Orford’s.
So we didn’t hire any more drivers. I made the trip myself two or three times. Then a customer came in who was working with a lot of plywood. He sold cars and trucks and knew of a guy in Newport who would trade us a truck for our truck, which had 16 shifts per mile and was five years old. This other truck was brand new and had a gasoline engine. The fellow who wanted our truck was working on gravel beds and our truck would be better for that. So we took the bed off our truck and swapped it for the bed on the other one and traded straight across. Everybody was happy. It was a 12 ton haul. It weighed 5 ton and the gross load was 17 ton. We could put more on, but then it would lug on the hills. An 8–10 ton load made us good pay.
Lillie made us a lot of business. She was very friendly and visited with everyone who came in in such a way that they always came back. Sometimes these old bachelors would come in about 5:30 and keep her visiting until long after 6, our usual closing time. We were the main representatives for accommodation for that entire area. We’d have to open after church to take care of phone-in orders, and to go get stuff. We made one mistake, and that was in allowing unlimited credit at first. We learned you have to make a limit. Only a couple of contractors ever cheated us; we lost about $1600. One store owner paid us and his contractor disappeared with the goods.
While in Port Orford we were actively engaged in the work at the Port Orford Community Church, where mostly Christian church preachers were hired. In 1959, we withdrew from the Community Church and helped organize Port Orford Christian Church. Albert Kribs was called as pastor. This church didn’t survive, however, as so many moved away.
Most of our building supply customers were young people just married who had never lived anywhere else. They’d come in with a picture of a large, ranch-style house. I’d ask them, “Do you have a lot?” [A piece of land.] Sometimes. Paying on it. “If you have a place, how much do you have?” They’d tell me they had anywhere between $0 and $500–600. I’d tell them they were asking me to pay for it. I’d say it has to be paid for. They’d go home to think and then come back with a more realistic picture.
We’d start with a concrete foundation. You can’t build on stilts! Blocks and later concrete. We’d pick out #3 or #4 lumber. There was some waste and some economy. I’d show them how to use it. We’d cull the lumber. I’d tell them one load of lumber was $20 and if they had to have it delivered, it was $35. I’d show them how to do the framing, show them how to do their own work. All the guys from the mill would come and pitch in to help them put up the frame and roof in a day.
Now, with the frame up, I’d tell them to get in there and start nailing. The woman could nail just as well as the man. I’d tell them, do all you can do by yourself. Keep it paid for as you go along. By the 10th of the next month, pay for the month before. I’d do the work they would have had to have hired done. If nobody was there to supervise, I’d supervise. I’d deal stuff out as they could pay, especially the finishings. Some we insulated, with tar-felt paper mostly. When “our kids” would get into their houses, they’d come out and say, “Oh, Mr. Read! We’re glad you didn’t let us run a big bill!” Our kids.
There was a lumber mill across from Pacific High School, and we sold to him in 1960. He wanted a place to sell his plain lumber. I liked to buy from a smaller mill rather than from Bandon’s. The yard man at Bandon had run us into bankruptcy in one year.
|Columbus day storm 1962, uprooted tree in Port Orford|
This all was very hard on Lillie, who besides trying to run the business was taking care of Barbara, whom we had adopted as a little six-year-old back in 1951. But all in all, we enjoyed our time in Port Orford.