After he got out of the Marine Corps, he started at the Paynesville Post Office. That was in August of 1970, six weeks before he got married. Now, when people take the test to become a postal worker, there are hundreds at a time. When Stern took his test, he was the only person.
For his first ten or 12 years, Stern clerked and carried mail. Pick up trucks dropped off bundles of mail around the city carriersâ routes. The city carriers came along later in the day and delivered the bundles. The carriers didnât have to drive any vehicles, which saved the worry of vehicles starting in the wintertime, Stern said.
For awhile carriers had to drive their own vehicles, Stern said. He remembers one day in 1975, when there was such a bad blizzard that the post office didnât deliver any mail.
The day before, his wife, Helen, had their youngest daughter. If she would have gone into labor a day later, she wouldnât have gotten to the hospital. Sternâs car was ãsnowed underä the next day.
Stern never got stuck so deep that a wrecker had to pull him out, but he knew carriers who did. He did have to ãshovel a few times · things like that happen.ä
Now, carriers use post office vehicles. They ãpark and loop.ä They park their vehicles and walk a loop around a block or through a neighborhood. Then they drive to the next area and start over again.
Stern said he ãwonât missä the winters. Just surviving the winter was the hardest part of Sternâs job.
The dogs are another aspect of mail carrying that Stern wonât miss. Hunting season was the worst time for dogs, he said. During hunting season, people have guests or people come home for the weekends and bring their dogs with them. Stern was used to the regular dogs on the route and ãknew to watch for them,ä but he was sometimes surprised by strange dogs. Stern never got bit by a dog.
When Stern began working, every post office sorted and forwarded its own mail. Now, much of Paynesvilleâs mail comes presorted from St. Cloud. All forwarded mail is sent to Duluth, where Minnesotaâs and parts of North Dakotaâs and Wisconsinâs mail is forwarded.
Stern and his wife are trying to sell their house right now. If they sell it soon, they will move to Emily, Minn., which is 45 minutesnorth of Brainerd.
There, they have a winterized trailer. They may build a house, but have no specific plans in that direction.
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