They say time flies when you are having fun. That has been the case for East Falmouth letter carrier Jack F. Harrington, who is to retire after 53 years from the East Falmouth branch Friday, April 25.
Mr. Harrington has braved extreme weather, changing routes and US postal service practices to accommodate a growing population on the Cape, and even a bank robbery, to bring Falmouth residents their mail safely.
He says he has lasted this long on the job because of the people. “I enjoyed the job,” Mr. Harrington said at the East Falmouth office. “I enjoyed working in a neighborhood. I couldn’t get enough of it and before I knew it 50 years went by.”
Mr. Harrington talked about the relationships he has built over the years. Virginia A. Cowley of Tarpon Road, East Falmouth, likes to do crossword puzzles, so Mr. Harrington gives her his Reminisce magazine for the puzzles.
People also like to talk about Mr. Harrington.
“What can I say,” Doris J. Waterfield of Fortaleza Avenue said Monday morning as Mr. Harrington worked his route off Davisville Avenue. “He is the best mailman I have ever had.”
She has lived there for 57 years; Mr. Harrington has been bringing her her mail for about 11 years. She says that when it snows he brings her newspaper up to the door with the mail. Also in the neighborhood is Ilda M. Domingos. Her brother lives across the street and her son lives next door to him.
“He [Mr. Harrington] told me he will have a small [retirement] party,” Ms. Domingos said, who has lived in the neighborhood for 46 years. “He deserves it.”
When Mr. Harrington started at the East Falmouth branch in 1964, his route covered a larger area that reached into Mashpee. This route has divided into seven routes as more people moved into the area. He talks about how back then there was less traffic and carriers could easily cross busy streets such as Route 28.
“Everyone felt like a neighbor back then,” Mr. Harrington said. “Everyone knew everyone.”
Mr. Harrington grew up in the Boston area. He came to the Cape in 1960 with friends. The Sagamore Bridge was closed, so that it took them six hours to get back to Boston. He thought he would never come back, but he did as a salesman with Decatur Hopkins hardware and then with the Burroughs Corporation that did contract work with the base making parts for radar equipment. He met his wife here and stayed.
“I am glad I came back,” Mr. Harrington said. “It’s a nice place. People are great. “That’s what makes it easy.”
When the contract work ended, he learned about the postal test. Mr. Harrington took the test with 11 others. He got a high enough score to be offered a 90-day trial in East Falmouth and has been there ever since.
As he loaded his truck he chatted with other carriers. He said there are more packages and more letters to deliver than there used to be. He used to stamp and sort the letters, tying them up with string that came into the office. Now they are all sent to a central office in Rhode Island.
To the people he works with he is someone to look up to.
“I have been here seven years,” Trevor East said. “That is one-eighth the time he has worked here. I am just riding on his coat tails.”
Postal workers usually retire after 40 years, if they make it that long, because retirement contributions do not increase after that time.
“Carrier work is a lot more demanding than what meets the eye,” East Falmouth postmaster Peter M. Mackiewicz said. “Workloads are not the same every day; with a doubling of volume it requires more of you physically to carry the loads and keep appointment times.”
Competent postal carriers are dependable, know their customers to avoid mistakes, and to stay safe while doing their job, Mr. Mackiewicz said. On average a carrier has 600 to 700 residential customers per day.
“Jack sets the bar for what can be achieved at his age.” Mr. Mackiewicz said.
Mr. Harrington has never had an accident in his years of service, even when a bank robber pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him as he was leaving the office when it was at Worcester Court. The robber instructed everyone to hit the floor. After things settled down, Mr. Harrington got up and continued on his route.
“I wasn’t going to stick around there,” Mr. Harrington said. “I had to do my deliveries.”
As Mr. Harrington was about to start his route Monday, Mr. Mackiewicz was off to train his replacement, Alexander Mondino of East Falmouth.
“He is the new Jack,” Mr. Mackiewicz said. “We are starting history all over again.”