Delivering the mail through rain or shine, snow or sleet is what postal workers do but at the Trail post office it is not just about Christmas cards and bills. The tiny post office is the hub of the community, said Postmaster Barbara Falcy who is retiring on December 30 after 35 years of government service.
Falcy, 61, began working for the postal service as Christmas help while still in high school and then college. Recognizing civil service as a good opportunity back then, Falcy dropped out of college to pursue a postal career. After working first in California and then filling in at post offices all over the Rogue Valley, Falcy was sworn in as postmaster at Trail in 1987. She found the small community atmosphere to be personal and wonderful. “I know my customers,” she said with a warm smile.
“Someone is always dropping in with a need. We are a hub of information,” Falcy continued. And if she does not have the needed information, she knows just who to call and the locals count on that. Besides vital questions, Falcy and a part-time employee, Kathy Medina, frequently get calls that are not necessarily about mail. “I heard an ambulance, where is it going?” a caller might query. Another might ask what time it is or if Falcy would check tomorrow’s mail for a letter which of course is not yet there.
Falcy has been privy to much personal information about her customers. “Some of it you want to know and some you don’t.” One person confided her psychiatrist would be out of town for an extended vacation. She wondered who she would talk to when Falcy has retired. During the Christmas rush, another customer was concerned when phone calls were not answered at someone’s house although the lights were on in the evening. Falcy could not reveal the person was away because of confidentiality but she carefully assured the caller there was nothing to worry about.
“We have a finger on the pulse of the community. We know when there is sickness, death and family situations. We keep cards on hand to send. We have the time to do that here, unlike at a big post office such as in Medford,” said a thoughtful Falcy.
Besides giving the time of day to callers and checking on resident’s well being, getting the mail out is the number one priority. Falcy and Medina reminisced about the time the power was out in Trail for an extended time. Holding small flashlights in their mouths, the two women sorted the mail in the dark and got it delivered. “The mail has to get out,” stressed the dedicated postmaster. (Medina will be the relief postmaster until a permanent one is appointed.)
There has been much discussion on discontinuing Saturday deliveries. With about 33,000 post offices throughout the United States, the postal service covers a huge territory. “We go everywhere—everyday,” emphasized Falcy. With the high cost of fuel and other expenses of transportation, Falcy feels it makes sense to cut Saturdays to save some money. The decision may come next spring, she said. “It took an act of Congress for the six-day-a-week delivery and it will now take another act of Congress to take away Saturday delivery.”
Although some consider the cost of a stamp at 44 cents to be high, Falcy and many supporters feel it is a bargain compared to the cost in other countries or to what it would cost in gas for the writer to deliver the letter themselves. “We are the cheapest (postal service) in the world. And we go everywhere,” Falcy reiterated.
Discussing package delivery, Falcy said the postal service also is the least expensive in the delivery of parcels. Because delivering mail is an on-ground operation, however, the postal service has contracted with Fed Ex and UPS to fly packages from “hub to hub.” Once there, postal employees take over the delivery of the cargo to its final destination.
Reflecting back over the years as Trail postmaster, Falcy said it took a little time to learn what community was. Her first inkling came when a customer, “Spike” Bordner, took it on himself to bring a ladder and change an outside light bulb. Bordner was concerned about her safety. Not only Bordner, but other residents have pitched in when needed, including during a move to a larger location. “I’ve made a lot of friends. And I’ll absolutely—definitely miss them,” Falcy said with heartfelt emotion. But then laughing, she added she won’t miss getting up at six every morning.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent