The U.S. Post Office Realm of Hellertown

In decades past, most letter carriers in the borough would walk 12 to 14 miles per route.

"They were ordinary postmen, fond of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with knuckles...And they stood on the Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out...And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs. He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

--from a Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas

After speaking with Ed "Whitey" Weirback and George Zettlemoyer, former Hellertown postal workers, I realized how much similarity existed between their job delivering mail and my part-time job as door-to-door bill collector for Sears.

Ed delivered mail by walking his routes for 25 years before motorized vehicles, mostly in the north end of the borough. He worked for postmasters Ted Hagey, Ed Strohl and Fran Ehret. When he started, a first class letter cost three cents.

He experienced dog bites, once on Main Street, when the loose dog's owner called the post office and blamed him and defended her doggie. That reminded me of when a German shepherd leaped at my neck and ripped my necktie off just below the knot. Later, the customer blamed me.

Several positives related to the job were making many friends, learning jokes and eating lunch at Guro's and Saucon Crossroads Hotel, the latter making the best cheesesteaks in the Lehigh Valley, in my opinion. As a bill collector I carried only one dollar of my own money for lunch, and during the 1970s that was enough for a burger and coffee.

Ed was born in Dr. David Helm's house on Main Street. He later lived on Penn Street, and Main Street and now lives on Spring Valley Road.

Most postmen began as substitutes and had to learn almost all routes in town. He and George estimate that most routes required walking 12 to 14 miles per route.

George Zettlemoyer was a postman for 31 years and was a fill-in at the beginning. For awhile he walked the Mountainview area and the south end of town. He belonged to the Hellertown Quoit Club on Front Street when they still primarily played quoits. When possible he ate lunch there while walking his delivery route.

Both men knew Estella Werst whom they called Stel or Stella. She happens to have been my cousin, but I called her Aunt Estella and remember at age four looking up at her when going there for stamps. "There" was the Hellertown Post Office at Ted Hagey's, across from the American Legion. Estella was the last Werst to live at 415 Main Street, now the home of the Cat Doctor. She was always a clerk at the post office and sorted the mail while always in a cheerful mood, according to Ed and George.

Carl Gerhab had played semi-pro baseball and had tried out for the Phillies. He taught Ed several routes of mail delivery, and eventually Carl became a clerk. George was the one to replace Ira Koplin. Paul "Poss" Brown also had played baseball and was post office supervisor when Ed started to work. He taught new men how to sort mail and administered tests. During this era, Estella basically "ran" the office. Nevin Schrantz, another employee, was carrier supervisor and delivered packages by truck. Carried packages had to be a maximum of two pounds. When Lawrence "Chester" Fluck retired, Ed took over his northern route.

Ted Hagey hired George, who was just out of the Air Force. He had been drafted into service during the Korean War and was in the trenches to witness the detonation of atombic boms tested in the U.S.

The most similar point that I had in common with George and Ed was to know the territory and to set up your route ahead of going out to deliver or to collect. Each of us could write a book about our experiences in our careers. Oh, that's right. I taught school for three-and-a-half decades but never got bitten by a student.


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