It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Globe Post Office has seen many changes in the past forty years, but Globe carrier Justin Brandt, who has 36 years of service, says there’s at least one thing that hasn’t changed: “The trust that we have in people or people have in us. And I like that.”
Another constant—and one of the first things that comes up in conversation—about the postal service in Globe-Miami is the hills. “When we started, we didn’t have vehicles. We walked. And this is a community that has thousands of hills,” says Rosemary Tarango. “You were going down alleys, you were going through yards, canyons,” says Brandt. Tarango has 30 years of continuous service and started as a clerk at Inspiration Post Office under Postmaster Joe Sanchez. Now, the postal service keeps the clerk and carrier tracks separate. At the time, employees were allowed to do both and, early in her career, Tarango did. She’s now a clerk at the Globe Post Office.
Tarango remembers going to work at the Inspiration Post Office. “At that time the mines were booming,” she says. “You just went along with the traffic with the miners. You went in one single file going up the hill. It was an experience going up there. You just had the one road.” Like the Claypool post office now, there was no home delivery on Inspiration hill. Because of that, she got to know people. “It was nice because at that time you got to see everybody—supervisors for the mine and all these upper management lived up on the Inspiration hill. And they got all the mail at the P.O. boxes.”
One of Tarango’s most memorable moments as a carrier happened on the big hill leading up to the old high school in Miami on a snowy, windy day. She started to climb up the slippery hill only to be pushed down by the wind, over and over and over. “Of course you have this snow and you’re trying to brace yourself so you don’t fall,” remembers Tarango, laughing. “And I said, I gotta get up this hill, there’s no other way. Finally, I get to where it’s level and I’m looking down this hill thinking ‘holy cow.’ I can see my tracks. Well, my first delivery after I got there was this… she used to be their librarian, Mrs. Cortes. I didn’t know she had been watching me out of her window. And she goes, ‘Honey, are you ok?’ And I laughed, and said “Were you watching?’ and she says ‘I felt so sorry for you. I didn’t know what I could do for you.’”
“Back then, you were going down alleys, you were going through yards and canyons,” says Brandt of his old walking route. It was the shortest distance between point A and point B. Now, the trays of mail arrive sorted and it takes Brandt about 45 minutes to get ready for his route in the mornings. When he was walking, it took three hours. Tarango says many of the houses didn’t have numbers, so you just remembered which house was which.
Brandt and Tarango were warned about dogs—and with good reason—although they both logged at least one confrontation with particularly aggressive guard cats. “I walked back out of there with claw marks on my boot, laughing so hard,” says Brandt of his cat encounter. According to Brandt, there was a period of time that leash laws were not well-enforced and he had very frequent run-ins with dogs. According the the Postal Service, each year almost 6,000 mail carriers are attacked by dogs nationwide. Brandt has been bit multiple times, but it’s not an aggressive dog that sticks out the most in his mind.
“After I got my own route, which was in ‘82, we had a dog, Abner, on the route. He lived on the route, right behind Nob Hill Grocery store,” says Brandt. “He would meet me every day at Nob Hill grocery store and he would follow me. It got to be, after so many years—I mean, this was years—people would tell the new carrier, ‘Just follow the dog.’ People would have water out for him or a little snack and he was so a part of the early days. Everybody knew Abner.” In Abner’s later years, he was hit by a truck and his owners wanted to put him down. Brandt took him to the vet and picked up the bill for his care. Abner lived with Brandt until he passed away.
Abner wasn’t the only one to get treats on the route. Brandt had a customer who, for years, always left him a slice of cake. These personal connections are a special part of a rural post office like Globe’s. “I couldn’t picture myself working in a big city because I have to interact with people,” says Tarango. She values the fact that she can address customers by their first names and take a few seconds to chat with them, maybe about how their parents are doing. When Tarango talks about her co-workers she uses the phrase “postal family.”
Globe Postmaster Kenny Cobos started working for the Postal Service in Chandler in 1999. He became Globe’s postmaster in September 2015 after a stint as Postmaster in Holbook. “I love the sense of camaraderie and teamwork staffs at rural Post Offices have,” says Cobos. Cobos filled in for the Miami Postmaster for a summer and enjoyed working in the Globe-Miami communities, which influenced his decision to seek out the position in Globe. “I had never really been to this area before that and I just really loved the friendliness of everybody. I was used to working in Mesa where it’s just busy, busy, busy all the time,” says Cobos. “I had a guy in Miami, every single day he came in and bought one stamp, but I got to know him. I really enjoyed that. I left that thinking ‘Wow, I love that small town atmosphere,’” he explains.
Brandt speaks to that same deeply personal connection. “I think of the customers I’ve lost over the years. You do become part of their family. My god, you know them for 30 years,” he says. “I’ve been to lots of funerals. I’ve had family members ask ‘Come in your uniform,’ because you’re part of the family.”
This sort of request, to show up in uniform to a funeral, is a reminder that post office employees are civil servants. “We’re sworn in, we take an oath of office. You swear to defend the constitution […] you take that seriously,” says Brandt. The ways that they serve the community go far beyond delivering the mail. Brandt has a number of homebound customers who he keeps a close eye on. “If they don’t pick up their mail, I’m on the door,” he says. Over the years he has found three people who had fallen and couldn’t get help. “That’s part of the job. You know your customers and if something looks wrong, you check on them,” he says. The Postal Service calls this the Carrier Alert Program. Similarly, as a clerk, Tarango has customers who feel comfortable coming to her when they need to talk. “You know what, I’m here. I’m here. Anytime you want,” says Tarango with a laugh. Cobos says too, “What I love most about my job is the people aspect of it.”
On the flip side, “We represent the United States Government and, boy, sometimes we get it,” says Brandt. He smiles as he says this and seems to have a sense of humor about it. Tarango says it’s worse around tax time, when citizens are more likely to be harboring some dissatisfaction with their government. Everyone interviewed for this story wanted to point out that the United States Postal Service does not receive any tax dollars for operations. It runs solely on the revenue from postage sales and other services. “We have nothing to do with anything political,” says Brandt. According to the Postal Service, it is the largest retail network in the U.S and is larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined.
Brandt says he often asked whether or not things like email are going have a big impact on the Postal Service. “I haven’t seen it,” he says. Although the total volume of mail handled by the USPS decreased from 213.1 billion to 154.2 billion between 2006 and 2015, the volume of packages and number of delivery points have increased steadily. Brandt says he notices a decrease in the amount of mail during the summer, which helps him out because of the hot weather. Tarango says that around the time school starts up, they’ll see the amount of mail they’re dealing with pick up again.
It’s clear that in spite of things becoming more computerized—in the Postal Service and in the country at large—the folks at the Globe Post Office have found ways to maintain the personal connection with the community that they so obviously value. “That’s something that I will never forget,” says Brandt. “Just being part of the different families that you wouldn’t otherwise know.”
Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Edible Baja Arizona, Modern Farmer, Punch, Serious Eats, and elsewhere. Her first book, Beyond Canning was published in February 2016.