Charles Downing said his time in the military helped lead him into a career in civil service and he couldn’t have been happier about his career path.
“Chick” as most folks call him, has spent the past 28 years as a rural mail carrier for the Memphis Post Office. For the first time in more than two decades, the United State Postal Service customers on Rural Route 2 in Memphis had a new full-time carrier in August as Downing officially retired on August 1st.
“The United States Postal Service is a very wonderful employer,” said Downing. “The pay, the benefits, and the retirement, in my opinion they just can’t be beat. You may have to start at the bottom, like I did, and work your way up, but I would encourage anyone out there looking for a career to give them a shot.”
Back in June of 1989, that is exactly what Downing did, as he started working as a substitute carrier. For nearly five years he worked in that capacity before finally taking over as the full-time carrier for Rural Route 2.
He got his start under Post Master Dwight DeRosear at a time when the USPS looked quite a bit different.
“It was a challenge trying to hand sort the mail, remembering the names and the box numbers, and correctly casing the mail into the appropriate sorting slots,” said Downing.
Technology changed much of that, but Downing confessed for him some of the advancements were nearly as stressful.
“Times changed and we went to electronic sorting of mail, with tracking numbers for customers, confirmed delivery times for customers and different classes of packages, like Priority Mail,” he said.
Some things didn’t change during his more than quarter century of service.
“I’m not sure I ever really got used to driving from the center of my vehicle,” he said of the delivery style that allowed the driver to reach both sides of the car for mail boxes.
Said delivery points also posed their own hazards for the rural carrier.
“Believe it or not, the mail boxes themselves are a challenge, as they are all different, and open and close in a variety of ways,” he said. “Then of course come winter time, road conditions can simply make it a challenge to try not to run over them at times.”
As a rural carrier, road conditions proved to be one of the biggest “roadblocks” for his mail delivery.
“Let’s just say I spent plenty of time changing flat tires over the years, not to mention working hard to stay out of the ditches when fighting the snow or ice,” he said.
Despite the many challenges, Downing said his customers as well as his coworkers made it all worth it.
“I cannot say enough about by fellow carriers and the rest of post office staff I’ve worked with over the years,” said Downing. “Their advise and their help was greatly appreciated. I also thank God most of all for the customers. I loved working with them and took great joy in getting to know their friendly ways over the years.”