7:30 a.m.—As street lamps finish their midnight shift and flicker off one by one, the double front doors of the Pomeroy Post Office hold back the only visible light source on a sleepy 2nd Street.
For 31 years, Jim Pullins and Jan Davis have been the first people to wake up and greet Pomeroy. Some might say that the two know better than anyone how a misty dawn feels in Southeast Ohio—including if anything is amiss in the city they serve.
Destined To Deliver
The veteran postal service workers shuffle into their individual sorting stations as they begin putting their route’s packages, magazines, letters—although fewer than ever—catalogs and bills in order. Both move with a coolness and ease that only comes after perfecting this routine for more than three decades.
Davis, who is 61 years old, has been delivering mail to rural homes on the outskirts of Pomeroy ever since deciding her nursing assistant career wasn’t enough to pay the bills. Davis became the first female full-time rural carrier in Pomeroy at a time when men were the face of the U.S. Postal Service.
The granddaughter and daughter of seasoned mail carriers, Davis might have been destined to take a career with the U.S. Postal Service. Even as a little girl, she delivered mail from the passenger seat of her dad’s mail truck.
Pullins, now 72, traded his military uniform for the navy blue U.S. Postal Service uniform in 1969.
“We’re going out together, right, Jim?” Davis says over the noise, referring to their unknown retirement dates.
The mail-moving duo shoot the breeze and throw their humor and wit back and forth across the busy room as they have for so many years.
More Than Letters
“I’m in good health, thank God. I like to work. I like people,” Pullins says. “I like to help people. If I can help them, I’ll do it.”
Aside from being two of the most familiar faces around the community, that’s what Pullins and Davis do—help people.
“People talk to you. They’ll talk to you and share with you what’s going on in their life. I always check with people, ‘How you feeing? You know, what’s going on?’ And they’ll tell me,” Pullins says.
Carriers have been unsung neighborhood watchdogs for as long as the service has been around. They will check in on the elderly and those living alone if mail ever begins to pile up.
As for actual dogs, the long-sworn enemy of mail carriers, Pullins and Davis have dealt with their share. But no number of angry canines, slippery ice patches or heavy packages could stop the two from completing their routes.
“I like the fact that you would come in here, get your work done, then you go out and no one is breathing down your neck,” Davis says. “You’re on your own. You’re out in the country. You get to see nature.”
Smitten With Hand-Written
The role of the postal service worker is important in neighborhoods around the world. However, America has created a special place in its heart for the timeless, romanticized image of a smiling mail carrier pushing through a foot of snow to bring letters from loved ones right to the front door. It is a cherished human interaction in a booming digital age.
“We used to feel important. We had so much First Class Mail. Now so much is sent through email,” Davis says.
So while delivering the growing number of large Amazon and eBay packages keep the two in better shape than most 40-year-olds, Pullins and Davis say customers are missing intimate hand-written letters more than ever.
“Letter mail, you can sit down and put down your deepest thoughts on paper and communicate them with someone else through the mail,” Pullins says.
4 p.m.—Pullins’ route is complete and he has logged another seven or eight miles of walking. He turns in his keys and heads home to his wife of near 50 years. He will see Davis in the morning, and they will head out onto Pomeroy’s streets once again with the same toughness and enthusiasm they have kept all these years.