Personal Mail Delivery at the Bungalows

27 Dec

Each summer before my brother could have a ‘real’ job, he had a job devised by my grandfather. Since my grandparents owned the small bungalow colony where we stayed each summer, they were responsible for certain amenities. One of these was mail delivery.

It was before the time of email and cell phones. Communications with people who had stayed behind in the City for the summer relied on mail.   And since most people did not have cars at the bungalow colony, someone had to walk into Kauneonga Lake and pick up the mail. It became my brother’s job when he was 10 years old.

Before him, he believes one of our cousins got the mail for a year. My Grandpa gave the job to the boys until they could get a real job. Then it was passed down to the next younger boy.

My brother got the job for several reasons. First, of course, someone did have to get the mail. Second, my brother was a grandchild. Third, my brother was an extremely active child. I think my grandfather was trying to give my Mom a break and also to wear my brother out. But honestly, nothing wore my brother out!

My brother’s morning went something like this.   Get up early. Eat a bowl or two of cereal. Then walk to the bungalows. We lived about 1/3 mile up the road from the colony in a bungalow behind our maternal grandparent’s home.

When he arrived at the bungalow colony he first went to the bungalow where our paternal grandparents and great aunt Minnie stayed to have the second breakfast waiting for him. Usually they had eggs, toast and cookies for him. My Grandma Esther was a great baker.   They had to give him enough energy to finish the walk to get the mail. I think she also gave him a nickel or so because he picked up her newspaper.

He would take the mail that people had given him or my Mom the day before, but first checking to see if anyone left him anything on their front steps, and set off for his journey into town.   Sometimes he was given additional jobs, like buy a newspaper at Vassmer’s.   Or buy stamps. So he always had a little bit of money that he needed to take with him and to keep track of it.

It was about mile or so walk into town. Sometimes he would have company. Another boy would walk with him. But other times he had to go on his own. If it was raining, he did not have to walk into town. The mail could wait. No one wanted him to get sick!

The post office to the left and the fire station to the right, across from the lake side on the other side of the grassy triangle.

The post office to the left and the fire station to the right, across from the lake side on the other side of the grassy triangle.

The town of Kauneonga Lake has a grassy triangle in the middle. Around it are the streets that lead to 17 B, West Shore Road and Swan Lake Road.   On the other side of the street were the stores on one side, the fire station on the other side, along with the buildings for the post office and the bakery.

Once he returned from his two-mile journey he would go to each bungalow and deliver the mail and whatever else they had ordered. It was a lot of work for a young boy, but he had a routine.

After he delivered the mail he would wander over to the bungalow where our Aunt Leona stayed. And, as he says, “If the timing was right I would deliver their mail and have my third breakfast.” That is right, breakfast number three. Goodness knows my aunt did not want him to go hungry! And since she was feeding her three boys, what was one more?

He ended his deliveries with my maternal grandparents. He would walk back up the hill to their home and deliver their mail. And have his fourth breakfast with our Grandfather.   My brother said that was usually burnt rye bread toast and coffee. It was burnt on purpose; Grandpa loved burnt rye bread toast! (Honestly I love it as well.)

Yes, my brother ate three or four breakfasts every single weekday morning.

But after he ate the fourth breakfast, Grandpa Nat would give him a chore to do before he could play: cut the grass, pick up leaves, or even straighten nails.   To be honest he and one of my cousins had the nail straightening job whenever they misbehaved.

He would come back to our bungalow and check in with Mom delivering the last mail of the day to her. I think she always asked him if he was hungry because my parents did not know at first that he was eating so many meals. Once they found out, they were amazed. Where was the food going? Did he have a hollow leg? He was so skinny!!! But he was able to pack it away.   I do not know how he did it.

The most amazing aspect is that he still had room for lunch a couple of hours later.

My brother enjoyed his four summers as the mail delivery service.   After he ‘retired’ and got a real job, I became the part-time mail person. Yes, I was a girl, but by then Grandpa had run out of boys.  So a change was made.

The next summer I worked at the bakery in town three or four days a week, and the bakery was in the building attached to the wooden building that housed the post office. So it made sense that I got the mail when I finished working. I only worked in the mornings. So the mail was delivered by lunch. And no, I did not get four meals!

The first summer I worked at the bakery, Grandma Thelma worked with me. But many days, when the store was not busy, she would just go and visit with Mrs. Driscoll.   In reality the post office was the center of town. You not only got your mail there, you also got all the gossip from Mrs. Driscoll.

I loved going to the post office with my Grandma.

While I walked to the left hallway where all the mailboxes were located, they would continue their discussions about Kauneonga Lake happenings. Sometimes when I got too close to them, they became quiet. So I knew to stay by the mailboxes or make believe I was looking at all the “Wanted” posters, so I could listen to all the gossip of the town.

I continued to get the mail one more summer, when I worked at the bakery by myself. But after that summer people started having cars at the bungalows and opening their own post office boxes. So they went to get their own mail.

We had the same mailbox for over 50 years, Box 792. We no longer have a mailbox in Kauneonga Lake. And of course Mrs. Driscoll and my Grandma are no longer with us. But my brother and I have wonderful memories of the post office and our years as the mail delivery service.

Thank you to my brother for sharing his memories and helping to make this an accurate description of a summer activity.

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2 Responses to “Personal Mail Delivery at the Bungalows”

  1. Robin December 27, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    Once again, this was a trip down Memory Lane. At our colony, the mail recipient were announced over the loudspeaker, and I remember getting to do it many times. I loved getting letters from my city friends! And, I know where the Kauneonga Lake PO is very well. I was up in Bethel a few weeks ago and passed it while stopping by a local farm.

    • zicharon December 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      I am glad you enjoyed it. I do love remembering all the wonderful summers in the Catskills!

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