Lloyd Seals has delivered an estimated 25 million pieces of mail in his 50 years as a New Haven postman. He’ll never forget the one a customer sent to him.
The 72-year-old Seals (at right in photo) briefly stopped sorting and delivering mail Thursday morning. Fellow carriers such as Khalid Elaziz helped celebrate his half-century with the post office in a ceremony Thursday at the sorting facility on Brewery Street Thursday.
“Give me a zero,” Elaziz joked with the 72-year-old Seals (at right in photo above). The younger man has but five years of service in his bag.
Seals’ route number is 1130 these days. It takes him around Edgewood neighborhood. Twenty-five years ago he worked in West River—where he experienced the most moving episode of his 50-year career.
Saving a Life on George Street
He recalled the episode after the ceremony, as he returned to sorting his mail. Typically carriers sort from 8 to 10 a.m., then are on the street delivering until 4.
That day a quarter-century past, Seals found himself in front of 760 George St. when a young woman literally came crashing through the glass of the front window. She began to bleed profusely from the head.
“I didn’t know I had the guts, but I told a guy to go get me a cold towel. I held it tight,” Seals recalled.
The pressure Seals applied until the ambulance arrived was credited with saving the young mother’s life.
Before a reporter left, Seals turned to mention a letter he received rather than delivered.
“She had two little girls. They sent me a note. It said, ‘Thanks for saving my mother’s life.’”
After his family came to Branford from South Carolina in the 1950s, Seals got a job in a foundry. It was trying physical work. A friend suggested the post office. The rest is, as the axiom has it, a personal history.
But not quite.
“I was thinking of quitting after 20 years,” Seals said. But financial and family pressures made him put other plans on hold, and continue.
More recently he has been thinking about starting a small business, maybe selling hot dogs and related items from a cart. The pursuits have in common the pleasure in relating to people.
But back in 1960s, he needed to work, and the overtime helped, a lot. So he has stayed.
Grey-Haired Work Force
Seals is not alone. In fact he’s not even the most senior letter carrier at the New Haven P.O. That distinction goes to Wayne Boston who’s carried the mail since 1965. Seals has delivered mail since 1968. For eight years before he was a sorter, so he has the overall seniority.
According to operations manager Bob Kellaher, “there are 42 guys with 30-plus years.”
Between the job and the overtime, guys could make a life, so they stuck around, said Vincent Mase, president of Branch 19 of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Mase was on hand Thursday to add his thanks to the P.O. bureaucracy’s statuette and pin. When he cited Seals’ service and decades of availability for overtime, it was not, as the carriers joked, just to get away from their wives.
The World War Two and Korean War generation made careers in the post office, even though the base pay was relatively low at the time, said Mase (pictured). New York carriers organized a strike in 1970; in response, President Nixon authorized collective bargaining for postal workers. Then that job as a civil service route to the middle class became well traveled.
Today a beginning worker starts at $47,000. With overtime, pay can go to $65,000.
Seals said he plans to stay on the job for perhaps another year, then get that hot dog cart out and go onto Long Wharf.
He’s already experimented on weekends and Fourths of July. On one holiday he took in $250, he said. Another day, his profit was zero.
At the post office, of course, income is as reliable as the mail.