Nooky Powers No Longer Delivers

The news that the Post Office will end Saturday delivery in August was not unexpected. If my mail is any indication — I can’t recall the last time I received an actual “letter” — mailmen may soon go the way of milkmen.

Both professions were once important — even crucial — parts of Westport life.

I am fascinated by a story I once heard about the postal service here. Back in the day, it seems, mail was delivered twice a day — every day. This was before most people had telephones. So post cards — picked up, sorted, delivered, replied to, etc. — were a primary means of communication.

I vaguely recall, as a child, that mail was delivered twice a day in the week or two before Christmas.

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used his home town as models for this May 13, 1944 Saturday Evening Post cover called "Mailman."

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used his home town as models for this May 13, 1944 Saturday Evening Post cover called “Mailman.”

I do have vivid memories of our mailman (“postal carrier,” to use today’s term).

He was George Powers — “Nooky,” as he was universally known. A star athlete at Staples in the 1930s, and a World War II veteran, he served High Point Road with professional care, and personal attention to detail.

He took pride in punctuality, and knowing every home on his route. But he also found time to deliver packages to doorsteps, not mailboxes; to look in on whoever was ailing; even check on homes when owners were away.

Nooky Powers was more than a post office employee. He was my father’s friend.

Nowadays, I’m not sure how many people know their mailmen. Routes routinely shift; streets are clogged; carriers probably have many more stops than before, and I’m sure they’re not treated with the respect and courtesy that once was the norm.

The factors leading to the end of Saturday mail delivery are many and complex. But perhaps the fact that most of us no longer have a Nooky Powers in our lives has something to do with it.

26 responses to “Nooky Powers No Longer Delivers

  1. jebby40@aol.com

    Nooky was the man!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Great article! I delivered mail for 20 years in Lexington, KY and still have great friends on some of my old mail routes. You really meet some amazing people. The hardest part was going to the funerals of those you remember growing up or living on your route. I am sharing this article on mt Facebook page! Thanks Kerstin Warner for sharing this on Facebook!

  3. We had a mailman Tommy for 15 years who had the same “Nooky” spirit, attitude and willingness to help anyone who needed it! He knew us by name, he knew my mother and father in laws and most importantly he actually cared… Something I think the Post Office and other similar institutions could benefit from!!! Last year…some genius at the Postal Service decided a re routing of “Postal Carrier” would create more efficiency? It apparently has been nothing but a reshuffle and we lost an asset. Our loss is another Westporters gain and now we have just a Postal Carrier.

  4. We know our mailman (politically-incorrect term but he is a man and he delivers mail) here on Calumet; very nice guy and he often goes above and beyond. We also know our “UPS Guy” since, like most in these days of online shopping, he visits almost daily. And they all know our (friendly) dog Emily it seems, and she looks forward to their visits.

    But Nooky seems to have been a Town treasure, I have the SHS yearbookfrom his senior year and he was clearly “the” guy.

    • His 1939 SHS Yearbook Entry:

      George Edward Powers “Nooky”
      Activities: Football 2, 3, 4; Basketball 2, 3, 4; Track 3, 4; Baseball 2, 3, 4; Senior Play 4; Vice President of Sophomore Class 2, President of Junior Class 3; Captain of Basketball Team 4.
      “You’ll be missed, Nook”

      And then he is on every other page doing something grand. Nooky was voted Most Popular AND Best Athlete. It’s clear the entire school loved Nooky.

  5. Elisabeth Keane

    Our mailman is wonderful. Please consider “wonderful” to be bold faced and underlined for emphasis. He’s terrific.

    Where I grew up and when I was a very young child, I remember mail being delivered twice a day year ’round.

    As for receiving letters, it helps the process along if one writes and sends a letter. I cannot (nor do I wish to) imagine not receiving real letters. To me, holding a letter written by another, especially a handwritten letter, is as close to being inside the writer’s head as one can be. The words on the paper are a direct link to the writer’s thoughts at that moment. In a handwritten letter, you can see changes in penmanship and really catch the mood and inflection of the writer. A portion of one of my old family letters discusses a situation with someone and the writer’s penmanship becomes obviously agitated. The rest of the letter is written in her normal hand so clearly, she paused for awhile before continuing. It is tangible, visible and visceral. With a real letter (including typewritten) you can hold it, re-read it at will, carry it with you and savor it at any time. Email is better than no communication at all but it lacks nuance and inflection even with being able to change fonts or underline. It isn’t the same. Sometimes “better than nothing” is not the same as “as good as.”

    Good luck with the blizzard, everyone.

  6. The success and/or failure of the USPS has nothing to do with the mailmen, and everything to do with the corrupt demands of the labor union. The benefits the union is requiring both the USPS (and Congress) to pre-fund every year is basically criminal.

    Coming from a family with several postal workers, I can tell you the way their benefits and pensions are structured is both unsustainable and out of this world. The mailmen can thank their own union for the financial downfall of the USPS.

  7. We know our mailwomen (postal carrier seems so impersonal) and Nancy is wonderful. I also remember our milkman. We never locked the house (didn’t even have a key) and he would knock on the back kitchen door in the morning and come in, putting the milk right in the “icebox” even though it had become a refrigerator by then. They sure seem like a better and certainly a more trusting time.

  8. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    I remember Nooky and he was everybody’s friend (no slight to your father, Dan). He was also a WPD special policeman. Our mailman on Treadwell Ave once upon a time was the fabulous and GREATHEARTED Lou Nistico. What was it that the USPS put in their comp plan to attract these legends of Westport to their ranks???

    • I remember Lou delivering our mail on Treadwell. Frank and Joe Nistico — Lou’s brothers — also delivered mail in Saugatuck and then helped Lou and their parents run the original Arrow (Franklin Street and Saugatuck Ave.) at night.

  9. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    Unions were necessary at one time to balance the equation between ruthless businessmen and powerless workers but those days are over and the union concept is totally inappropriate for public employees and should never have been allowed because they serve the public and the unions do not. Thus we have a conflict of interest that as Jim says is resulting in the unfortunate reality that everybody is getting screwed and the only people coming out ahead are the union parasites/leaders. However in the end, even they (the parasites) lose because they’ve crashed the bus into the wall and a parasite dies when the host it feeds on dies. (Basic biology SHS Mr. Skib ’67)

  10. Here’s a shout out to our Westport postman Pete. Ever cheerful, ever kind and always ready with a biscuit for our golden retriever. Thank you, Peter, and to postal delivery workers everywhere — even on a day like today, they’ll be out there. Be safe!

  11. RIVERSIDE AVE ROUTE

    Our Mailman, Ernest (Ernie) McCormick, is the best! Always friendly and always going above and beyond the call of duty. One of the kindest, caring and most giving individuals we’ve ever met. Be safe out there, my friend, and if you get stuck in Westport during the storm (or any other time), you know our address… the one with all of the firewood! 🙂

  12. Former High Point Road Resident

    Dan,
    Do you remember that all the High Point Road residents collected money to give George a gift when he retired? He was one of a kind.

  13. Due to an act of congress in enacted in 2006, the USPS was required to pre-pay funds for the future healthcare of retired employees. This requirement (or at least its scale) is unique to the USPS among all “federal” employers/unions. This act of congress is the number one cause of its current financial difficulties. The congress and politicians who pushed this law through are no friends of the USPS and their union workers (the 2006 congress was strongly controlled by the GOP). The reason this law was passed was to do exactly what it is doing – drive the postal service into a premature and artificial financial crisis in order to cut it up, privatize it and distribute at as patronage/graft to favored industries and individuals. And, as a bonus, screw tens thousands of hard working middle class Americans in the process (Like Nooky and my great mailman Phil).

    It’s not the unions killing the USPS. It’s ideological and greedy business interests (and their political whores) who capitalize on the mis-information, and ignorance of my neighbors who think union workers and their leaders are somehow more of a systemic risk to our economy/society then “ruthless businessmen” – despite example after example to the contrary.

    • I would gladly support the privatization of the postal service. The USPS is a bloated, archaic, mismanaged, poorly-run clunker of an agency and I do not wish to “support” it with my taxpayer dollars (the same can be said about Congress).

      Also, you are right IndiciaMan. The 2006 law was passed with considerable GOP support and there is no denying what their intentions were. But the Unions pull the same kind of tricks in labor negotiations all the time — there is blood on everyone’s hands except for the innocent employees.

      Congress needs to show some love and the Unions need to get over themselves…show some sanity and reason.

      • Not until you can find a private entity who will charge the same for a 1st class letter sent from the remotest rural address to one dropped off at an urban post office, will you be able to fully privatize the USPS. That’s a key part of their mission and they they do it well. Perhaps you can convince rural Wyoming residents to pay more for their GE/UPS/AT&T delivered mail – I am somewhat skeptical.

        • Typical government organization

          A private business wouldn’t lose billions doing it and the post office can’t do it either, that’s why they’re going under.
          If it weren’t for taxpayers keeping that bloated mismanaged organization afloat it would have sunk years ago.
          Adios!

    • If the USPS did not fund the benefits, then who would pick up the unfunded liability? The toothfairy? Who should bear the liability? The liability is large because the post-retirement healthcare benefits are very generous.

      The post office is an antiquated monopoly that is financially unsound.

  14. John Hartwell

    I’d like to give a shout out to the women who run the Greens Farms post office where I collect my mail every day. They’re friendly, know many patrons by name, and provide great service. To those of you who like talking trash about postal employees and unions in general, I suggest you visit our post office and get to know some of the people you’re denigrating. It’s easy to take shots at some faceless bureaucracy; it’s a bit more difficult when you realize that these are hard-working people just like you.

    Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, have saddled the Post Office with unprofitable mandates and then balked when the bill comes due. You can rage all you want about unions, but this time it’s the owners who are to blame.

    • John. Relax. I don’t think anyone is tearing apart the employees. In fact, Frank blames only Congress and the Unions. Not the hardworking people.

      And posture all you want, but there is blame to share between Congress and the leaders of the union. You’d be a fool to believe otherwise.

    • Nothing special

      I’ve been there, they’re okay at best only because we have such low expectations from government and union employees.
      If they worked as they do for a real company you would think they suck.

  15. One of my prized possessions is a series of postcards I bought at an estate sale about 30 years ago dating from 1912 from Mrs Wakeman of Southport and her daughter Sarah who was going to college in Holyoke Mass… they remind me of phone calls or emails.. or even text messages.. every little detail was included. There were sometimes two a day back and forth.. and I think they were delivered by train. I bet post cards were handled differently than mail in envelopes.

  16. Nancy Powers Conklin

    Dan, what a great article! I am crying as I sit here after reading it! You spoke so highly of my father and I thank you and appreciate it. My father not only delivered the mail but, worried about it when it sat in the box. He also delivered to Sam Sloat, who lived on High Point, and would be delivering valuable coins to his home, as he ran his business out of the house back then. My father would NEVER put what he thought were valuable coins, in the mailbox. He would go to the door and make sure he handed them to someone in the house. And, your father got my father involved in the stock market. My father never expected to make any money from it. He felt that he could afford to lose whatever money he gave your father to invest for my father. Turns out your father did well for my father’s interests. My dad had the highest regard and respect for your father. They were friends and treasured each other’s friendship. I miss my parents every day. My father was one of a kind. He was honest and worked very, very hard all his life. Thank you for your kind words.

  17. Dick Lowenstein

    We moved to our house on Greens Farms Road 30 years ago and have had the same mailman ever since …Joe. We saw him get married, have children (4 or 5) and start sending them off to college. Joe is also a vegetable gardener and at least once a year, he leaves some garden selections in our mailbox. What will we ever do when he retires!