Eugene Feio was interviewed by Mary Giles on November 19, 1976. He spoke about his role as both constable and (acting) postmaster.
This evening we are going to talk all around the subjects that interest us. Mr. Feio, you have just recently been made Postmaster haven’t you?
Actually, I’m not the Postmaster right now. The appointment hasn’t come through. I’ve been before the Selection Board in Boston and they’ve weighed the thing out and I think that probably I will be the Postmaster, but as it stands right now, I’m Acting Postmaster (of Westport).
How many Post Offices are there in Westport at the present time? I know there used to be more than there are now.
Yes, there was a consolidation back in 1965. At that time, each office was an individual post office. There was one at the Narrows on Route 6; there was one at the Head of Westport – the same building that’s being operated now.
Was that the main post office?
No, the main post office is on Route 6, and then there was one at South Westport Corners.
Now that’s gone, isn’t it?
Yes, that was eliminated. There was one at Central Village, the building that’s being used now, and one at Westport Point. After the consolidation, the one at Central Village and the one at the Head of Westport were made classified stations. After the consolidation, a new office was built on Route 6, which is the main office, but the two stations are stations of the main office. The one at Westport Point remains and that is an individual post office as it is.
We have an awful lot of mail here – are there gradations in types of post offices? A village of 500 would have to have a post office of some sort and then here we are up in the thousands of people – what do you call the difference? We’re not like New York City, etc.
Well, every post office has every operation. You can buy anything in the Westport Office that you could by in New York City, the only thing is that we don’t handle as much of it, but as far as the mail here in town is concerned, we’re handling up to ten to twelve thousand pieces of first class letter forms a day, in the neighborhood of four to five hundred parcels a day and maybe 30,000 pieces of flat material – magazines, newspapers and advertising material. So we’re handling quite a volume of mail.
Yes, indeed! Does that give you any difference in status – postally – than it did when you weren’t handling nearly this much?
Oh, yes – yes. The post office in Central Village for instance – when I went there in 1958, the total profit that post office made for the year of 1958 was $1,554.00. I don’t know what the profit was in 1965 at the time of the consolidation, but the gross business was $90,000.
A great growth, wasn’t it?
Yes, and then when we consolidated, these offices became first class offices.
So Central Village became a first class post office.
What determined the fact that the South Westport Post Office no longer exists?
Well, I think it was all a political move. I fought it. In the basement of the Town Hall, I was fighting the consolidation. I always thought it was a political thing. I wanted to see the one at South Westport remain. If it couldn’t stay there as a post office, I wanted to see it stay there as a station. I lost the battle as far as the South Westport Post Office was concerned, but I think I’ve gained a lot as far as the Central Village and the Head of Westport offices.
How long have you been with the post office?
I went with them in November 1958 – 18 years ago – before that, I worked with my father in the garage at Central Village and I was – I am – with the Police Department at the time.
In other words, your association with the Police Department is longer than your association with the post office?
Yes, Yes. That’s right.
I was 21 years old when I started to work with the police; I was just old enough at the time to go on.
And, what kind of rank or status do you have now?
A patrolman – also the town constable. I just change hats, like the small town sheriff, he switches hats and he’s a fireman, etc.
You’ve never been with the Fire Department have you?
No, no. I haven’t.
How does it (the postal service) operate? It seems to me today to operate very fast, even during this strike of the United Parcel; it seems to me that you put the mail through terribly fast.
We had a little problem when the strike first started. The day after the strike started, I had three truckloads of parcel post come into the office. Well, this is a real problem because we have to handle this with the same personnel and they wouldn’t let us hire any extra help. We had to do this with our own help, and we did get it out. We were about three days, I would say, and we were caught up with the work. I don’t think any other system could have done it the way we did, we have a very dedicated group here in Westport. The postal workers worked overtime – they worked long hours and most of it was at no charge to the post office.
How many people have their mail brought to their boxes in the post office in proportion to rural delivery?
I’d say 3,000 on rural deliver – carried by five carriers – approximately 600 people a day to deliver to and we probably have 500 boxes rented in the town. To have rural delivery, they must live at least a quarter of a mile from the office itself. For many people, a daily trip to the post office is part of the fun of seeing people and feeling a part of things, and some whose box is quite a distance from their house, have to go out anyway.
A number of years ago, in fact before the man who preceded me as postmaster, Chester Brackett – before him, was Abraham Potter, and he had his post office at the corner of Main Road and Adamsville Road, where the lobster place is now – there was a general store there, and you’d walk into the general store and at the side and, at the side as you’d walk into the store, was an open counter, and probably 10 or 12 post office boxes. The general store had everything from ‘eight for a penny’ candies to bolts of cloth.
I can remember Mabel Crosby telling me about getting groceries and things there. Wasn’t there a little building between the general store (Colonel Cassidy later had a resale place there) and the Woods home – I think it was still Abraham Potter’s estate. And then there was a general store down at the Point – in fact, there were two general stores.
Yes, that’s right. Well, every little community – every town had its general store. In fact, there was a store at the corner of Drift Road and Hix Bridge Road years ago. I say at the corner, I’m wrong, it was one house south of the corner on Drift Road. If you remember, there was a house that had a large bay window in the front and there was a general store there. South Westport also had one, where Manchester’s poultry business is now.
I can remember Hartley Howe saying that there were two general stores at the Point, and depending on whether the country went Democratic or Republican, the post office moved back and forth between the stores.
Yes, I’ve been told about that.
Have you heard any tales of when the mail was brought for a penny or two pennies in stagecoaches years ago?
Well, only stories of what I heard years ago, that the mail was brought by the same route as the stagecoach, but it was brought by automobile. In other words, it went to Fall River or New Bedford, it went to New Bedford and was transferred at Lincoln Park, well, it wasn’t Lincoln Park at that time – but in that area, when it was transferred down to Reed Road, and before the bridge was put in there, the stage would cross the river where the cut outs are now in the bank of the river. That’s where the stagecoach used to pull through there.
The stage coach, with the mail and passengers, whatever passengers they would bring out of New Bedford. There was another stagecoach that took people from Little Compton to New Bedford. I don’t think it took mail, that is, it was a travel route for people and it changed horses where Lincoln Park is.
Yes! The man who ran the stagecoach was the grandfather of Mr. John Hart’s wife, Mr. Hart down in Adamsville, across from the pond. Her grandfather ran that stagecoach, and if someone wanted to buy something in New Bedford, they would give him a message, and he would pick it up for them. They could do their shopping that way.
The post office never got involved in any shopping?
No, no. That was just the private (stage driver) that did that. I remember that being done, even after it became motorized. I remember the Star Route driver would do that (shop) as a favor to them. He’d pick things up as he went along. Say someone would need a pair of shoes. While he was in New Bedford, he’d have a layover of an hour, probably two hours. He’d run around and pick this stuff up for the people.
Now, this was the postal service?
Well, this was the man himself. He was working for the postal system, but these men were usually under contract. They weren’t part of the postal system, so they were more or less on their own time.
What were you saying about Mabel Crosby going up in her horse and buggy? I remember the first time I ever rode in a horse buggy was with Mabel Crosby.
Your father always had a car.
When I was a very small boy, he had horses on the farm. They were to work, not road horses.
Well, Mabel went all over town. She raised vegetables, and she went all over town selling the vegetables, and the few things she needed to buy, she went up to Potter’s store, I guess it was, and up to the Post Office.
I used to spend a lot of time in this house (Crosby/Giles). In fact, when we walked in that door, there was a blackboard on that wall. Of course, that was an attraction for the kids that came down. We’d stand there by the hour and draw pictures on the blackboard – it was really great – and, I remember a loom.
It was in that room there, the ceiling wasn’t as tall as the loom, and the ceiling had to be plastered where the loom made a hole.
I can picture her working it with her feet, and she had some way of slamming it so she could work the threads tightly.
How much did it cost to send a letter in the mail in your earliest memory?
I guess I go back to two cents, that’s the earliest. There was the penny postcard; it seems to me that when I went into the service, the first class postage then was three cents. Then, it kept going up and up and up.
And the up and up is due to what?
Oh, the cost of salary increases, the cost of operating help, cost of operating vehicles, cost of operating offices – heating, lighting. But, they do think that this year they will not have to increase the postage.
People are going to think twice before they write a letter.
Of course, the post office is measured out in quarters, and this past quarter is the first time the post office has operated in the black. I think it’s due to the United Parcel strike and we weren’t allowed to hire any additional help – se we had to get it done with the help we had and no additional expenses. It proves it can be done. I have seven women working for me. I think the workload was too heavy for them, but we did it, we sure did.
Do you have any men?
Only the carriers – the drivers. The counter clerks are all women.
Am I asking the questions that seem the most relevant to you?
I think we’re going great.
How does it feel to be both a policeman and a postmaster, almost?
I don’t let the two conflict. I think both the post office and the police department would frown on this if I did. I’m dedicated to the post office eight hours a day, and this is what I give them – ten hours a day and eleven hours a day if it is necessary.
How much time do you give the police?
Well, the police work isn’t a steady job – most of it is on the constable part of it. I can make my own hours. Like I was telling you tonight, I have a little job to do when I leave here tonight. This may take me an hour or so, and then I’ll be through. Maybe tomorrow night there’ll be nothing, and two or three hours the next night. I really enjoy police work. I think this is my first love. I couldn’t – I had a chance to go into the post office – I had a chance there of making a greater annual salary than I could with the police department, and I felt that I owed this to my family – if I could give them a better life with it, then that’s what I should do.
It’s great that you live so close to the post office you started in. Of course, you don’t live so close to the central post office.
I think that’s why I went into the post office at all. The man was retiring and the Civil Service examination came open, and I applied for it and I thought, ‘I don’t want to slip on this thing – I want to give it everything I have,’ so I got all the material and studied up on it and prepared myself for the examination.
I think Westport is lucky, because you’re a bright man, as was your father, and so is your wife, so I think we’re lucky.
The day I came up for the examination, five of the men were disqualified – they were physically handicapped beyond the point of being able to do the job. I didn’t think they should have been disqualified, but that’s the way the government looked at it. They give extra credits for disabilities of some sort, but in the cases of these particular men, they couldn’t handle the job.
Now, Mr. Pineau (Alfred) was postmaster down at the Point. He retired and Mrs. Pineau came in, and now someone else will have come in – is it someone who knows the ropes?
They haven’t made an appointment yet. They have a person down there that is the Officer in Charge, and that person stands a very good chance of being appointed.
Who does the appointing?
There’s a Board of Governors.
It has nothing to do with the Town government?
No, it doesn’t. On the Selection Board that I sat at, one person was from New Jersey, one from New York City and one from the Boston area. These people who sat on the Selection Board didn’t know each other – it’s all impartial. They didn’t know you and they didn’t know each other. They each had their own questions to ask, and I was to answer them the way I thought they should be answered, and if I’d come up with the right answers, maybe I was chosen, I don’t know.
I think we’re awfully lucky to have such a good postal system. I know New York City’s wasn’t so good—it was too big and too hard to manage.
They have different problems there. You don’t even know the person that’s working with you. There are so many people working in that office, you don’t even know the person that’s working with you. In a system like ours, I went to school with them, I’ve known them all my life – it’s more like a family thing.
How does the (Westport) Harbor Post Office work?
It’s been closed now, and it’s being taken care of by the Little Compton carrier now. The post office isn’t bound by boundary lines. We have carriers that are running into Fall River with the mail. The United States Post Office has no relation to state or county or town lines.