Chilhowie native Eddie Doss is sleeping a little later this week and lingering over his morning coffee a little longer as he enters a new chapter in his life. After almost 45 years as a federal employee, Doss hung up his mail carrier’s uniform for the final time last Friday.
Following his 1974 graduation from Chilhowie High School, Doss spent four-and-a-half years in the U.S. Air Force. When he returned home, he worked at the Brunswick Corp. in Marion and later on a survey crew for Dewberry and Davis before taking the Civil Service Test. He was offered a job with the U.S. Postal Service and, in February 1981, he went to work under Postmaster Elmer Rouse at the Marion Post Office as a dual appointee, a position the post office no longer has. He was a clerk/carrier, he explained.
“I came in at 5 a.m. to unload the trucks and break the mail down. I would help case the mail on the clerk’s side. If needed, I would carry the mail for the rest of the day,” Doss said.
After about five years as a duel appointee, Doss made regular carrier.
“It is a good place to work. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Marion. It’s hot in summer and cold in winter. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. I was able to provide for my family and serve as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a great platform to witness and encourage people along the way. That’s the part I’m going to miss. I believe God’s hand was in this,” Doss said.
Working as a mail carrier on a city route, as Doss’ route in the town of Marion is called, is not without its challenges. He identifies the three most challenging aspects of the job as dealing with difficult people, delivering the mail in all kinds of weather, and being attacked by dogs.
“Dealing with the public is a challenge at times. The weather is also a challenge, especially in the winter. Carriers are killed by dog attacks every year. I have been bitten a few times. One time a pit bull jumped through a screen door and knocked me off the porch,” Doss said.
From unloading trucks and sorting mail by hand early in the morning, Doss has seen several changes come to the postal service in the 44 years and eight months he has worked. Mail carriers now report to work at 8 a.m. A machine helps sort the mail. The mail carriers go through their packages and certified and registered mail items that must be signed out before getting out on the street around 10 a.m. to deliver the mail. Doss admits that working for the postal service can be a high-stress job that is frequently changing.
“The postal service is evolving. We have to change our practices to keep up with everybody else. Everything is now automated. A lot of the mail is now worked by machines using barcodes. You have to adapt to the changes. The mail is 24-7; the mail never stops. There are always connections being made,” Doss said, adding that carriers are now on GPS and must conform to time management practices.
With the advent of technology and things like email and online bill pay and paperless billing, Doss said the post office is seeing a decline in first-class mail; however, online shopping at places like Amazon has resulted in a 40 percent increase in parcel post deliveries over the last couple of years. The location of Emory & Henry College in Marion has also led to an increase in volume on the route Doss carried.
“I want to do a good job. I want people to get their mail and their packages. My postmaster, Crystal Pruitt, has been the best manager I have ever worked under. I credit her with the Marion Post Office being one of the top offices as far as delivery. She hasn’t been postmaster that long, but she has made a tremendous impact,” Doss said.
“People see you out there and think all we do is drive around and stick mail in a box. It’s more than that and it’s not for everybody. Some people can’t handle all that’s involved in being a mail carrier,” he added.
Doss hopes to become more active in his church, Freedom Tabernacle, now that he is retired.
“I have been invited to go on mission trips, but, because of work, I have never been able to do that. That’s an avenue I may pursue,” he said, adding that he hopes to become more involved in other church programs as well.
Doss also plans to volunteer with Hospice and may work part time. He also will spend time hunting, a hobby he enjoys. He likes doing yard work with his wife of 40 years, Kim, who is already retired, and traveling and hopes to join Kim in spending more time with their four granddaughters. They have a daughter, Gretchen, and two sons, Marshall and Tyler. Gretchen and Marshall each have two daughters.
Doss acknowledges that he’s a bit anxious about making this major change. “I’ve worked since I was 14 years old. I don’t think I can just turn off the switch and be done. I will just take each day as it comes. It’s been a good career. I’ve really enjoyed my time as a mail carrier. I’ve been blessed with health and strength. Hopefully, the Lord will continue to bless me as I turn the chapter,” Doss said.
One of his biggest hopes for retirement is to be a blessing to many. “If you want to be blessed, be a blessing,” Doss said.