Roving Rootstown By Darla winn

By Darla winn Published:

This is the story of Smith Dunn, who at this writing, December 1965, in the Record-Courier, was the rural route postal carrier for New Milford. Smith was celebrating his 40th year as a mailman.

He lost his arm when he was about 18, in a corn husking machine. He and his family lived in Pennsylvania at the time and the medical care was primitive. Gangrene set in and his arm had to be cut off three different times. However that did not stop him. He took great pride in doing everything by himself.

His one arm was never a handicap for his job. His mail route covered 53 miles every day and 600 boxes. This article, written by Helen Gless, stated that Smith laughed when he told the story of trying to train a substitute. He trained eight different men, but none could or would handle the route. He served as postmaster and his wife, Evelyn, was assistant postmaster, earning $5 a month.

The oldest post office at that time was located at Thomas Brothers Feed Mill near the Pennsylvania Railroad where mail was picked up and dropped off. It was quite a trick to hang the mail bags properly so the train men could snatch it as it whizzed by.

Smith transferred to Windham but missed his people in the New Milford area so he transferred back. He and his wife lived on Hattrick Road, where he had made most of the furniture. He and his wife lived with their five sons, Robert, Donald, George, Richard and Tom.

This article further stated that the new post office was now located in a new brick building owned by Russell Girton. (Remember this was in 1965, in New Milford.) Postmaster then was John Ingram and his assistant was his wife, Sibyl. Smith served Route 1 and a young service veteran, Gary Michael, serves Route 2. Gary had been with the postal department for six years. They had two women substitutes, Mrs. William Neil and Mrs. Ray Gless. "Both men agree delivering mail is man's work, but these women do a good job and can be depended upon."

(Two interesting facts in this paragraph. 1) When women married in the '60s they took on their husband's first and last names and added a Mrs. in front of their names. They were called Mrs. Tom Jones or Mrs. Bob Smith. I hated it, and I think most women did also, as it has changed. 2) Even then many men would say, "Oh, that's women's work," or a woman could never do that!" Women's jobs were always cleaning, cooking and taking care of the kids. With so many women now in the work force that has also changed. As well it should have.)

Two years later -- an article was published -- Rootstown Residents Resist Postal Change -- written by Margaret Williams -- 2/21/67 (At this time, Rootstown had its own post office.) A meeting was held at the town hall to air grievances the community had in closing the Rootstown Post Office and changing the name from New Milford post office to Rootstown.

Robert Loitz acted as chairman. Rusty Siciliano acted as spokesman for the New Milford people. He read a petition that was signed by many. It stated that New Milford did not want to lose their identity as a community. Among those speaking was Attorney Perry Dickinson, who stated that, "the school is Rootstown, the government is Rootstown and its only natural the post office should be in Rootstown, too."

Bryan Jones (his farm is now the Northeast Ohio Medical University) pointed out that the situation was brought about by the resignation of Rootstown Postmaster Phyllis Dundon. He said the proposed savings of $6,400 was not a logical reason for shutting the post office, but he also stated that Rootstown Post Office was not big enough to handle both New Milford and Rootstown mailings. It was also pointed out that it would be a hardship for any company or business to change their address.

At the meeting they discussed the mail routes for New Milford and Rootstown and would all the mail routes work out of the New Milford post office? Even at that time, Rootstown Township's other mailing routes were Kent, Ravenna, Suffield and Atwater.

So the fact that we presently have four (or is it five) different zip codes for the township is no surprise. At the end of the meeting, Ward Davis stated it should be the concern of everyone that the township be united into one community to attract the necessary industry to make the community grow. "A community spirit united as one, not two, will be the biggest asset the community can give it."

One week later as reported in the Record-Courier, the Rootstown Post Office was to close on March 10, and New Milford mailings would now be Rootstown. (I guess even then one small community could not fight the government!)

So ends my reporting from Helen Davis' scrapbook from the 1960s, and I thank Betty and Dorothy Davis for loaning it to me. Next month, my article will cover stories of or about the holiday season.

Please call or send me emails regarding the best, most unusual or interesting Christmas or New Years that you have ever had. Thanks.

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Send email to: darlawin@att.net.

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