After 50 years with postal service, Grahn still going strong

Norman Grahn sorts the mail before hitting the streets for his postal route. Grahn has worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Beaver Dam for 50 years, with no end in sight.

According to some online sources, the average person entering today’s job market can expect to change jobs between nine and 13 times.

That concept is lost on Norman Grahn.

The Beaver Dam man knows how to keep a commitment.

In August he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Orgine.

And at the end of December, Grahn was honored for 50 years of service to the United States Postal Service — all completed in Beaver Dam.

The onslaught of milestones won’t stop there, however. Norman is ready to blow out the candles on his 75th birthday cake on Jan. 21, and he has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.

“Most people count down the days and months until they can get out of here at age 55, but they just end up changing jobs,” Grahn said. “I could have been out of here 20 years ago, but I found a job I love. I don’t have any hobbies, I enjoy coming to work, seeing the people down here, going on my route and talking to people.”

Grahn served in the Navy from 1953 to 1957, and received his first postal experience on board a destroyer escort.

“I became interested in this kind of work in the Navy,” Grahn said. “I was in communications, and part of my job was the post office. Yeah, we sold a few stamps, but I was the first to go to shore to get the mail and bring it back. I thought to myself, ‘Why not try this on the outside?'”

When Grahn’s time in the Navy ended, he came back to Beaver Dam and figured a job with the postal service would be the way to go.

Grahn missed the cut after his first round of testing and interviews, but he was accepted the second time around and worked part time during the Christmas season in 1958.

On Dec. 27, 1958, Grahn was hired as a substitute carrier and clerk, and nine months later he was moved to full time.

He has never looked back.

After a couple mailmen in the office retired, Grahn quickly found himself with his own route. He changed routes the first couple years before servicing the east end of town from North University Avenue to the east for about 20 years.

Then, in a move that likely extended the length of his postal career, Grahn moved to a route that served the northwest side of the city.

The majority of the route is curbline delivery and apartments with cluster boxes, meaning Grahn spends most of his time in his vehicle and away from the elements.

“It’s a coveted route,” Grahn said. “You stay warm and you stay dry. If I was walking every day I’d probably be gone. The last 25 years have saved my body.”

But the curbline route does have its drawbacks.

“I don’t get to see the people like I used to,” Grahn said. “It used to be that the mailman was the only person some people would see, and they’d say, ‘Hi, how are you today?’ I still get some of that, but it’s not the same.”

In 50 years on the streets, Grahn has only been nipped once by a dog, but has taken his share of minor falls on the ice.

“When you do the same route for 25 years you get to know the dogs you can approach and which ones you can’t,” Grahn said. “Plus, I might just have a dog biscuit in my pocket for a couple of them. As far as the ice, as long as you can still bounce, you’re okay.”

Grahn, who has three children; Bruce (49), Kevin (46) and Shelley (45), has seen plenty of changes in his time at the post office.

One of the biggest, according to Grahn, is the shift from an all-male workforce to one with an equal split of women and men.

Also, there were only eight city routes and three rural routes back in 1958 with stamps selling for four cents. There also wasn’t a zip code back then.

Now there are 13 city routes and six rural routes with stamps going for 42 cents.

Grahn began his time pulling a cart or carrying a bag of mail on his back as he delivered.

“Then we went to jeeps and then to mini-vans,” Grahn said.

Automation has reduced the time postal workers spend in the office. Still, Grahn spends the first couple hours of his day sorting mail before heading to the great outdoors.

“We’re still the last people to hand the mail to the people out there, no matter how much automation there is,” Grahn said. “Unless they replace us with robots we’ll be here forever.”

Grahn will continue to bring the mail to the residents of Beaver Dam, although he admits he’s slowing down a little bit. About a year ago, he took his name off the list for overtime.

“I’m still here, and I plan on being here as long as the body lets me go,” Grahn said. “I enjoy my life just the way it is. Why should I change anything? I see too many people out there sitting on their porch watching the grass grow, watching the birds fly.

“I have to be active,” he added.

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