Although the nature of communication in Sunnyvale has changed dramatically during the past one hundred years, history allows us to look back to a time when communication bore little resemblance to today’s high-speed links. One such glimpse into the past is the story of an early postal employee, Joe Stanich, whose forty-five year career began when outgoing mail was still delivered by horse and buggy, to the local train station.
In 1920, when Sunnyvale had a population of only 1,675 people, thirteen-year-old Joe Stanich, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, began working at Sunnyvale’s first post office building, constructed three years earlier on Washington Street. Hired by Charles Fuller, Sunnyvale’s first postmaster, Joe received a salary of ten cents per hour for performing a series of odd jobs which included raising the flag every morning, sweeping floors, and keeping the fire going in the lobby stove and the postmaster’s office so both rooms would be comfortable and warm. That was only the beginning of Joe’s postal career; he would eventually hold every type of post office job.
The delivery of outgoing Sunnyvale mail to the early morning trains was another of Joe’s first postal responsibilities. After the mail had been sorted into two pouches, “North” for San Francisco trains and “South” for San José trains, Joe drove the pouches to the station by horse and buggy. Because some trains did not stop in Sunnyvale, a system was devised to ensure that outgoing mail could be sent. Near the railroad tracks stood a mail crane, a tall pole with hooks. In the mornings, Joe placed his pouch of letters into a larger “catcher pouch” which he hung from the mail crane. As the train sped by, a railway clerk on the train used a pole to grab the outgoing pouch from the hook on the mail crane while, at the same time, “kicking-off” a pouch of incoming mail through the open door of the mail car. Collecting that pouch from the ground beside the tracks, Joe placed it in his wagon and drove it to the post office.
As years went by and his postal responsibilities increased, Joe came to know nearly all of Sunnyvale’s residents. If a letter came through with only a first name on the envelope, chances were good that Joe knew where to deliver it. When a letter addressed to a “lonely, dark-haired soldier boy” appeared at the post office one day, Joe was certain the “soldier boy” was actor Jimmy Stewart who was undergoing flight training at Moffett Field, earning a commission and pilot’s wings in the Army Air Corps. Joe delivered the letter to Jimmy who was, indeed, the intended recipient.
Joe became Sunnyvale’s postmaster in 1957, a position he held until his retirement in 1965.
Sources used for this article:
Sunnyvale Collage II, Volume 2, pg. 293
Sunnyvale, City of Destiny, Mary Jo Ignoffo, 1993, pg. 34
Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot, Starr Smith, 2005, pg. 31
by Linda Kubitz