VINTON–Vickey Snyder began working for the United States Postal Service in 1973 when the price of a postage stamp was eight cents. She retired on January 30, 2013, after thirty-nine years and one month on the job. For the last twenty years she worked as a Distribution Clerk at the front counter in the Vinton branch.
Snyder was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, where her father worked in the mines. The family moved to the Washington, D.C., area when she was four or five years old.
In high school, Snyder wanted to become an airline stewardess. She decided to take the Postal Exam to get a job to earn some quick money to finance that dream. She took a job with the Post Office in 1973 and never left their employ.
When Snyder took the Postal Exam in high school, the test involved mainly memory and comprehension. It was a difficult test that not everyone passed. In 1973 much of the work of the Post Office, including sorting mail, was done by hand. Employees had to have a good memory to remember sorting schemes to get trays and trays of mail to the carriers each morning.
Snyder scored well on the exam and was trained on the job by the USPS, one of seven employees sorting the mail each day at the Laurel location. She was also trained in handling money and in stamp procedures at the front counter back when there were no metering machines and stamps were licked and glued on, not self-adhesive. Heavy parcels delivered to the back door each day were also sorted by hand.
She spent most of her Postal Service years working as the front counter clerk in Maryland and in Vinton. She has never been a mail carrier.
She worked for the USPS in Laurel, Maryland, for almost twenty years and then decided to move south to a less hectic lifestyle than what she and her family found in the area between Washington, D.C, and Baltimore where they lived.
“An opening came up in Vinton,” said Snyder. “I loved it here and moved. We wanted something smaller; small town living is good.”
Snyder now lives in the Hardy area. She is the caregiver for her mother who is in her eighties.
Snyder has been content at her job through the years, mainly due to the good company she keeps.
“I have a good group of co-workers who all get along,” said Snyder. “There’s no competition in this job. I have always had good bosses and supervisors in Vinton. We can joke around together and we all share one purpose–to keep the mail moving. Plus my co-workers are willing to be flexible, which has helped in caring for my mother.”
The hardest part of her job is the sometimes long hours, especially during the Christmas holiday season, when ten hours days are the norm because of the high volume of mail that passes through the Vinton office.
While the Vinton Post Office itself has changed little over her twenty years here, the way mail is handled has altered dramatically with almost complete mechanization of the process. Email and online bill-paying have also reduced the volume of mail handled, as has growing competition from private delivery companies like FedEx and UPS.
Snyder has the most seniority of the twenty-two employees at the Vinton office. She has elected to take an early retirement offer from the USPS, joined by about 25,500 others nationwide. The Postal Service plans to trim its workforce to 402,000 employees by 2016 to adapt to America’s changing mail trends.
Snyder could have retired anyway based on age and years of service, but anticipated the buy-out with the controversy over Post Office funding and closings in recent months.
Though the number of addresses in the nation has increased by nearly 18 million in the past ten years, the number of employees who handle the delivery load has already decreased by more than 200,000. With about 572,000 workers, the USPS is the third largest employer in the United States after the federal government and Wal-Mart.
According to Business Week magazine, “The USPS is a wondrous American creation. Six days a week it delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail—40 percent of the entire world’s volume. For the price of a 44 cent stamp, you can mail a letter anywhere within the nation’s borders. The service will carry it by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Mailmen on snowmobiles take it to the wilds of Alaska. If your recipient can no longer be found, the USPS will return it at no extra charge. It may be the greatest bargain on earth.”
The Vinton Post Office is not a processing facility and is in no danger of closing. In fact, the Vinton branch is one of the busiest in the area, convenient to customers on their way to Roanoke from the Smith Mountain Lake area, Bonsack, and Bedford County, in addition to local traffic.
The Vinton office chain of command includes the Postmaster, the supervisor, two full time front counter employees, including Snyder, and two part-time, in addition to nine mail carriers who serve within the limits of the Town of Vinton, five carriers who work rural routes, and two relief carriers who cover routes for others who are ill or on vacation, or during busy times of the year.
Each day, the Vinton Post Office receives first class mail that has already been sorted at the Roanoke Processing Center, sorts bulk mail by machine, and sorts and scans parcels by hand, including 300-400 packages at holiday time for FedEx and UPS.
Snyder is going to miss the interaction with customers, some of whom she sees on a daily basis, many over the entire course of her career.
“We have lots of regular customers who come in several times a week, but we also have a lot of new faces with people moving into the area,” said Snyder.
Outside of the Post Office, Snyder describes herself as a “standard homebody.” Her plans for retirement include working on her house, taking a photography course at Virginia Western, and getting in some traveling to distant places.
“Vickey is pretty much a fixture at the front window,” said Vinton Postmaster Kevin Benson. “I know customers will really miss her.”