Mail carriers bear witness to so many people’s lives when they keep the same route through much of their careers. They see the residents’ newborn babies brought home from the hospital, and they watch them grow up. They mourn the passing of their elderly customers. They watch the houses change hands.
Jeff Davis, a longtime Lutherville-Timonium mail carrier, has attended several weddings of customers on his route, having watched the new bride or groom grow up from infancy to adulthood. For these young people, Davis has always been a part of their lives, a nearly daily visitor to their house.
The kids knew him from school, too.
“I loved Hampton Elementary School,” said Davis, “because I was their mailman forever, and I knew all those kids. I was ‘Mailman Jeff.’ I would take comic books and coloring books to the kindergarten.”
He’s been privy to intimate moments—even death. Becoming concerned when a favorite elderly customer on his route hadn’t retrieved her mail for days, he found her dead inside her home.
“I found her in her house, because her family was out of town, and her mail was backing up. And I went in and found her,” he sighed.
It was actually the second time he’d checked up on her.
“First time I did it,” said Davis, “she hadn’t gotten her mail in two days. I thought, oh man, Miss Agnes. … So I walked into her kitchen, and she leaned around the corner and went, ‘Boo!’”
The relationships between mail carriers and their customers go both ways. When Davis’ father passed away in 1994, he was greeted at the funeral by at least 60 of the neighbors on his route, who turned out to support him in his time of need.
The Deereco Road post office backs right up against I-83. To stand on the loading dock is to look between the taught, steel cables that support the entire building, and see the cars whizzing by.
The mail carriers will stand on the loading dock and silently honor the funeral processions that slowly wind up the interstate, to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, when a police officer or a firefighter has fallen. On Wednesday, April 27, many of the Deereco workers gathered on the dock to pay their final respects to Maryland’s revered governor, William Donald Schaefer, as he made his last trip.
Bill Kraus, now retired to the Eastern Shore area, is the only Lutherville-Timonium mail carrier to have seen three post offices. He started his career in the 1950s when the small Lutherville Post Office was in the old Pollyette building, now a private home, on the corner of Seminary and Front avenues, at the railroad tracks. The Timonium Post Office was separate—a tiny building that stood where Maria’s Pizza is now, on York Road.
The two posts offices combined in 1957 to form the Lutherville-Timonium Post Office on Ridgely road, now sporting a new store front and a sign that reads, “Coming Soon: Advance Auto Parts.” The Hollywood Video sign still hangs against the brick, even though the video store has been gone for years.
The Deereco location claims businesses other than the post office, as its massive size allows. Magooby’s Joke House calls it home, as does a batting range, a gun range, and even an armored car lot that civilians can’t find in any GPS system.
The post office only takes up a third of the building’s total depth.
But before any of that, before a Japanese architect named Pey designed the unique, behemoth of a building that has been written about all over the world, and before architectural students began touring the interiors to see the sweeping, curved, concrete roofing system, it was simply dirt.
“We used to ride our motorcycles out here,” said Davis, who was born and raised in nearby Towson. “It was all dirt.”
So much has changed.
Lutherville residents, unhappy with trekking all the way up to the northern-most part of Timonium to get to their post office, successfully campaigned for a neighborhood satellite post office in 1988. For 10 years, Lucy Smith operated a small, independent contract office next to Kurtz Avenue, and then another one briefly near where Metro Food market occupied what’s now office space behind the Borders and Old Navy stores.
From 2006 to 2009, Drew Friedman operated another small post office in the same location. Friedman and his family recently relocated to Arkansas, and Lutherville is now without a local, neighborly base to drop off mail and buy stamps for the first time since the 1850s.
In a 1998 Baltimore Sun article, Smith was quoted as saying, "This post office is far more for me than just a job. The people that came in are my friends.”
Many Luthervillians feel the same sadness about losing a friendly, small-town post office, and moving onward and upward to the massive Deereco Road location.
But none of them have lost their mail carriers, who continue to drive the lengths of their streets, witness their lives, and touch them all with their enduring tenacity and long memories.