Since 1969, Charles Martin has seen a lot of changes - in addresses. From finding baby chickens and ducks, fenders and bumpers to tadpoles in the mail, Martin, a Drumore postal carrier for the Holtwood Post Office, is about to retire after 37 years.
Martin began as a postal carrier when he was rumbling around in his '66 Plymouth Fury with a monster V-8 engine while Congressman Norman Eshleman was in office.
Although Martin was too young to vote, he took the open civil service test and a year and a half later, he received political appointment. One minute Martin was working on his father's farm, and the next, the postmaster at Drumore said he had been selected by Congressman Eshleman to join the postal service.
The dream of being a fighter pilot once lit up his life, but when the dream failed to come true, Martin used his Plymouth Fury to light up his postal work.
"I can remember one time when I first started working, the lights went out in the post office as I was sorting mail," Martin said.
Work began at dawn and Martin processed nearly 5,000 pieces of mail a day including magazines, letters and parcels, which goes out to more than 540 residents. He went outside, hopped in the car he loved and pulled it up to the window. After he flicked the lights on so the post office would be illuminated, he went back to work.
In nearly four decades he as conquered power outages, an anthrax scare and inclement weather.
During the anthrax postal scare, Martin kept his cool. "You know, anthrax is around us. Like if a farmer puts a piece of mail in the box after he's been with the animals and his hands are dirty, we get a little exposure."
Noreasters were tackled without reservation. "I look at it like this," Martin said. "If you dread something, it's going to be a long day. And where else do they pay me to play in the snow?"
This work has paid off. Martin has won numerous awards.
Since 1991, he has been a rural academy instructor "where I give instructions to new carriers to show them how to get the job done and handle the mail," said Martin.
"That's just so he can goof off and not carry the mail," said Post Master Roger Hippensteel, smiling.
Martin has also been involved with national studies for new procedures in how to handle mail, he has been the State Vice President and President for three years each for the Rural Letter Carrier Association, and spent 30 years as a union steward. But that's not all. Martin has also reached the 30-Year 1 Million Mile Safe Driving Award. "I haven't had an accident in 30 years," Martin said.
"By the time you get down to everything he's done, it's hard to find time for him to carry the mail," joked Hippensteel.
Despite all that, he said the proudest moment of his life was when he married his wife, Joan, a homemaker who has raised their two sons Justin and Chris.
Though plagued with pet peeves like people who fail to use the correct street address and bad drivers, he said "I get along well with my co-workers. I'm going to miss the people the most."
"We both benefit from each other's knowledge," said Hippensteal.
With retirement right around the corner "I don't look forward to running out of work and staring at the walls. I've got a lot to do like drive my wife crazy," Martin joked.
He is a member of Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church where he and Joan are the financial secretaries. In the past he has taught Sunday School and was a youth leader, a session member and has worked in placing members in a database. He plans on working around the home, playing on the computer and writing a program for databases that doesn't run off of Windows, and tinkering around with mechanics.
"So as you can see, I don't have a shortage of things to do," Martin said.
Martin plans on traveling to Alaska in a few years because "It's always been in the back of my mind to go with my wife when I retire. But I won't send a postcard, 'cause I know you'd like to be there, too."
Hippensteel, a year younger than the 59-year-old Martin, said "If retirement works out well, call my wife and tell her. If it doesn't, tell me, and I'll just keep working."