In today’s world where people are more likely to be looking at a screen than making eye contact with one another, Tom Anderson stands out. A cheerful guy that will engage you in a good laugh before he hands out the daily mail, Anderson’s delivery was a part of the day to which many people looked forward.
A reliable presence in Turlock, where he has been a postman for the past 31 years, Anderson used his job as a way to interact and positively impact the lives of locals. As a young man fresh out of the Navy, Anderson applied for a part time job at the Turlock Post Office in 1983 never expecting that he would amount to 35 years of government service. Having dabbled in management at one point, Anderson eventually decided that his calling was to be on the streets of Turlock interacting with people every day.
“It may not be as glamorous and it may not pay as much as other positions, but it lets me be a part of people’s lives. As I like to say, ‘I like to bring in a little sunshine to people’ and at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day,” said Anderson.
After 20 years on the job, the downtown route, known as City 5 in the post office, became available and after some twisting of the management’s arm, Anderson was able to take the route by foot with his pushcart instead of a vehicle. Anderson and his pushcart have become a recognizable presence in downtown Turlock where he delivers mail each day to a variety of business that all share the same positive opinion of him.
“He is the best, there just is not filling his shoes. You can be having a bad day and Tom walks in and he can totally change that,” said Natalie Souza, an employee of the Chic Shack downtown.
A regular work day includes six hours of walking over 10 miles and Anderson can hardly walk down the street without cars honking at him to say hello or people stopping him to say they remember him as their childhood postman. As a child, Anderson’s dad was in the Air Force, which caused the family to move to several different states over the years before he ended up in Atwater. With such a nomadic background, Anderson did not anticipate having such a solid career or that he would settle down and eventually retire in Turlock. However, Anderson attended a letter carriers’ picnic at Donnelly Park with a coworker who brought along his daughter Anne and Anderson eventually married her and had three daughters and one son. Not only has he forged a family at home, but at work as well.
“The post office has been very, very good to me. It really is a family,” said Anderson.
Anderson made an impression on the folks of Turlock by serving as reliable of a presence as the mail in their postbox. People have forged friendships with Anderson, even if he is responsible for delivering their bills.
“He’s just friendly. He’ll stop and talk to you for a while. He’s playful and fun and just a great guy,” said Richard Hieber, a neighbor along Anderson’s residential route.
While leaving his job as a postman will mark a major milestone in his life, leaving a career of such longevity does not come without apprehensions. Anderson admitted that the thought of taking off his blue uniform and removing his recognizable hat causes some concerns over about losing his identity, but he hopes that he will maintain his connections with the community even if he is not playing a role in their daily life. Judging by the warmth that the community showed Anderson on his final downtown route — a round of applause at Main Street Footers, cars honking on the street, and more hugs than he can count on ten fingers — Anderson will continue to make a mark in Turlock long after he retires his uniform.
“It’s his personality. He’s great. When I first came here he was so welcoming, so kind. I will always remember him, he’s just the best,” said a teary Lori Ayala, a clerk at the Turlock Post Office.
Anderson intends to spend his free time gardening, brewing beer at home and taking advantage of having Saturdays off, which will afford him the opportunity to visit friends and family, something he often could not do as a postman.
“He is one of the hardest working carriers; he is amazing to work with. He is so honest to his job and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with him,” said Post Office supervisor Jasmine Kaur.
Anderson has witnessed many changes as a postman noting the decrease in mail and the increase in stamp prices over the years, but one constant that has remained is his passion for the job.
“It’s been a great ride,” Anderson said.