Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum mail delivery a family affair

 

September 21, 2017

Lois E. Johnson

Tracy Matuseski, Sarah Sedlander, Karla Hofford and Holly Gamst all enjoy working together at the Barnum Post Office before the three mail carriers head out on their routes. Matuseski, Hofford and Gamst are siblings.

Good-natured banter fills the sorting room of the Barnum Post Office each morning as the three rural mail carriers and the manager sort the mail and get it ready to deliver.

The mail carriers, Tracy Matuseski, Karla Hofford and Holly Gamst, know each other very well. They grew up together as siblings in the same house.

Sarah Sedlander is the manager of the post office and helps the trio get on with their day.

"I look forward to coming to work every day," said Gamst. "It's not everyone that gets to work with family every day."

But Gamst knows what it is like to work with family from previous experience.

"Karla (Hofford) and I worked at Gamper's for 20 years," she said. "But it was different to work with in-laws (Greg and Vicki Gamst owned Gamper's at the time). I guess we're pretty lucky."

Hofford is a veteran of delivering mail in Barnum. Matuseski just came to Barnum in March. All three still live in Moose Lake, where they grew up. Their parents were David and Helen Matuseski. Helen still lives in that community.

There were nine children in the family. Matuseski is the oldest, Hofford is the next oldest and Gamst is the youngest of the mail carriers.

"One sister lives in Japan, two sisters live in Forest Lake and the rest live around here," Matuseski explained.

"I started part-time in Moose Lake as a substitute mail carrier," said Hofford. "I came here in 1999 as a full-time mail carrier."

Matuseski said he started as a substitute mail carrier in 1984 and took over a full-time route in 1991. He delivered mail in Moose Lake all of those years.

"I worked under quite a few postmasters," he said. "I am thinking about retiring in a couple of years."

There are three routes in Barnum. Hofford has Route 1, the Blackhoof-Sandy Lake area; Matuseski has Route 2 to the Mahtowa area; and Gamst has Route 3, an auxiliary route in and near Barnum.

The mail carriers have seen the type of mail they deliver change over the years.

"There isn't much first class mail anymore," said Matuseski. "Now there are a lot of packages. A lot of people order paper products, like paper towels and toilet paper, through the mail. They order anything now, even mattresses. I had to deliver a barbecue grill one day and Karla (Hofford) has a stroller to deliver today."

Mail carriers are required to have a vehicle that can carry large quantities of mail, Matuseski explained. He said he and Gamst drive vans and Hofford said she has an SUV.

"Karla (Hofford) is a real good packer," said Gamst. "She can get a lot in her vehicle."

But there are times when the mail carriers have so many packages that they have to return to the post office for another load.

"I have to come back at Christmastime and get another load," said Hofford. "There are a lot more packages. Sometimes Sarah (Sedlander) will meet me, if she has time, and bring more packages. Then I don't have to come back to the post office."

As the carriers set out on their routes, they all said they enjoy the solitude.

"I like my hours alone in the car," said Gamst. "It gives me time to get my mental things done."

"I like being by myself on the route," said Matuseski. "And I like meeting people, too."

Hofford enjoys talking to the people on her route.

"You get to know your customers," she said. "When they are on vacation, you keep an eye on their place. You get to know people and visit with some every day. I've lost a few older people on my route. They get to be almost like family, and I miss them."

Watching out for people is something mail carriers in small communities do.

"When the mail starts to build up in the boxes, I'll go and check on them," said Matuseski. "Most of the time they forgot to get the mail."

The siblings get back to the post office in the afternoon after the mail has been delivered.

"I usually get back around 2 or 3, or sometimes as late as 4 p.m.," said Matuseski.

"It all depends on the mail volume," said Hofford. "But I usually get back between 2 and 4 p.m."

"I see the kids off to school before I come to work, and I am home when they get home from school," said Gamst.

Meanwhile, the siblings are enjoying working together and with their manager.

"Sarah (Sedlander) is very pleasant and easy to work with," said Hofford. "I've never seen Sarah in a bad mood. It is a good working atmosphere."

"That sure makes a difference when you go to work in the morning," Gamst said.

But there are days that try the patience of the mail carriers.

"Sometimes you look at a pile of mail and think it is never going to end," said Hofford. "But you work at it and get it done, and then you come back and do it all over again the next day."

"We're pretty busy from the time we get here until we get done," said Matuseski. "That's another thing that I like about it. It makes the day go faster when there is no down time. Most of us want to get the job done."

 

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