A Q&A with two of Manayunk’s unsung heroes.
By Megan Douress
Photography courtesy of Manayunk.com
A dictionary definition of “community spirit” is “friendliness and understanding between local people.” It’s no surprise that Best of Manayunk’s two Community Spirit Award winners are Anna Barron and Mike Pewor, who have delivered top-notch customer service to Main Street for decades. Anna has been a mail carrier with the USPS for nearly 20 years – spending her entire career in Manayunk. Mike has been a UPS delivery driver for 33 years and has had the Main Street route since 1995. Neither one of them are locals to the area – both commuting nearly one hour every day. Even still, it’s apparent that they both have love for our neighborhood.
What originally interested you in working for USPS/UPS?
Anna: My first instinct was to work inside at a post office. I didn’t really think I was going to be a mail carrier. After I was hired, I did try to test into work inside, but there aren’t many inside jobs at the post office. Everything is automated. Once I became a carrier, one of the postmasters said, “Why don’t you try to become a manager?” So, I thought it would be an ideal way to get inside instead of being out in the weather. I was going to do it, but it wasn’t the right setting for me. It was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t become a manager.
Mike: I was working inside as an unloader when I was 19 or 20 years old. There was an open position for a driver, so I just thought I would give it a shot. I have an associate’s degree in drafting, but I figured I wasn’t good inside. Everyone would say, “Why don’t you be a ‘brown driver?’” as they call us. One thing led to another and I’ve been doing it ever since.
How did you get your start delivering to the merchants on Main Street?
Anna: I started in Manayunk when I started with the post office. When you first get the job, you start as a sub, so I did that for about five years. Originally, my assigned post office was in Bustleton. On my first day, me and another carrier came into the office as subs and they were like, “One of you has to go to Manayunk.” They wanted to be fair so they asked what our postal exam scores were and she got a little bit higher. She preferred to stay in Bustleton so I ended up in Manayunk, which was probably about the same distance from my house. I lived in Mayfair at the time. So, I was in Manayunk and it took me a while to become a regular carrier.
About three years ago, one of our other carriers, Rose, retired. They made some changes to my route so I could cover some of her blocks. It’s been about four years that I’ve been delivering to the bulk of Main Street.
Mike: I started out in North Philly in 1985. I basically got on the Manayunk route because I was tired of walking packages around Germantown. The houses are just so far apart. I love that I can take two steps and be at the next door here.
I started my route in Manayunk in 1995, and I’ll never forget my first day – it was the day of the OJ Simpson verdict. I remember when Ma Jolie was there at 4340 Main Street. I’m walking down the street thinking, “Where the hell is everybody?” The verdict came in. So, I actually watched the verdict in the upstairs of Ma Jolie.
What’s a typical day on the job like?
Anna: I start at 8 a.m. I get my mail and parcels together and put them in sequence order by street. We mostly deliver parcels but we still have our mail that we have to get to customers. I leave between 9:30-10 a.m. I usually load up my truck and my first street is Levering Street. My route is Main Street and all side streets from Levering Street to Shurs Lane. You stop, you get out, and you carry the street’s mail with any parcels you can carry. If not, the bigger parcels you drop off. Within four hours, you have to take a 10-minute break. You have to take your lunch break within six hours. I usually take it between 2:30-3 p.m. depending on my day. I’m usually done around 4:30 p.m.
Mike: Our hub is in South Philly, so I usually spend 15-20 minutes there to talk to my loader and see how everything is. My start time is different every day but I usually leave around 8:30 a.m. and get here by 9 a.m. I get rid of the “furniture packages” first – the beds, the wall units, the big stuff. I hit the residentials in the mornings and then I only hit Main Street for about an hour. I usually have lunch at my spot, Sorrentino’s. Basically, you get on the route by 9 a.m. and you’re usually done by 4-4:30.
What’s your favorite part of delivering in Manayunk?
Anna: Talking with people. We help each other out. I live so far away so if we have bad weather in the winter, there are some residents who will let me stay overnight. I’m really blessed that way to have a family here. A lot of people open up their doors to me. Some of them invite me in for coffee like I have all day, and I always have to say, “I’m really sorry!” Some of them have made me things, like when I was pregnant with my last child. A couple ladies on Levering Street made me beautiful blankets. There’s one lady on Levering Street— she’s 86 — she makes me a Christmas ornament every year. I just like that personal connection. I like talking — customer service. You meet a lot of people and you learn from them.
Mike: Dealing with “daily” people, I like to say. I got Pat Feeney down at Main Street Music — he’s my bud. The people who are settled here, we talk about our families. Brandy at The Little Apple has her daughter — I hope I’m still here in a few years to see her grow up. I’ve been on this route so long, I used to deliver dolls and diapers to kids and next thing you know, they’re waitressing down on Main Street. I used to bring toy UPS trucks to kids years ago and I’ll have people tell me they still have them today. You have the young college kids and then you have the people who have been here for a long time. So, there’s this fusion of people in the neighborhood. I love the comradery of everyone.
What do you do in your free time?
Anna: I have three children. My youngest is 15 and my oldest is 30. I have a granddaughter and I have a grandson on the way, so we’re excited about that. I do the usual family activities with my immediate family. I keep busy. I like to shop.
Mike: I actually do go to the gym. A lot of people ask me, “How do you go to the gym after work?” Here’s the thing: I honestly think that if I didn’t go, lifting packages would hurt more. I played sports my whole life and you always have to regenerate yourself afterwards. I also enjoy trying new whiskeys and will go to tasting events. I love going down the shore, especially Cape May. My wife thinks I’m an idiot but I love doing Polar Plunges. I was actually the Plunge King last year — the first one in the water and the last one out!