Davenport’s Branch of The National Association of Letter Carriers Union

Current attention to the fate of the U.S. Postal Service and the arrival of Labor Day weekend 2020 gives us the perfect opportunity to share the experiences of Davenporters Edward and Margaret Gilbert in the Iowa State Association of the National Association of Letter Carriers and its auxiliary.

Edward Alvin Gilbert was a mail carrier in Davenport for thirty years, from his return from service in World War II to his death in 1974. He was a member of the NALC local, Branch 506. His wife Margaret (nee Schaeden), a sales clerk at the Petersen Harned Von Maur department store, belonged to the Auxiliary No. 129. The couple lived at 3105 W. Lombard St., where Mrs. Gilbert often hosted auxiliary meetings in the 1960s. She was installed as the financial secretary of that body in January 1965 and the treasurer in February 1968.

The materials in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s collection #2017-27 document the Gilberts’ participation as delegates to the annual NALC state conventions and various social events connected with the union and its auxiliary in the 1960s.

The items in the collection were likely gathered and saved by Margaret Gilbert. These are some of her mementos of the 1965 state convention in Sioux City, Iowa …

… including her record-keeping as financial secretary for the Davenport Auxiliary, and

… her snapshots of the Sioux City branch’s 75th Anniversary party:

Most certainly the Gilberts attended the state convention hosted by the Davenport NALC branch the year before, in 1964. Attendees were treated to a boat ride on the Mississppi River, an “evening smorgasbord,” a dinner with a dance, and luncheons at the Hotel Blackhawk. The national union president of the NALC decried the recent Post Office service cuts in his address to members. (1) Margaret saved this clipping from the Morning Democrat about the plans for the convention:

Davenport Morning Democrat, April 21, 1964, p. 3.

Perhaps these mini mail saddlebags were given out at the Davenport convention?

Margaret Gilbert identified herself as the woman in blue on the right side of this photograph of the 1969 Davenport NALC Auxiliary Christmas party:

We believe she is also pictured in this photograph of a Hawaiian-themed NALC party from around the same time. We haven’t been able to identify Ed!

The Gilbert household would have received the “Iowa Postman,” the “official publication of the Iowa State N.A.L.C.” in the mail every month. This issue is from June, 1965:

“Nalcrest” was the name of the Florida retirement community where letter carriers from Davenport and all over the country could spend their golden years. A writer for the Davenport Times-Democrat noted that union members and their families could relax in “…homes that match or surpass those they have occupied in the cities from which they came. And they have the sunshine and tranquility as a bonus with no snow, sleet, or dogs to worry about.” The “restless feet of the mailmen,” he said, could walk along the “many paths and lanes along lakes and lagoons” and even “stroll to the post office for their own mail” — there were no mailboxes or mail deliveries at Nalcrest! (2)

Image from The Postal Record, March 2014, p. 22.

Although he passed away while still on the job, we hope Edward Gilbert at least had the chance to visit Nalcrest with Margaret. We certainly know he was a respected mail carrier in Davenport: “Here’s the kind of postal service no one can dispute,” said Jim Kadera in the “City Vignettes” feature of the Times-Democrat for April 16, 1964, as he went on to tell how Ed returned a bag full of thousands in cash he found along his route to a tavern employee who had dropped it on the street nearby

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center wishes union members and workers everywhere a happy and healthy Labor Day weekend!

(posted by Katie and Cristina)

(1) Daily Times, May 18, 1964, p. 13.

(2) Doob, Oscar A. “Retired Mailmen Live in Dogless Paradise,” Times-Democrat, March 29, 1964, p. 2C.

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