WEST COAST FLORIDA LETTER CARRIERS
HISTORY OF BRANCH 1477,
WEST COAST FLORIDA LETTER CARRIERS
By OD Elliott/Joseph A. Henschen
By Brother Harry Whittington
The original plan of this particular record was to show dramatically and factually how Branch 1477 had achieved some single objective for Letter Carrier welfare. Some single objective which could not have been won without the unity which came from strong membership. But the available records showed there were many objectives, many imaginative and courageous leaders -and a great many obstacles which could not be surmounted. Many times the branch - with only a few members - fought fearlessly , untiringly against injustices forced upon them. These examples have been given from many; they present neither the greatest difficulties nor the gratest victories, For Branch 1477 was chartered on Nov. 4, 1912. The records used in this story begin with the meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1920. The record was kept by JA Brown who is now Supervisor in charge of the 22nd Street Station. Leonard Griffin, later Carrier Foreman, was president at that time. L. Griffin in 1925 was removed as Carrier Foreman over the protests of the entire membership of Branch 1477 - this could be recorded as one of the strongest fights made by the branch, according to the recorders, but he fight was unavailing. For instance, in 1923 Carriers, and Clerks alike, were paid for eight hours a day. They were worked overtime - without pay!
In October 1923 there was a salary increase campaign. Twenty years later, in 1943, there was another! Congressmen and Senators in '23 expressed themselves favorably. But in 1933, the best that could be drawn from Senator Fletcher was that he would consider any pay cut. In 1924 there was a Post Office Ball, the dance given in order to raise funds to defray expenses of Delegates to Conventions of that year/ On September 6, 1924 the National Ladies Auxiliary issued a Charter to Auxiliary 181. That original document listing its original twenty member hangs in the Branch 1477 business office. The members of Auxiliary 181 continue to be active part of Branch 1477.
In 1925, E. Marshick and Floris Griffin went to Detroit as Branch Delegates to National Convention, Donald Wright, a good Branch worker, died that year. The Branch met afternoons in the Main Post Office Swing Room in those years and that was the year Joe Fletcher was made National State Vice Presidetn and St, Petersburg played host to the State Convention! IN 1927 began the long fight for half-holidays in the local office. That same year the National Convention was held in El Paso, Texas. That summer one meeting lasted forty five minutes. For reasons obscured by time, the Carrier wanted any date except Saturday for half-holidays and Saturday was the only day the Postmaster, at that time, (Hanna) would allow. In 1927, Chas. Bennett was elected Financial Secretary, a new office. Dues that year were $6.00, collected quarterly. On July 3, of that year, the Branch met for the first time in the Swing Room of Station A which had just been completed at Third Avenue and Ninth Street North. There was a desperate need for a Soft Water Well and System at Station A. This was discussed; but in 1935 there was still no drinking water in the building. There was a total membership of 49 in 1928; Fort Myers had the State Convention. In '29 the Convention was held in Tampa, and the National in Minneapolis.
The 1932 Hoover Administration backed Economy Act forced through a 20% pay cut, payless furloughs. The regular substitutes, at that time, were so poorly paid, ill worked that a relief Fund was created buy the Carrier and Clerk organizations, handled by Superintendent of Mails, R. A. Fortson, which lent money at long periods, without interest, to substitutes. Almost no sub was able to pay Branch dues and in 1934 subs were invited to join Branch 1477 at one- half rates! Letter Carriers in 1931 and 1932 under Presidents J.A. Rose and Orrin May, plagued, as they were, gave $400 to be used in relief of local needy! During the time of one of Warren Sturgis' terms as Branch president, men were given holiday time upon five minute's notice. During this same time a 15% pay restoration was made to postal employees but drinking water had not yes been piped into Station A.
Without a doubt Edward J. Marshick has recorded more years as secretary of Branch 1477 than any other one man, Other secretaries through the years have been Louis Cool (no deceased) Joe Fletcher, Sherman Chaplin, Louis Englehart, L. N. Mayes, R.E. Conant, Wyatt Dame and Cecil Blanchard. According to the records available, W. S. Ferguson has served at least seven terms as President of Branch 1477. Besides those already mentioned, others holding 1477's highest office have been: OB Hockett (1922), LW Tyler('23) - who was the State President when there was only three branches represented at the 1923 State Convention; R Templeton )'24); RA Spence ('27) ; WE Conan, Joe Fletcher (former branch secretary former National State Vice President, in ('29); JA Rose ('31); Orrin May in 1932; Ivan Queen, deceased (1933), Jess Heern, Leon Mc Cullough, EF Williams James A Mullinnix and the present president, Fred Redfield.
In 1933, annual branch dues were $5, and 19 paid in advance to collector OF May, Financial Secretary. In February , the $1 attendance prize was given for the first time and was won buy one of its sponsors, Peter Bain, The Branch was still fighting a losing battle against government imposed economics in the service. Postmaster Hall told Carriers that one radiator was all that was allowed or needed to heat the Station A swing room. Drinking water was promised. National Convention, Atlantic City. Ivan Queens was chosen National State Vice President. St. Petersburg played hose to the State Convention in 1931 again in 1938. Ivan Queen was made State President.
St. Pete's part of the Salary Campaign of '43 cannot be undervalued. The letters from patrons in St,. Pete and vicinity had Congressman Petersen pleading via radio for Mercy! The Branch has had many state leaders, including State Presidents, Executive Board Members, and Editor of the Florida Letter Carrier for four years and State Vice Presidents have come from the group of courageous men who had worked to hand down a heritage of strength and unity to the men who believe and work and plan for eh future of Branch 1477.
The idea for a St. Petersburg Union Hall (called Carrie Clubhouse) was conceived in 1936. At the time a building committee was formed and decided that an Annual Dance (setting aside the proceeds) was the way to finance the project. The 1st Dance was held in 1937 and continued through 1953 (except for war years) . In 1953, the land was purchased. The Letter Carriers cleared the land, and. except for the plumbing and wiring, did all of the construction of the building. The new Hall was located at 314 - 15th Ave S. Street, St. Petersburg and was dedicated on January 30, 1954. In the mid 60's, this property was sold and the proceeds put into investmens to be sued to help finance another Hall at a later date.
In 1954, the African American carriers of St. Petersburg requested from National and were granted a dual Charter (Branch 4463) which lasted until 1961, This was not unique to St. Petersburg, During this period, there were Dual Chartered Branches, not only in the Southern cities, but also in many Northern cities as well. At the 1960 NALC Convention, the delegates approved a resolution directing the Officers to do whatever was necessary to merge all existing dual branches. On April 1961, a directive from the NALC Executive Council went to all dual charter branches ordering that the merge within 90 days. AT hat time, the Dual; Branch 4463 had six members and Branch 1477 had 334. While we might regret that there ever were Dual Branches, its a part of NALC History and cannot be overlooked. A plaque unveiled at the Branches 100th anniversary celebration in 2012 the names of 4463's presidents Handy Lester - 1954 and Henry Woodward - 1957 are included as past presidents of the Branch.
Branch 1477 is comprised of ten merged branches covering twelve cities. The mergers began in 1975, shortly after John W Bourlon was elected President. The mergers continued through 1986 as follows: Branch 3715 - Largo, 4708 - Pinellas Park, 4403 - Indian Rocks Beach, 4403 - Dunedin, 2414 - Palmetto, 6187 - Bradenton Beach, 6315 - Ellenton, 5216 - Punta Gorda which had merged previously with 5578 - Englewood. These Merged Branches combined with Branch 1477 and 4463 combined to complete the "West Coast Florida Letter Carriers"
John W. Bourlon was the first full time Branch President serving the West Coast Florida Letter Carriers and is credited with establishing a research library for the Branch that still exists today. Its 375 volume cover a comprehensive history of the Branches grievance handling and include early reference sources. In 1976, under incorporation of the Sunshine City Letter Carriers Association, property was purchased on 66th Street N,, Largo, and a new Hall built at 12550 - 66th Street N. This Hall was dedicated on September 4, 1976, This Hall served the members for 24 years .
In mid 1976 as the Branch moved into the 66th street office, and the Branch grew it became apparent it would be necessary to hire office staff. Elsie Sheets was the first employee of the Branch. Elsie served the Branch for 19 years retiring in 1995. Consistent growth of the Branch added a second position of Clerical Secretary filled by Marlene Markey. Theresa Bourlon was added to the office staff in 1995 in a position she still holds today. Temporary staff was used as needed and the assistance of Margaret Perkins and Gerry Bourlon was used. The continuity in the Branch has always been the Office Staff. In the late 70's Bourlon and the Branch Executive Board invested in the first computer used by a Branch in the State of Florida. It was solely for logging and tracking expenses and grievances.
In 1981 under President Bourlon, Branch 1477 amended its bylaws establishing a Plan specifically designed to provide a subsidy to the members of the Branch, active or retired and their dependents toward the costs associated with the examinations of eyes. The fund is maintained by the members at .50 per pay. The contribution even today in 2015 has not changed. The first reimbursements subsidized the examination up to $35. However recent changes in the bylaws have expanded the benefit to include costs associated with the examination up to $60 for members and $50 for dependents, once annually.
In 1985 Branch 1477 Brother Costas G. Lemonopoulos donated $174,000.00 to the Pinellas County Community Foundation with Sun Bank as Trustee. The fund was to pay out 10% of its market value each year and award scholarships to children of postal letter carriers who were attending St. Petersburg Junior College or ay 4 year state supported university in Florida. Since its inception the Costas G. Lemonopoulos Scholarship has touched the loves of over 840 students And their Letter Carrier Families throughout the State of Florida.
In January 1987, the Branch added a second full time office to the Branches payroll. Brother OD Elliott was elected and served in that capacity for nine years until he took over a President of the Branch. President Les Stroup 2008-20013 served in the capacity of the Executive Vice President from 1997 till 2007.
In 2001, the Hall at 66th Street N. had become somewhat of a white elephant, needing a new roof and repaved parking lot. At this time , there was still a sizable mortgage and Racetrack Corporation had made several overtures to purchase our property. A committee to explore the possibilities of relocation found the branches present property and building at 5369 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. Negotiation with Racetrack yielded a complete renovation of the Park Boulevard Building to the specifications of the Executive Board, and a simple transfer of deeds was done, gave the Branch a property that fully met the needs of the Branch for office, training space and ample space for the General Membership meetings with no mortgage.
In 2008, upon his retirement OD Elliott established a scholarships fund in honor his parents for children of Branch 1477 Members. The George B and Annie R Elliott/Branch 1477 Scholarship fund awards two scholarships annually. On October 8, 2009 Brother John W Bourlon was named "President Emeritus" of Branch 1477 an honor he great;u deserved.
When the NALC made the call for a National Food Drive, Branch 1477 jumped at the chance. to join the effort. Previously mentioned - Station A had long been decommissioned as a Postal Facility in St. Petersburg. Its new tenant "The St. Petersburg Free Clinic" had filled the space offering temporary assistance to those requiring help with basic need such as food, shelter, medical care, limited financial assistance, and referral information. The Food Bank Operation was a perfect fit for partnership in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, This relationship has endured since the first participation on 1993. Food collected annually on the second Saturday in May is sorted stored and distributed from Station A. The West Coast Florida Letter Carriers merged cities have maintained its position near the top in Food Drive Collections nationwide and boast first place national honors in 2002, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In 2010, the Branch 1477 Executive Board set goals to renew a dedication to supporting our community service efforts and dedication to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Then Executive Vice President Joseph Henschen sought support from the Branch to incorporate an non-profit entity with the State of Florida and the "Sunshine City Carriers Charities Inc. was established. SCCC Inc.'s sole purpose is to provide opportunities for NALC members to raise funds for MDA. In 2011, the fist board was named: President , Albert "Gene" Carroll, Vice President OD Elliott and Secretary Cindy Pollock. On December 12, 2012. Brother OD Elliot was honored as only the second "President Emeritus" of Branch 1477
Early in President Stroup's second term the downturned economy began taking its toll on the branch finances. The membership continued to decline from its days in 1987 when the Executive Vice President was elevated to a full time position. A debate waged for several months on a course of action and in late 2011 it was decided that the branch world revert to a single Full Time Officer. Branch By-law proposals were drafted discussed and approved sending then Executive Vice President Joseph Henschen back to craft to serve the position in a part-time capacity. The Executive Vice President had only known three officers in that full time capacity : Elliott, Stroup and Henschen, but the action helped right size the commitments of the branch as it moved though the same lean times the entire nation faced. With the retirement of President Les Stroup in 2013, Joseph Henschen was elected into the office as the 39th President of Branch 1477.
In the Summer of 2015 Branch 1477 will host the 73rd Biennial Convention of the Florida State Association of Letter Carriers In St. Petersburg , Florida. This will be the 10th time having hosted these meetings in 1925, 1931, 1938, 1947, 1959, 1972, 1987, 1995, 2011 and now 2015. Branch 1477 has been honored to support the FSALC having had 11 members serving on the board in nearly every position. The Branch is proud of our Retirees and can boast 43 Gold Card Members. It is through their dedication and support we enjoy the benefits we have today.