Mack Mata Jr. was strolling through downtown Carlsbad, CA, on a fall day in 1960 when a “Help Wanted” sign hanging in the Post Office’s window caught his eye.
He applied and soon found himself taking the postal exam alongside 200 other applicants at a local high school. A few days after Thanksgiving, he was sworn in as a part-time flexible carrier.
Mata, who eventually became a full-time carrier, retired this week, concluding a 57-year career that was spent entirely at the Carlsbad Post Office.
“It’s like having a second family, especially if you are in the same office a long time,” he said. “When you pick a route you like and stay on it, you make not just customers, but friends for life.”
Mata witnessed a lot of changes during his career. When he started out, stamps were 4 cents, there were no ZIP Codes and he made special deliveries on bicycle.
Carlsbad, a seaside city near San Diego, has also grown. The Post Office, which served six mail routes and one auxiliary route in 1960, now serves 70 city routes, four rural routes and one highway contract route.
Mata was not only the longest-serving carrier in Carlsbad, he also worked for every Postmaster the city ever had.
The current Postmaster, Cyndi Gibson, is one of his biggest fans.
“It has been an honor to have Mack as an employee and role model for the Carlsbad Post Office. He has now become a legend and inspiration to the U.S. Postal Service, doing what we love — serving our customers,” she said.
Earlier in his career, Mata turned down an opportunity to become a supervisor himself.
“I was 20 years old. All of the guys I worked with were considerably older and I wouldn’t have felt right telling them what to do,” he said. “Now I’m the old geezer.”
In retirement, Mata looks forward to gardening, traveling and spending more time with his wife Sheila, a letter carrier at the Vista, CA, Post Office, as well as his two sons, Kelley and Christopher, and four grandchildren.
Although his career is over, Mata plans to continue waking up early — between 4 and 4:30 a.m. — like he did during his postal days.
“My body is like a clock,” he said. “I don’t even need an alarm to wake up.”