The last route: After 42 years, Northampton mailman Bob Currie retires

  • Houses along Bob Currie’s route, which he has walked for nearly 20 years.  —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has walked for almost 20 years. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has walked almost 20 years. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail last week along the route he has walked for almost 20 years in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has walked for almost 20 years. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail last week along the route he has walked for almost 20 years in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has done for almost 20 years. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has walked for almost 20 years. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Good messages were left for Bob Currie along his route on his last day. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Good messages were left for Bob Currie on his last day at houses along his route. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Currie delivers mail along his route which he has walked for almost 20 years. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Goodwill messages were left for Bob Currie at houses along his route. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/6/2019 5:51:43 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As he walked his longtime route for the final time, mailman Bob Currie joked that there was some kind of “conspiracy” afoot.

At many of the houses, residents had put up handmade signs thanking Currie for his service. And while Currie, 66, said he had tried to avoid celebration around his retirement, he conceded that “the acknowledgment is very sweet.”

For just shy of 42 years, Robert Currie delivered mail in Northampton, and for almost 20 years he walked the same route, which covers around 500 households and businesses and now includes Vernon Street, Washington Place, Dryads Green and Paradise Road, among other streets. Over the span of his career, Currie delivered millions of pieces of mail.

Last Thursday, Currie made his final deliveries. Sporting a trim white beard, glasses and a worn leather mailbag, he chose to wear the first mail-carrier uniform he ever owned, a throwback to the 1970s. At the end of the day, he traded the uniform to a co-worker for a bottle of Scotch.

“Glenlivet,” said Currie, a man of few words.

On Wednesday, Currie said that working as a mail carrier had allowed him to support himself and his family. However, he criticized the management of the U.S. Postal Service as being “more corporate than ever” and took issue with the hiring of new carriers at a reduced pay rate.

On a more local level, he said district management in Hartford constantly monitors its workforce via GPS, which tracks and times how quickly carriers deliver mail, down to the minute. “I think it’s just out and out wrong,” he said.

Still, a self-declared socialist, Currie voiced his support for the institution as a whole. “I’m a great believer in government agencies,” he said.

Walking the route Thursday, Currie said that for 18 years he drove the King Street and North King Street route, which was often busy with traffic.

“I needed to get out of the truck,” he said.

The traffic was stressful, said Currie, who over the years also encountered other hazards on the job: being bitten by dogs and navigating winter weather.

“If we fall down in the wintertime, we can be brought into the office and reprimanded for it,” he said.

Currie described his route of the past two decades as a “nice, quiet route.”

As he walked it on his final day, he said he didn’t realize what he was doing was “that important.” But many who have enjoyed having Currie as their mailman clearly disagreed.

Among those people is Ellen Kaufman, who walked outside to give Currie a hug in her yard.

“Thank you,” she said.

Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell also lives on Currie’s last route.

“He was kind of a vital piece of the fabric of the neighborhood,” Bidwell said.

Suzy Fortang, who owns Valley View Farm in Williamsburg, was also on Currie’s Northampton route. She recalled Currie’s appreciation when she brought home her adopted twins.

“He’s really seen them grow from zero to 14,” she said.

And she recalled how when her son, also named Robert, was younger, Currie would let him help deliver the mail. “I think it was the highlight of his day,” she said.

The family came to view Currie as “a caring uncle,” she added.

Currie, who was born and raised in Northampton — he grew up in a house on Federal Street — now lives in Westhampton.

When asked about what he will miss the most about the job, Currie said, “The banter in the morning with my co-workers.”

Currie said that the unknown aspect of retirement is “scary.” But he has hobbies to keep him busy. A hiker and kayaker, Currie is also an avid collector of vinyl records.

“I favor the ‘60s. That’s when I grew up,” said Currie, who particularly likes psychedelic rock.

Currie is also involved in community theater as an actor. Last year, at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, he appeared in a production of “Guys and Dolls,” playing Lieutenant Brannigan.

“It’s all fun,” Currie said.

Currie took a trip with his partner, Linda Devine, to South Carolina recently. A history buff, he took the opportunity to visit the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam for the first time.

Currie and Devine have been together for the past few years, although they also dated for several years when they were teenagers. Devine was key in organizing the festivities around his retirement and walked part of the route with him on his final day.

“I really looked forward to it,” Currie said. “I owe her everything. She’s wonderful.”

It turns out the “conspiracy” was even more detailed than Currie initially suspected. On March 1, friends, family and Northampton residents threw a party for Currie at the World War II Club. At the event, Bidwell read a proclamation from Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, celebrating Currie’s service and proclaiming that day as Robert Currie Day.

“The service of Bob Currie reminds us of the role and importance of vital government services in the everyday lives of our families and neighborhoods,” Bidwell read in part.

“I was quite impressed,” said Currie. “Never had my own day proclaimed.” He intends to frame the certificate.

Along with the proclamation, Currie received a collection of cards and money at the party. The gift was organized by “longstanding neighborhood folks,” said Bidwell, crediting Jenny Fleming-Ives, Stan Schapiro and Joan Weiner for leading the effort.

Bidwell estimated that more than 100 people showed up for the celebration.

“I was not expecting that at all,” said Currie. “Very emotional.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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