by Dennis Dalman
Although she has lived in St. Cloud for most of her life, Evie Dingmann considers Sartell her second home – a home she learned to know door-to-door, mailbox by mailbox.
After 30 years as a mail carrier for Sartell, Dingmann retired recently at age 72.
“It was a great job,” she said. “I really loved it – well, that is, except when the snow was flying. That wasn’t so nice.”
Even in those not-so-nice blinding blizzards, Dingmann managed to deliver the mail. Sometimes her vehicle would get stuck, but customers were more than willing to rush from their homes to help Dingmann get on her way again.
“The Sartell people were always so good,” she said. “Such good, good people. I always enjoyed them, and they were all so good to me.”
When she started at the Sartell Post Office in 1981, Sartell had a population of only about 3,000 people. Although her customers lived in town, the route was considered “rural,” meaning residents had street-side mailboxes right along the city’s avenues and streets. Dingmann and others would deliver the mail by reaching out from their vehicles and popping it into the curb-side boxes. Although she delivered to many mailboxes, house to house, Dingmann’s daily mail route totalled about 15 miles.
Her first mail-delivery vehicle was a four-door 1976 Plymouth – her own vehicle.
At that time, she was a substitute carrier. The “officers in charge” (old name for rural post-office postmasters) were Jeanette Weis and Anna Marie Zakrajshek, whose husband, Anthony, was Sartell mayor at that time. By the mid-1980s Othmar Rohe was named postmaster and served for about 10 years. After a few more, Terry Niehaus – the current postmaster – was named to the position in 1998.
When Dingmann began as a substitute carrier, there was only one Sartell route. Her husband, Tom, had also worked as a substitute carrier for Sartell.
By the time Dingmann retired, 30 years later, Sartell had nine postal routes. About a year ago, the mail carriers for those nine routes were transferred to the St. Cloud Post Office, although they continued to deliver for Sartell – sorting the mail in St. Cloud and driving from there to their delivery routes in Sartell.
Each day, Dingmann delivered about 2,000 pieces of mail, including packages and registered letters. She can still “see,” in her mind’s eye, all the houses where she stopped daily for so many years. She remembers vividly crossing the old-fashioned narrow “dam” bridge across the Mississippi River. And she recalls with fondness the people she worked with and her kind, smiling customers.
Years ago, the post-office employees would sort all the incoming mail by hand, according to the addresses. But later, a computerized mail-reading machine was invented that can “read” the addresses of hundreds of pieces of mail in just seconds. The mail would then be sorted automatically, by addresses, into large flat box trays – in this area, at the St. Cloud Post Office.
Those “flats” would then be delivered to area post offices, including Sartell, where the mail carriers would re-sort the mail from the trays into slots (one for each address), paying close attention to changes-of-address requests and other factors. About three-fourths of the mail used to come to the post office in such pre-sorted trays.
The Sartell Post Office was the same one as exists now – small, cramped, overcrowded.
“Oh yes, it was always small,” Dingmann said. “But we got along well. We helped one another out, always. And I’m going to miss those people. We were almost like a family.”
On her day of retirement, Dingmann had just delivered mail to her last stop, the “old” Coborn’s store in Sartell when she stepped back toward her vehicle to find a woman who practically “kidnapped” her. The woman was a St. Cloud postal worker. She told Dingmann, “I’m taking this mail truck away from you.” Then she told Dingmann to get in the vehicle. Dingmann knew right away some sneaky surprise was in store for her. The woman drove Dingmann the few blocks to the Riverboat Depot in Sartell. Inside, she was greeted by cheers, whistles, applause and hugs.
It was a surprise farewell/retirement party. Everyone enjoyed cake, refreshments and good wishes, Dingmann was the recipient of lots of letters of love and cards of kindness. She was, for a time, tongue-tied by a combination of embarrassment and delight.
Born in Parker, S.D., Dingmann met her husband, Tom, while she was working at a drugstore soda fountain. He was a technician working to change the nation’s telephone system to the brand-new “finger-rotary-dial” system (which in these techno-crazed days seems positively “quaint”). He used to stop at the drugstore for lunch, and that is where he met Evie and dared to ask her for a date. She dared to accept the offer. Dingmann’s father, Jerome, incidentally, had been a mail carrier for Clear Lake.
For 10 years, Evie traveled with Tom as he installed “dial-phone” equipment all across the United States. When their first child was 2 years old, however, they decided to settle down in one place.
The Dingmanns have three children: Brian, of Becker; Julie Litzinger, of Rice; and Jodi Carlson, of St. Cloud. They have eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Evie loves golfing, traveling and flower gardening.