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Mail was his bag

April 11, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - In his many years with the U.S. Postal Service, J.D. Randall Burns has experienced a lot of changes, both in personnel and technology. And, of course, he has had to deal with the tiresome "going postal" jokes.

But Burns said he thinks the Scottish meaning of his name, Randall, might explain why he's been able to weather many of those challenges.

"Randall is Scottish for bramble bush and I've tried to live up to that name," he said.

Burns, 63, went to work for the U.S. Postal Service in 1966, three years after he was discharged from the U.S. Navy. In between, he attended Hagerstown Junior College, worked briefly as a Potomac Edison lineman and then at Brandt Cabinet Works.

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"When I took the test for the post office job, I didn't score very high," Burns said.

He learned that his score would go up if he could show that he earned a medal during his military duty.

Burns was eligible for the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal because of his duty during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

"Everybody wanted to be a mail carrier, but not me. I just wanted a job," Burns said.

He spent his career at the main post office on West Franklin Street.

During his first year, Burns recalled that one of his jobs was to pick up sacks of dresses from L'Aiglon and Dorbee Manufacturing in Hagerstown and take them to the train station in Martinsburg, W.Va., for shipping.

Several times during his career, everyone in the building was evacuated for anthrax scares.

"Anytime there is any kind of white powder, we would be cleared from the building," he said.

During his career, Burns served as president of the American Postal Workers Union for a number of years.

In 1978, when machine sorting of mail was transferred to Frederick, Md., Burns became the postage-due technician in Hagerstown - the position he held until retirement.

Burns and his wife, Linda, live in Keedysville. He has two stepdaughters.

"It still feels like I'm on vacation. It hasn't hit me yet that I am retired," Burns said.

A recent retirement party netted him a telescope from his co-workers and a weather station from his employer. With his military years counted in, Burns retired with 47 years of service.

Over the years, he has spent some of his free time involved with Boy Scouts as an Explorer adviser and a canoeing instructor.

"I've also been volunteering to drive the Reeders Memorial Home van for about five years and I will be doing more of that," Burns said. He is considering getting his commercial driver's license so he can drive the home's bus.

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