PITTSFIELD, MASS. -- Neither rain, nor sleet, nor the ruffled feelings of Postal Service bureaucrats who tried to get him to follow the rules have kept Stanley T. Bator from trucking the mail through the Berkshire Hills for the past 60 years.
"I am my own man," said Bator, 87, who still occasionally takes the wheel of one of his trucks, although most of the driving on his star routes is now handled by his sons and grandchildren.
"That isn't the half of it," said Pittsfield Postmaster Paul Matthews. "All of our independent contractors are pretty independent, but there's no one like him. He's kind of a legend in the Berkshires."
Although he's now cut back to two routes, Bator for decades hauled the mail under contract to every rural post office in the county. He's driven through blizzards and tossed down planks to cross swollen streams in spring floods.
"The worst I remember was one night when it was 40 below zero at the Pittsfield railroad station and I was the only truck to get out, but there were a lot of nights that I slept on a desk in the Pittsfield Post Office. I always got the mail to the post office, but sometimes I couldn't get myself home afterwards," Bator said.
"In the springtime, I've had to build my own bridges," he said.
Over the past six decades, Bator said, he's learned that sometimes its best to avoid the main office.
It took Matthews and William R. Ayers, regional manager for transportation services, several weeks to corral Bator long enough to present him with a plaque and letter from U.S. Postmaster General Preston R. Tisch commending him on his 60 years of service.
"They kept calling and leaving messages at the house and I just ignored them," Bator said. "Finally, they got ahold of my son, and he got me to go down to the Pittsfield post office where they had this nice presentation. I didn't think they were going to fire me, but I just didn't know what was going on."
His run-ins with some of the more enthusiastic memo writers in the Postal Service have become legend, including one with a bureaucrat who tried to crack down on Bator's casual attitude toward some regulations, such as a ban on holding two post office jobs.
"He was one of these fellows who think they are the boss," Bator recalled. "I'd get these write-ups, but I'd never open them."
Finally, the postmaster ordered him to report in person. "I told him I didn't know anything about it. So he went and looked in my box and it was full of these write-ups," Bator said. "But nothing came of it. I just asked the postmaster whether he wanted some crazy stuff or the mail delivered. And in all the years I've been at it, I've never missed a day or a delivery."
"He hasn't either," said Ayers. "He is one of the most conscientious people we have."
Bator's son worked as a clerk-carrier in the post office.
"He's just retired to Florida after 38 years with the post office," Bator said. "Not me. I can't retire. I still have a lot of work to do."