Young rural postal carrier makes the rounds in the 1920s

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

The U.S. postal service has a long history in our relatively young country, with Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster General under the Continental Congress in 1775.  Out here in the West, the first mail carriers rode for the Pony Express, which was often the only link to the outside world for those trying to make their way on the frontier.

The farm community of Broomfield was one of those lonesome spots whose citizens relied on the postal service to keep them connected, and sometimes for their health and well-being. Early Broomfield postmasters include Harry Crawford, Florence Graves, and Edgar Jones.

1914 rural postal carrier; Courtesy Library of Congress

Back in the year 1920, a plucky young lady of 18 years named Dukie Mulholm was appointed a mail carrier for Broomfield at a grand salary of $150 a month.  Dukie had to supply her own car, which was a 490 Chevy (financed by Dukie’s parents). The car was a couple evolutions beyond a horse and buggy but, according to Dukie, it was still pretty drafty in the winter.

Dukie’s route was about 30 miles long, winding through a rural community with only a tiny town center. In “Gem of the Mountain Valley,” Dukie talks about the muddy roads and a helpful neighbor named Mr. Gouger who came along more than once with his horse team to pull her up stubborn hills through the mud. After one particularly bad storm, she was unable to deliver the mail for a couple days, and was even unable to get back to her own home. On the third day, her father saddled up a big mare called Daisy, and Dukie took the mail out on horseback.

1920 490 Chevy (from How Things Work)

On another wintry occasion, as she delivered the mail in a cold snap that hit 28 degrees below zero, she nearly wrecked the Chevy when a mother pig and four piglets scurried across the road in front of her as Dukie drove down a hill. Somehow, all survived the encounter.  She also had to contend with washed out bridges during the spring rains.

Not surprisingly, Dukie sometimes served as an emergency messenger service. One day she found a woman, obviously in pain, waiting for her at a mailbox. She asked Dukie to call a doctor. It turned out the woman was having a miscarriage. Another mother whose household was under quarantine due to a contagious illness handed Dukie a bundle of letters using tongs. The mother had also “roasted” the letters first in the oven.

After about four years on the job, young Dukie married Clifford Null and retired from the postal service. Many years later, as an elderly woman, she would relate her adventures to the authors of “Gem of the Mountain Valley,” the first book written about Broomfield.

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Her first week on the job, and Marshal Beth Mayo is hit with a sex assault case. It’s a nasty shock for the bucolic mountain town of Sugarloaf and for Mayo, who is still recovering from her husband’s death. Her initial skepticism grows into disbelief over the victim’s zany story, and she dismisses the case as a false report. Unfortunately, the same woman is soon discovered in the ruins of a ghost town, most definitely murdered.

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