15 Minutes: Smiling postal worker to retire
November 24, 2005
Sam Lobato will retire from the Round Hill Post Office in January after 23 years. He’s worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 35 years. He won’t stop working though, because he’s got a lawn service business. Lobato says he’s going to miss seeing everyone every day, but he’s looking forward to the freedom of semi-retirement.
Q: How old were you when you started with the post office?
A: I must have been 20 years old in the Bay Area.
Q: Why are you retiring?
A: When you turn 55, that’s when you are eligible to retire. I’ll be 55 in December. It just doesn’t make sense to stay because you don’t gain that much by staying any longer.
Q: Any trips planned?
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A: I’ve punched a time clock for 35 years and that’s a long time. Now if I get the chance, I can do it. I’d love to do some traveling, but you never know what the future holds.
Q: Are you going to stay in town?
A: Yeah I’ll stay in town. I’ve been doing a yard and lawn maintenance service for couple of years, and I will continue doing that. I’m busy seven days a week and I’ve got a lot of customers. When I retire, I’ll be able to take on a few more customers.
Q: I’ve heard you are very popular with post office customers.
A: I think maybe because I always have a smile on my face, and if they have a problem, I’ll solve their problem and they won’t have that problem anymore. I’ll do what it takes to help the customer. To me, it’s my job. It’s an easy thing to do. My thing is treat others as you would want to be treated yourself.
Q: What is the strangest request you’ve had?
A: I weigh babies and puppies. I have a whole wall of pictures of the babies I’ve weighed.
Q: Is there a purpose to this?
A: It’s an accurate way to weigh a baby down to the ounce.
Q: Do you know a lot of people here?
A: Up here, we know everything about a person; we see their mail, their birthday cards, their bills. You can tell a lot by people’s mail. The post office, on the Nevada side especially, is kind of a meeting place. You might spend a half-hour here because you run into so many people you know. People look forward to coming to the post office. There’s no street delivery on the Nevada side at the lake. So everyone has a PO Box.
Q: Do you have a PO Box?
A: Yes, I have one at Stateline.
Q: How many PO Boxes at this office?
A: We’ve got about 3,000 here.
Q: Where did you work before you came to Tahoe?
A: I was in the Bay Area for 10 years.
Q: How did you end up here?
A: In the ’80s, there was a lottery for building a house up here. I got a permit to build. I came up here to apply for a transfer and the post master said “Be up here in 10 days and you can have the job.” That was back in 1980.
Q: What was your draw to Tahoe?
A: We always came up here to gamble and ski and camp and stuff.
Q: Do you have a family?
A: Yes, and my son actually works here at the post office.
Q: I’m sure people have gotten to know you, but is there anything they wouldn’t know about you?
A: Well, I have a ’64 Corvette, and a ’66 Mustang.
Q: What do they call those types of cars?
A: They call them muscle cars. I also have a ’66 Chevelle that I’m restoring too.
Q: Do you like to show them off?
A: No, I have them to drive them.
Q: Has this place ever been robbed?
A: Actually there was a guy in the paper who was sentenced to six years for stealing stamps from here. He would distract the guy at the front and steal the stamps. He was the same one who was taking a blow torch to the Plexiglas and stealing stamps.
There have been no robberies over the counter. In all my years, there’s nothing I haven’t seen more than once. Any problem that’s come up, I’ve seen it before.
Q: How would you describe this community?
A: I think it’s a fantastic place to live. The community is small, where you know everybody and people are really nice. What happens in the big city doesn’t affect us; we’re in our own little world. It’s a good thing.
Q: What would you like to say to everyone out there?
A: I will miss everybody, because I’m used to seeing I-don’t-know-how-many people a day. In my new business I will see some people, but I will miss seeing everybody every day.
Q: What keeps that smile on your face?
A: People are generally good. I love people and people make me happy. Life is beautiful. Where else would you rather be than on this earth?
To contact Sam Lobato’s Yard Maintenance, call (775) 772-2847, or (775) 588-7524.