Photo courtesy of Kassandra Tovar
Note from Alice: This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on February 11, 2022. It won’t be as much fun to go to the post now that Teresa is out running and playing!
Teresa was a familiar face to me at the post office for a long time. But she won’t be there anymore, as she retired last week after twenty-nine years with the USPS. Really? Has it been that long?
Apparently yes ! Another long-time postal worker and close friend of Teresa, Jan Smith, came to my interview with Teresa the other day at Teresa’s request because she said Jan always had a calming effect on her when she found herself in unexpected situations. Again, really? Teresa always seemed happy and in control and handled transactions at the window with confidence when I waited in line. Anyway, the three of us had a lively, interesting and fun visit as they shared Teresa’s life with me.
Teresa Dabrowski was born Teresa Samaron in Hart, Texas and raised on Earth, Texas. One of fifteen children, she and her siblings worked with their father Santiago seasonally in fields of cucumbers, corn and cotton for a farmer named Mr. Davis. And as the seasons passed, they would go to Colorado and Kansas to weed the sugar beets. She laughed that with fifteen children, her father had to take care of them and feed them, so they all worked. This large family also occupied his mother, Genoeva. And Genoeva was the one who took all the children to church. “That’s how we all became Christians and know the Lord as we do,” Teresa said. I asked her where she fit in this batch of fifteen children, and Teresa said she was the middle child. “I had a relationship with the youngest and a relationship with the oldest, and it was hard,” she smiles. All these children still live in this area, except one who is dead.
Teresa attended Springlake-Earth Schools and graduated in 1978. She continued to work in the field with her father, then she met her future husband, Edwin Dabrowski, who was originally from Massachusetts, for love. of God ! Edwin was stationed at Reese AFB, but he and his brother Jimmy met at a racing club in Lubbock.
“My brother brought Edwin home for Thanksgiving, and I guess we hit it off,” she told me happily. They met in 1986, got engaged in 1987 and married in 1988. Teresa continued to help her father in the fields until they married, then she became the housewife of “her Edwin”, as she always calls him affectionately.
After Edwin completed his tour of duty in the army, he also worked for the Lubbock Post Office. After they
married, Edwin began working for Lowe’s Market, first in Earth and then in Littlefield where they settled and still live today. Teresa said they might live in Littlefield, but she knew more people in Muleshoe and felt like they were her real family. They have a daughter, Stephanie Irene, who worked for the Lazbuddie and Lubbock Post Office. “Working at the post office must be a family affair!” she laughed.
Teresa began her career in the postal service at the age of 26 as what used to be called a casual, now called PSE, a person who is not an actual postal worker but has an hourly job at mail and is hired for a period of ninety days. After this period, the casual employee could be rehired if the boss liked your work ethic. She did it twice, once in 1986 and 1987, but was fired. She then returned in 1993, met Jan Smith, and began her full career as a postal worker for the next twenty-nine years. Time spent as a casual employee does not count as time spent with USPS since you are not considered an actual employee.
Two positions that give full employee status with USPS are a mail carrier and a clerk. Teresa started as a carrier and did so for twelve years. She then moved on to Front Counter Clerk where she remained for the rest of her years with the Postal Service.
In the past, applicants had to take a civil service exam in person and perform well. Therese did that. These days, the exam is taken on a smart phone without a personal interview, which Teresa disagrees with.
In small towns, at least, postmasters seem to change frequently, and Teresa has worked under many, starting with Roland Bell, who hired her, to Kassandra Tovar, the current postmaster of Muleshoe. I asked her why she hadn’t applied for the position of postmaster, which, it turns out, is appointed by the management of the Lubbock office, but she quickly informed me that she did not want to be postmaster. From post. “I can manage the office, but I don’t want to deal with computers and paperwork. I enjoy working at the counter and talking to customers,” said Teresa.
When Jan worked as a clerk, I taught for MISD and wasn’t at the post office as much during the day, so even though I knew Jan, I hadn’t gotten as used to seeing his face behind the counter as the one from Teresa to years later. Teresa helped me out when needed, like figuring out what address to use sometimes for things like condolence cards. She wasn’t supposed to give addresses, and she didn’t, but she always had a way of pointing me in the right direction. And when I started shipping my books to readers, I wouldn’t have known the media rate for shipping books if Teresa hadn’t told me. And I teased her from time to time, and we laughed. I was spoiled at our post office because of her. She made it a personal and pleasant experience, not like what one encounters in the post offices of the big cities.
Jan Smith, who retired in 2011, remained good friends with Teresa even after leaving the post. Teresa commented, “Oh, I wanted to quit when Jan quit – with Jan my words came automatically; she always helped me when I got stuck on a word.
She went on to say, “[In the
beginning] Smitty was a clerk and I was a carrier. When you have someone to work with and have fun with, it’s a pleasure. You build trust. She went from colleague to friend and we’ve been friends ever since.
Over time, I felt like the right time to retire was now. I asked Teresa what her plans were for the future now that she wouldn’t be going to work every day since Littlefield. Spending more time with her Edwin and her granddaughters was mentioned, along with “Gotta take care of and fix my house, catch up on my housework!” She also enjoys working in her garden, perhaps a habit she picked up while working in the fields with her father.
Either way, I suspect she’ll always be busy and spread that smile wherever she is.
Thanks to Jan Smith and Kassandra Tovar for helping with this story, and to Teresa for sharing her life with me.
And by the way, for those of you who asked me for another book, this second book is now in the works! The working title is Adventures Down My Texas Rabbit Hole, and it will contain stories of people, places, and Muleshoe events, and this book will also cover stories relating to Texas. The final section will share some of my favorite stories about family, cats, dogs, memories and adventures. I will keep you posted.