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3 Generations of Family's Postal Service at End

June 30, 1988|AMY PYLE | Times Staff Writer

At the end of the week, Charles Neil Havens officially retires from 30 years of tending to Simi Valley's mail service, a responsibility accepted by his father, uncle and grandfather before him.

Call it coincidence. Call it luck. Call it genetic.

At a surprise retirement party Sunday afternoon in Oak Park, Havens called it inevitable.

"I figured the post office didn't pay a great deal, but it would be very, very steady," Havens said of his decision to seek the postmaster's job in 1958. "It was kind of a family tradition . . . kind of a way of life."

Havens' grandfather became Simi's first rural carrier in 1912, when there were only 45 addresses in the valley.

Havens' uncle took over the route the following year and left it to Havens' father when he went to fight in World War I.

Shortly afterward, Havens' father temporarily gave the route back to Havens' grandfather when he, too, became a soldier. In 1953, Havens' father became Simi postmaster.

If that sounds confusing, consider this: Two of the elder Havens also were named Charles--Charles A. was the grandfather and Charles R. the father. The uncle was named Lester Havens.

To make things less complicated, the modern-day Charles Havens goes by his middle name, Neil.

A U.S. Postal Service retirement party and a Fourth of July picnic turn out to have a lot of decorations in common. Centerpieces on tables Sunday featured small American flags, their patriotic colors picked up in crepe paper, napkins and some attire.

But postal humor is a little different. Like when the former regional postal manager donned a United Parcel Service cap and then tried to get the crowd to boo. Like when Havens' wife, Patricia, was presented with a stack of color-coded cards, intended for assigning priorities to bulk mail, that had been altered so she could use them to remind Havens of chores.

And like when two postmasters from Texas--a husband and wife--disguised themselves with clown masks and read a poem asking Havens to "guess the ZIP code of our town."

More than a dozen active and retired postmasters, some of them past employees of Havens, came to Sunday's party, along with about 150 other friends and former co-workers.

Havens said that during his tenure in Simi Valley, his work force grew from one carrier to 130 employees. One of Havens' oldest friends, Riley Spencer, said he could even remember when Havens occasionally had to double as an extra mailman.

"In those days, people would call if the mail came in late and he'd take it out there personally," Spencer said.

That kind of personal contact became rarer toward the end of his 30-year career, said Havens, the father of three. None of his children work for the Postal Service.

"The size of business has gotten to the point where it's almost impossible to make it personal." With increased managerial duties came increased stress, Havens said.

Early in 1987, his doctor told him that his blood pressure was sky high, he said, and he opted to take his accumulated sick leave and vacation time. Although his retirement is not official until Friday, he actually left his office almost a year ago.

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