It was the fall of 1960. Mack Mata Jr. and his fiancée were downtown when she saw a ‘help wanted’ sign hanging in the post office window. He applied, landed an interview and found himself taking the postal exam along with 200 other potential applicants at Oceanside High School. On Nov. 29, 1960, he was sworn in officially as a postal employee as a Part Time Flexible employee in Carlsbad.
Now some 58 years later, Mata will begin the next chapter in his life – retirement.
At 8:30 a.m. April 27, he will be recognized in front of his peers and family by Postmaster Cindy Gibson at the Carlsbad Post Office, 2772 Roosevelt St.
“It’s not often we celebrate an employee who has served the Postal Service for 58 years,” said Gibson. “That’s why we are taking a moment of time to honor a man who has given a large portion of his life – his hard work and dedication – to this organization. We want to congratulate and thank him for sharing those years with us at the Postal Service.”
Recalling his days as a mailman, Mata said he would watch kids grow up and move away, only to return and become his customers all over again. He remembers an older customer on his route who he found lying on the ground after she had fallen. She said, ‘I knew you’d eventually show up to help me.’” Mata was later presented a certificate for his heroism.
According to Mata, a lot has changed over the course of nearly 60 years. Stamps were 4 cents and there was no internet. He made special deliveries on a bicycle with a big basket to addresses in the vicinity of the post office. And he remembers when the Postal Service began using ZIP codes in 1963. But the biggest impact he’s witnessed is the sheer growth of Carlsbad.
When he started, there were six mail routes and one auxiliary route in his office. Today, the office has 70 city routes, four rural and one highway contract route.
“Sears and J.C. Penney were the big businesses back then and it took a while to get anything,” he said. “Now there’s Amazon and package volume has picked up like crazy.”
Earlier in his career, Mata was offered the chance to become a supervisor. “I was 20 years old. All of the guys I worked with were considerably older and I wouldn’t have felt right telling them what to do,” he said. “Now I’m the old geezer, a dinosaur so to speak, who still uses the mail instead of the internet. But I still love what I do. My career has been very fulfilling.”
Mata is not only the longest serving carrier in Carlsbad, but he’s also worked for every Postmaster the city has had. When asked who his favorite was, he quickly responded, “Ben Franklin.”
He is married to Sheila Mata, who works at the Vista Post Office. He still expects to wake up early – between 4 and 4:30 a.m. “My body is like a clock,” he said. “I don’t even need an alarm to wake up.”