Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

The longtime face of the Bogalusa Post Office has left the building.

After 35 years of service, Eulah Jackson recently retired and went to the house.

The genuinely friendly and patient woman who had become a fixture behind the counter in the historic building on Avenue B has sold her last stamp.

But although she is no longer on-site, she will be remembered.

Not only is Jackson a long-familiar face, she is a pioneer.

In mid-1970s Bogalusa, the daughter of Beulah and the now-deceased Rev. Landy Carter Sr. was hired as a postal clerk who sometimes had to pitch in and help deliver mail.

“I was the first black female clerk,” she said. “They did have a black carrier, Willie Matthews, before me. But when I first got there, there weren’t any female blacks.

“When I started working on the window, it seemed like some people didn’t want me to wait on them. One guy just stood on the floor and would not let me wait on him at all. And one lady talked really nasty to me. But the next day, she came back and apologized for treating me like that.”

Jackson had refused to let the customer’s venom prompt her own, and she won the woman over.

“I just treated everybody with kindness,” she said.

Jackson’s kind heart served her well, but her courage was tested.

“I was kind of afraid at first,” she said. “I had to go in neighborhoods I had never been in, all white neighborhoods I’d never even rode through. And I had to walk. They would drop me off.”

That was long before the days of cell phones, and Jackson was on her own. But although “a few” were “real mean” to her, many people, including those with whom she worked, were nice, she said.

In time, Jackson was a beloved fixture at the Post Office.

“Now, everybody who comes in wants to know, ‘Where’s Eulah?’ if I’m not there,” she said. “Well, not now, but…”

Yes, especially now.

Jackson is known for joking and friendly conversation, and for not hesitating to offer customers guidance.

Tammey Penton said she will remember her for always being “very nice,” and for saving her “a lot” of money by pointing out a less expensive packaging than what she was using.

Jackson grew to be considered by many as a family member. She settled in, but that didn’t mean she was always comfortable.

Besides racial integration, Jackson lived through the period in America when deadly powders and bombs were sometimes sent through the mail.

“When that happened, they were really worried about incoming mail,” she said. “But I wasn’t back there, I was mainly at the windows.”

And when people started “going postal” it was generally in urban areas, unlike Bogalusa.

No, Jackson’s recurring discomfort involved something more associated with serene, sunny fields than big city tension.

“Honey bees,” she said. “All the time. And I’m afraid of bees.

“Mr. Busby from Angie or Varnado used to mail out honey bees in a box with wire and, I think, sugar and water in it to keep them alive. It gave me goose bumps when I saw him coming.”

Such living mail is likely surprising to the unsuspecting non-postal employee.

But Jackson said the full grown rooster might have been the most unusual thing she ever saw shipped.

“They mailed it express mail,” she said. “That’s how they had to.

“I never mailed a chicken. But we used to have biddies. We still get them now…they still get them. I’m not there.”

Jackson is, instead, relaxing in her spacious Bogalusa home with her also recently retired husband, Larry, and visiting with their children, LaKeishere, Lavern, Lawrence, John and Otis (Joey).

Memories of frantic last-minute Christmas package shippers and pre-electronic April 15 income tax filers, and of honey bees, will ultimately fade. But, hopefully, the joy of being a cherished part of the community for decades of days when the Post Office was still a bustling center of activity will linger.

“I am going to miss my customers,” Jackson said from a comfortable-looking spot on her couch. “I’ve seen some every single day, even if they are just picking up mail.”

Postmaster Carl LeBouef said the feeling is already mutual and multiplied.

“She was very knowledgeable,” he said. “She was very courteous to all the customers. She knows everybody in town, and everybody knows her.

“She is missed. For sure.”