Ken Lipphardt opened the door to the inside of the post office in downtown Hamilton on Wednesday afternoon, and from there he shared stories from dog bites and to a foul-mouthed kid that permeated his nearly five decades of serving as a mailman.
Lipphardt and his wife Debby, both 68, were all smiles as they walked inside of the post office to his Route 61 case where his route started each day.
“This is just like our office,” Lipphardt said, as he looked at the case where he organized the mail for his route.
He was a mailman for 49 years and 10 months before retiring last week. Through wind, rain, sleet and snow, Lipphardt endured a job that took a toll on his body, but it didn’t take away from the fact that he loved the work.
“I started here at the Hamilton Post Office in February of 1967 and was making $2.62 an hour. I was the idol of all of my teenage friends,” Lipphardt recounted with a hearty laugh. “I worked until May of 1968 and then went into Air Force for four years until April of 1972, and then came right back here to work as a mailman. Been here ever since and worked in the main office, Fairfield, and Lindenwald station, which doesn’t exist anymore. I really liked that station.”
Lipphardt stands well over 6-feet tall, and some of his top stories involve that frame being attacked by dogs while out on his route.
“I was approaching a house and there was a good-sized dog sitting on the porch. I rattled the gate so he knew I was there,” Lipphardt explained. “As I got to the porch, the dog jumped up and bit my right knee. He backed off and then came at me again. I kicked him with my size 14 shoe and lifted him off the ground and he came down and was out.”
After getting back to the station, Lipphardt told his manager that he had two puncture wounds and a cut where the dog bit him. His manager called the homeowner who said she was watching the dog for her daughter. She also offered an alibi for the dog which still makes Lipphardt incredulous to this day.
“My manager pulled the phone away from his ear while he was talking,” Lipphardt said. “He told me the woman claimed the dog didn’t have any teeth. I said, ‘These aren’t gum prints on my knee.’ ”
Dog bite diary number two features a German Shepherd that took a chunk out of Lipphardt’s forearm on a Saturday afternoon. He finished the route and got some assistance from one of his customers.
“I had a pediatrician on my route, and he said he could wrap it up for me and he gave me a tetanus shot,” Lipphardt said. “Then he put a Snoopy band-aid on the wound.”
His encounter with potty-mouth 5-year-old is still one of his favorite tales-from-the route stories. While in Lindenwald by Belmont and Five Points, “a kid covered in filth wearing a T-shirt and shorts,” asked Lipphardt if there was any mail for him?
“I told the kid no and he got really mad,” the retired mailman said. He didn’t expect the kid to cuss him out in no uncertain terms and then threaten bodily harm with a series of expletives that had all in earshot listening to the story blushing.
“I’m driving away and I look in the mirror and the kid has both of his middle fingers stuck in the air,” Lipphardt said.
Years later he said he ran into the mailman who had the route and knew the kid. “The guy told me that the kid must’ve found a teacher who had taken an interest in him, because he turned out to be the sweetest and nicest kid.”
Of course the good for him in all of those years outweighed the bad. He said he will miss the people like the customer who cried when she learned he was retiring and the bird-hunting dog Bo, who “always ran up to the mail truck when I showed up.”
“I enjoyed bringing Christmas gifts to people or bringing them things they were looking forward to getting,” Lipphardt said. “I really have loved doing this.”
And as for delivering in all kinds of weather? “I really hated the cold, rainy weather,” he confessed. “You get chilled to the bone. Winter wasn’t so bad. You can add a layer if you need to. The heat and humidity was awful. You are down to your shorts and short sleeve shirt. You can’t take anything else off or people will call the police.”
The couple has three adult children, a son, Chris, who is retiring next month after 28 years in the military, and two daughters, Deanna and Lindsey, still live in the area.
“I am happy that he did this as a career because it allowed us to raise a family,” Debby said. “It has been nice having him home.”
The couple plan to keep doing something they’ve enjoyed for several years. “We are going to make trips to Amish country near Canton,” Lipphardt said. “We enjoy going up there and have gotten to know a lot of families.”
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