A Typical Day working at the Moss Beach Post Office in the 1930s
Story by Lillian Renard
When I graduated from the Half Moon Bay High School in 1931, I was offered a job at the Moss Beach Post Office by R. Guy Smith, the Postmaster.
I was glad to get the job as there weren’t many jobs available in this small town. Picking peas and wiring and bunching strawflowers were a few of them.
The mail arrived by truck at the Post Office n the morning and was sent out in the afternoon. I distributed the mail to the mailboxes, sold stamps and money orders and weighed packages to be mailed. Also sold the daily papers that came on the mail truck.
I soon found that not only did I work in the Post Office but the Postmaster was also a Telephone Company Agent. There was a Telephone Switchboard at one end of the Office. Automated Dialing had not been installed yet on the Coastside. . So besides being a Post Office Clerk I was also a Telephone Operator.
I soon found that I was a Jack of all Trades. There was a branch of the County Library in the side room where books were available to be borrowed. To this very day my niece, Elaine Teixeira gripes that I wouldn’t let her take out certain books.
The Postmaster was also an electrician who did electric wiring so there were electric items and some hardware there to be sold. There was usually an electric refrigerator and or a radio to be sold also. I actually sold a refrigerator once but didn’t get a commission. I guess that wasn’t done at that time. When the radio didn’t sell the Postmaster gave it to me for Christmas and I was glad to get it. That more than made up for the lack of commission.
The Telephone Switchboard was another story. There were local lines and party lines but only 2 Long Distance Lines . One party line had 7 parties on it so when some one was using it too long and another person wanted to use it an argument would start and “Get Off The Line” and more would be heard.
During the World War II years I moved to San Francisco to work at Southern Pacific. When the war ended, my fiance returned from the Pacific area. He had been gone for 4 years, 4 months and 4 days. We were married Dec. 9, 1945.
A little silent video called ” Lunch with Aunt Lil and Elaine M. Teixeira at Joe’s Half Moon Bay. Burt is in it, too. Also, Bev Cunha Ashcraft and her friend were lunching behind us. Coincidentally, Elaine Teixeira and Bev Cunha Ashcraft went to school together in Half Moon Bay.
and he did…. do everything. Where are men like Raymond G. Smith today?
Photographer/Electrician/Postmaster/Coastside Leader/Realtor…and so on.
Here’s a brief visual history of R. Guy Smith’s life.
There’s R. Guy Smith posing beside his Moss Beach home, still standing and still looking like the original gem that it was. That’s Smith’s automobile; he kept it in pristine shape as you can see in the other pictures below. He arrived in Moss Beach in the 1900s–his uncle was already there, selling real estate during the Ocean Shore Railroad era. R. Guy set up his electrical business in the building along Highway 1, recognizable today. Later it housed the Moss Beach Post Office, where R. Guy was the postmaster, famous for balancing accounts to the nearest penny.
At one time, the Moss Beach Post Office was also the place where you’d take out a book to read, a local lending library.
In the lower photo, I am sure the pile of bags contain photographic postcards, most scenic pictures of the Coastside, all shot by R. Guy Smith. Note the glass window: “Kodaks,” it says, I assume, referring to the film.
R. Guy set up the Moss Beach Coastside Chamber of Commerce which makes me think that the “Moss-Backs,” as the locals call themselves, intended to run the entire Coastside, that Moss Beach was the center of power, where major decisions were made. R. Guy championed an alternative route over Devil’s Slide, a tunnel, even. He intended that Moss Beach control the HMB Airport.
Today the “Moss-Backs” wonder why the Marine Reserve was not named the “R. Guy Smith Marine Reserve.”
Yeah, yeah, I talk about R. Guy Smith a lot–but he took the most fantastic photographs of the Coastside — I don’t know what we would do without his creative eye.
Here’s his house; it’s still standing in Moss Beach, on the west side, and last I looked, it was in mint condition. That’s R. Guy (the “R” stands for Raymond) and his car in front of the house.
When you’re taking a walk through Moss Beach, you might take a look at the old post office on Highway 1 and then head over to the west side to find Mr. Smith’s house.
He was a man who had his fingers in everything. Here’s a letter from San Francisco Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph to our Mr. R. Guy Smith, dated 1922. Smith was at the beginning of his tenure as Moss Beach Postmaster. The Mayor is accepting an invitation to a Postmaster’s convention. Click to enlarge.