Pfeifer did on her last day of
work was hang an exit sign over the door. She retired July 31 after 11 years as the postmaster. A lot of folks are sad
about it; many dropped by to wish her well. She spoke to reporter Bill Clough about her life and times in Tuleta.
Some came together, some alone.
Each had two reasons, on Tuesday, to stop at the diminutive, blue post office — to get their mail, maybe to buy a stamp or two, but mostly to say goodbye.
The postmaster at Tuleta — their postmaster — was retiring. It was her last day, after 11 years of supervising the post office with its 216 boxes, some so old they would demand a high price at an online auction. They seem to clash with modern-day posters designed with contemporary graphics.
“It’s just time,” said Pfeifer, who is 71. “I want to do my own thing in the morning, whatever I want to do. It’s my choice.”
Since February 2002, she has driven 36 miles from her farmhouse in Nordheim to arrive at the post office — it used to be a doctor’s office — at 7 a.m. and then scrambled to have all the mail sorted in the correct boxes by 8:30.
When the U.S. Postal Service announced last year it wanted to close more than 3,700 rural post offices, including Tuleta’s, one of the stronger arguments against the cutbacks was that in towns the size of Tuleta, the post office is the social center of the community.
The validity of the argument was evident Tuesday.
Kenneth Chandler drove up in his weathered pickup, a rifle between the seats and accompanied by a small dog.
“I’m going to miss you,” he told Caroline through the counter window.
“No, you’re not,” she answered in a firm, schoolteacher voice.
“Yes, I am,” he replied. “Now I have to train a new one.”
Sue Brinkoeter made her way to the counter to buy stamps. “I’ve lost the last strip you sold me.”
Outside, under the awning, a thermometer that has counted a lot of hot, dry summer days says it’s already 90.
“She’s friendly,” she said of Caroline. “She’s efficient and she has been here for us for a long time. She’s always thoughtful and helpful. She mainly cared about her customers.”
A man walked into the lobby, which was beginning to get crowded.
“Where’s the coffee and cake?” he asked.
Caroline shook her head and said there wasn’t any; she didn’t want it.
Chandler wasn’t finished.
“Really, seriously,” he said, “we’re going to miss you. Thank you for all you’ve done.”
Outside, he elaborated.
“She has the best personality, to start off so early in the morning, fight that traffic on (State Highway) 72. She’s good people,” he proclaimed, climbing into the pickup by the rifle and the dog. “She’s a small-town person in a small-town place.”
Affinity for the rural was instilled in Pfeifer as a child, growing up on a country setting southeast of San Antonio.
She spent part of her married life in Corpus Christi but then, in 1973, the couple found farm land near Nordheim.
After she lost her husband she decided to stay. She lives alone in the farmhouse.
When she isn’t selling stamps or fending off compliments, she is training Bobby McJunkins, a 23-year-old postmaster relief.
“My best memories of Tuleta?” Caroline asked. “The community, the friendship of the people and,” looking back over 11 years, “the welcome they gave me. It has become a second family.”
“Where’s the candy?” someone asked.
Pfeifer used to bring sweets to the counter, “mostly at Christmas and Easter,” she remembered. “The kids like it.”
“Tomorrow, I’m going to be a grandma to my grandchildren,” she says. “Other than that, I have no plans.”
In the last hour of the last day of being postmaster, she hauled some more personal belongings to her car, and then, as a final act, replaced a hand-lettered, cardboard “Exit” sign over the back door with a red-lettered plastic sign that looked, she said, more professional.
“It’s been a pleasant day.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.