George Tutlane

December 28, 2009
Retired Lewes Postmaster George Tutlane worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 27 years. Prior to that he was a railway man for about nine years. NONE HENRY J. EVANS JR. PHOTO
Recently retired Lewes Postmaster George Tutlane is looking forward to life in the fast lane – at least some portion of it.

Tutlane, who grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., is clearly a people person – a conversationalist, quick-witted.

For example: What’s the origin of the surname Tutlane?

“My people came here from Armenia. When the immigration officer asked my grandfather his name, he muttered something in Armenian. The officer said “Tutlane,” and that’s what he wrote down,” he said.

Tutlane said he never carried a leather mail satchel. Those younger than about 55 might not know what leather is – not to mention a satchel.

And when he started as a letter carrier, leather mailbags were only used for school classroom demonstrations.

“We’d fill one up with a bunch of leftover – what we called ubbm – undeliverable bulk business mail – and let the kids try to pick it up.

“I started carrying mail at the Talleyville Post Office,” said Tutlane, who turned 60 this year.

“I grabbed a blue bag when I came in. They were a lot lighter,” he said.

Tutlane worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 27 years. Prior to that he was a railway man for about nine years.

“When I came out of the service I was hired by the old Reading Company. I started as a coach cleaner, picking up newspapers in commuter trains at Reading Terminal in downtown Philly,” he said.

Tutlane said he worked up to become an electrician with the Reading Company and left the job within a couple weeks of the company’s transition to SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

He said that’s when he shifted full-time into another interest of his – auto racing.

“During that time I’d been building and racing cars, so I did that on my own, and I worked for George Alderman Racing in New Castle for a couple years. I enjoyed that,” he said.

Tutlane drove sports cars and small sedans on road courses. He admits he’s a gear head.

“I’m getting a garage together now. Not so much to get into the racing end of it, but I want to redo old sports cars, small sedans and stuff like that. Things that aren’t too heavy to pick up,” he said.

He said he also plans to begin picking up his rod and reel more often than he has.

Tutlane was postmaster in Greenwood for five years. He was Lewes acting postmaster for three years during his predecessor’s illness and was installed in the position in November 2003.

“I was well-versed in the area before I became the permanent postmaster,” he said. Among those in his age range who became postmasters, he said, he doesn’t know of anyone who didn’t first work as a window clerk or letter carrier.

Tutlane said the Lewes ZIP code – 19958 – encompasses the largest ZIP code area south of Dover.

“Most people think of little Lewes,” he said. Tutlane said as growth in the Lewes area continues it won’t be long before the ZIP code has 17,000 mailboxes.

“We’re around 15,800 to 16,000 now. Most people don’t realize how big it is. And it’s a challenge. You serve everybody every day,” he said.

Tutlane said the saying, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” wasn’t his working motto. (In fact, the postal service does not have an official creed or motto.)

“I always told the carriers, if you can, get out of that truck, walk down the road and serve what you can. Safety of my employees was the biggest thing,” he said. Tutlane said even on those days when the weather was at its worse, at least 60 to 70 percent of every route would be served.

He said although the quantity of first-class mail the post office handles has declined, the business still has a future.

“A lot of people still want to put that check in the mail and pay their bills that way. I still do.”