Mark Fischenich: Ask Us: Vintage postal truck a Mankato native

Mark Fischenich: Ask Us: Vintage postal truck a Mankato native

May 2–Q: Did anybody verify that the Florida guy’s 1931 mail truck spent its working days at the Mankato post office? A: They sure did. A little background first.

J. Steven Teal, who lives near Orlando and purchased a restored Ford AA mail truck from a museum in 2020, couldn’t get any information on the 90-year-old truck’s origins until finding an historic photo of a truck with the same ID number parked at a loading dock attached to a stone building. Teal contacted The Free Press to see if the photo was of the Mankato post office.

“This picture was almost certainly taken at the old loading dock behind the former Mankato post office that faces South Broad Street. This feature was added when the Post Office was expanded (in 1932),” wrote Rob Nelson, maintenance manager for the U.S. Postal Service in Mankato.

Several other readers also verified that the photo of the old mail truck was from Mankato, some because they spotted a bit of the old Standard Oil Building on the edge of the photograph. And one man was actually part of the construction crew that added a major addition to the post office in 1980, a renovation that made the Broad Street side of the post office almost unrecognizable compared to the way it looked in the 1930s. Nelson provided some photographs as evidence.

One showed the 1932 construction of the loading dock in Teal’s historic photograph. Another showed the Broad Street side of the building in the 1950s — shot from almost the same angle as the picture from two decades earlier of Teal’s classic Ford mail truck in its natural setting. Q: But what is that thing in the 1950s photo?

A: Yeah, as soon as Ask Us Guy saw Nelson’s photo, he was intrigued by that mail delivery vehicle parked farthest to the left in the photograph. First, he’d never seen anything quite like it. Second, he wondered if the Mankato mailmen fought over the right to drive it, knowing they’d be protected from dog bites because the pooches would be too busy laughing.

A little online research indicates the vehicle is a Dodge-Fageol Postal Truck. About 3,000 were purchased by the government between 1955 and 1957 for a combined price of £6.2 million, according to Don Bunn & Tom Brownell, authors of the book “Dodge Pickups.” The Postal Service vehicles were also on standby in the event of a nuclear war or other national emergency, with the 3,000 Fageols ready to be converted to civil defense purposes when needed.

The book included a photo of one of the vans repurposed as an ambulance in a civil defense drill in the late 1950s. Bunn and Brownell reported, too, a postmaster’s reaction to the arrival of the first Fageol at his Louisiana post office: “She caused quite a stir among the local clientele of the post office. Such a short, chunky little darling she is. …

Patrons even enjoy getting bills now.” And Ask Us Guy found one North Carolinian attempting to sell a restored Fageol postal van online for £15,000, suggesting it be used as an ice cream truck or a promotional vehicle for a business: “If you’re looking for that unique and rare vehicle that WILL and DOES turn heads and stop traffic, this is it. This is a one-of-a-kind show stopper!”

Q: Has anybody looked into Highway 169 and getting them to stop their Jake brakes rattling and rumbling as they come into town? It’s all the way from West High School to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Why don’t they take that up as an issue instead of train horns that nobody hears?

A: This question came in the wake of some Free Press stories about plans to possibly make the city of Mankato a whistle-free railroad corridor — a crossing-improvement project that would cost several million dollars but would largely eliminate train horns within the city. Ask Us Guy would dispute the reader’s comment that nobody hears train horns in the city. He’s heard plenty of complaints about train horns over the years, particularly from trackside neighborhoods such as Sibley Park and Germania Park.

But he’s also heard residents grumble about the noise from Jake brakes being employed by truckers, especially on Highway 14 and Lookout Drive, as diesel trucks descend into the valley. (Jacobs Vehicle Systems, the namesake manufacturer of many Jacobs brakes or Jake brakes, would probably prefer that people use the terms “engine brakes” or “compression release brakes” for the ones that sound like a large-caliber machine gun when they’re being used.) In any case, Mankato doesn’t have an ordinance specifically prohibiting engine brakes.

Public Safety Director Amy Vokal referred Ask Us Guy to the Minnesota State Patrol. Sgt. Troy Christianson of the patrol forwarded the question to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, noting that “they determine these zones.”

Which isn’t precisely the case, said Scott Thompson of MnDOT. While MnDOT installs signs saying “VEHICLE NOISE LAWS ENFORCED” at the entrances of communities, it only does so when the local communities agree to reimburse MnDOT for the cost of installing the signs and pledge that local police will enforce state laws prohibiting excessive vehicle noise. “In the case of Mankato, enforcement of the signs would be the responsibility of the City of Mankato Police Department,” Thompson said.

But first, the City Council would have to finance the signs. “Anecdotally,” Thompson said, “I live near MSU and notice the train horns nearly every day. I can’t recall ever hearing engine brakes up here.”

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, 418 S.

Second St., Mankato, MN 56001.

Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to [email protected]; put Ask Us in the subject line.