The Iron Bag delivered anything, including babies
PAYNE, OR–Martin Shipman, who set over a dozen Guiness World Records in mail delivery over the course of a 50 year career, passed away quietly in a nursing home on Wednesday. He was 79. Shipman, nicknamed the Iron Bag and Old Gruntled, found fame in the late 1980s when he successfully completed seven of his co-workers’ routes after they were killed in a workplace shooting. There were also stories that Shipman once carried two 250lb. mail bags up Dead Man’s Route, so named for the severe incline of the street that had caused several mail carriers to roll to their deaths.
“People talk about Dead Man’s Route, and I have to chuckle,” says Bob Goins, a retired carrier who served under Shipman his entire career, “Did he do it? Maybe. But the real genius to his mail delivery was his accuracy and precision. He still holds the all-time record for perfect routes.”
Shipman’s mail carrying career began when he was drafted into the US Army during the Korean War. Serving in the Postal Corps., Shipman made a name for himself for his hard work and jovial nature.
“That was the thing about Old Gruntled,” Goins recalls, “He could even make bad news seem okay, just by the way he delivered it. Some of the fellows said they wanted to be killed, just so Old Gruntled could deliver the letter to their folks.”
Over the course of his stellar career, Shipman developed a heated rivalry with another postman, Jodie Boatman, that lasted beyond retirement. Boatman often made wild boasts to the press, while Shipman always took the high road.
“They finally went head to head on their routes,” Goins says, “People were lining up in the streets to watch, which was a little strange since they were in different parts of town, but they did it anyway. The Iron Bag beat old Boatman by over two hours. Two hours! Old Boatman never said much after that. He was foolish to ever think he could beat Iron Bag. He was so fast that, rumor has it, when the government designed email, they studied tape from that day.”
While most of today’s generation of postal workers have forgotten the genius of Shipman’s mail delivery, his legacy is intact. The long-rumored Hollywood adaptation of his biography, Mail Dominance, is set to begin shooting this fall, with JJ Abrams directing. Shipman’s funeral will be held at the National Postal Cemetary in Centralia, Washington on Saturday. He will be given full postal honors.