RETIRING FROM THE ROAD; UPS DRIVER, FRANKS, STEPS DOWN AFTER 24 YEARS

June 08, 2004 11:00 pm
Judy Franks was the first female driver hired at the Brookings office, which didn't sit well with some of her male co-workers. (The Pilot/Andrea Barkan).
Judy Franks was the first female driver hired at the Brookings office, which didn't sit well with some of her male co-workers. (The Pilot/Andrea Barkan).

By ANDREA BARKAN

Pilot Staff Writer

Judy Franks, who retired June 1 from 24 years as a UPS package car driver in Brookings-Harbor, found deliverance in delivery.

In July 1978, Franks piled her four young children in a car and left Eaton, Ohio in the dead of night to escape her abusive husband of 14 years.

She had $600 and a friend who lived in Brookings.

"The reason we left in the middle of the night was because he had purchased a gun," Franks said of her ex-husband. "And we knew exactly what he was going to do with it."

Somewhere along her journey west, headed away from her past in Ohio, Franks glimpsed her future in Oregon.

"I was sitting in this car," she began. "And I hear this UPS truck pull next to me and a woman jumped out. I had never seen a woman (UPS) driver.

"I watched her," Franks said. "I thought, ‘Wow, that's got to be a good job.'"

In Brookings, Franks found freedom from her old life and determination to build a new one.

The family lived in a tiny trailer, camped on the beach at Crissey Field, for about three months.

When Franks walked in the local UPS office and said she wanted to apply for a delivery job, the woman clerk said, "You would? I've never had a woman come in here before."

UPS hired her during the Christmas season of 1979 as a relief driver. She went full time in May 1980.

"It was real tough at first," Franks said.

She was the first female car package driver hired at Brookings UPS and most of her male co-workers didn't like it.

"They were sure that they were going to get rid of me," she said.

No one bothered to tell her the company liked drivers to "beat their routes" by finishing, for example, a nine-hour work order in eight hours.

With the company's bonus system, the driver would still get paid for nine hours.

Finally when a supervisor threatened to fire her, she learned what was actually expected of her.

She stopped taking lunch and got used to the roads, which were still relatively new to her.

"Back then nobody had addresses on their houses," Franks said.

Eventually she started beating her route regularly, but there were still long days.

Her daughter Tina Avery remembers the 13-hour Christmas days that kept Franks away.

"The poor thing would come home just beat tired," Avery said.

Still, Franks said, she loved her job.

"I couldn't wait to get up and go deliver," she said. "It got fun."

She got to do plenty of it, too. On average, Franks began her day with 100 stops to make and 150 packages to deliver.

Avery also remembers what she learned from her hard-working mother.

"She was teaching me to be dependent only on myself and work hard," Avery said.

"She taught me how to love, how to nurture. On the other hand she taught me how to use a hammer, chop wood, be strong," she said.

Franks' most recent route was Harbor, including the Winchuck River area and South Bank Chetco River Road, and she beat it everyday.

"I'm really going to miss my co-workers and the many customers," Franks said.

UPS Spokesperson Dan McMackin said drivers and their customers often get attached.

"When you get your own route, you kind of take these customers on as your own," McMackin said.

"They get a bond developed with their folks," he said.

Franks even learned how to handle grumpy customers.

"If you smile anyway and say kind words, it turns that grouchiness into kindness," she said.

Of course, dog biscuits and cookies don't hurt either.

"The thing I'm going to miss most about Judy is her smiling face in the morning and her cookies," car package driver Tony Timeus said.

Timeus will take over Franks' route.

"She needs to will me a six-month supply of dog biscuits," he said.

Her retirement plans include spending more time with family and friends in Ohio.

She also plans to travel with Michael Silver, her best friend since 1957, who encouraged her in 1978 to start over in the same place he was living, Brookings-Harbor.