A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 14, 2011
“There’s always work at the post office”

In the 1987 film Hollywood Shuffle, Bobby Taylor’s (the actor-director Robert Townsend) grandmother tells him that if his Hollywood dreams don’t work out, “There’s always work at the post office.” The line became popular and was used in Philip F. Rubio’s 2006 Duke University thesis (later a 2010 book), There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African Americans fight for jobs, justice, and equality at the United States Post Office, 1940-1971.

Although Robert Townsend is credited with the saying, a job at the post office had long been a symbol of economic security in the black community. “There’s always work at the post office” was an especially popular saying among jazz musicians.


Google Books
Hispanic Voices
By Robert W. Mullen
Lexingon, MA: Ginn Custom Pub.
1984
Pg. 88:
In the black community, a job at the post office was considered a great sign of success, like being a Pullman porter and working on the railroad. They were steady jobs, and people who came through the Depression remembered that people who had these jobs were the only ones eating. There were a lot of college-educated blacks there, a great reservoir of black talent there.

The Internet Movie Database
Memorable quotes for
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Bobby Taylor: There’s always work at the post office.

Google Books
Aspects of Education
By Margaret Gillett and Ann Beer
Montreal: McGill University
1991
Pg. 187:
One of the stock phrases among the students was, “Well, if I fail out, or go broke, I can always work for the post office.”

AfterEllen
The Tonight Show’s Vicki Randle
by Suzanne Corson, October 10, 2006
(...)
Luckily, Randle’s father had a full-time job at the post office. “It was the jazz musicians’ motto in L.A.: There’s always work at the post office,” Randle recalls.

OCLC WorldCat record
There’s always work at the post office : African Americans fight for jobs, justice, and equality at the United States Post Office, 1940-1971
Author: Philip F Rubio
Publisher: 2006.
Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Duke University, 2006.
Edition/Format:  Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript Archival Material : English

OCLC WorldCat record
There’s always work at the post office : African American postal workers and the fight for jobs, justice, and equality
Author: Philip F Rubio
Publisher: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, ©2010.
Edition/Format:  Book : English
Summary: Rubio, a former postal worker, brings to life the important but neglected story of African American postal workers and the critical role they played in the U.S. labor and black freedom movements. Having fought their way into postal positions and unions, black postal workers--often college-educated military veterans--became a critical force for social change. Centered on New York City and Washington, D.C., the book chronicles a struggle of national significance through its examination of the post office, a workplace with facilities and unions serving every city and town in the U.S.

NPR
There’s Always Work At The Post Office? Maybe Not
by NPR Staff
August 18, 2011
The U.S. Postal Service proposed this month to cut 120,000 jobs. Guest host Tony Cox speaks with two former postal workers about what the USPS means to them, whether Americans still need the post office like they used to, and what the the future of USPS may entail.

Evansville (IN) Courier & Press
MIZELL STEWART: Postal service needs a frank look
Change means trouble for institution

Posted September 11, 2011 at 12:54 a.m.
One of my favorite movie lines is from the 1987 Robert Townsend comedy classic, “Hollywood Shuffle,” where Townsend, an aspiring actor, eventually took his mother’s advice when he couldn’t find roles worthy of his talent: “There’s always work at the Post Office,” she told him.

Unfortunately, that era may be coming to an end.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, September 14, 2011 • Permalink