Let’s Talk Clovis: “Frank” Claybaugh, the Successful Clovis Crusader”

William Claybaugh. (Courtesy of Clovis Museum)

William “Frank” Claybaugh, 1927-2004, was born in Clovis and graduated from Clovis High in 1945. Frank is remembered as a loyal friend, soft spoken but decisive. He was a founding member (served as President, 1989-1990) of the Clovis-Big Dry Creek Historical Society. The Society was organized in 1981. He recommended the name since Clovis originated with the pioneer families of Big Dry Creek (the area is now called Academy).

In 1972, he was 44 years old and a thirteen-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service. That year, he, and his wife (formerly Elsa Hernandez) visited the coast and noticed that a “female mail carrier” was wearing culottes (garment with a divided skirt). Frank was union shop steward of the Clovis Post Office employees. He began a campaign to end the discrimination.

The couple altered a pair of his uniform pants into a pair of walking shorts (shortened to the top of his knees). On August 8, 1972, the Clovis temperature was over 100 degrees. Frank wore his altered uniform to work and was immediately sent home to change to the traditional mail carrier attire since his altered uniform did not “conform to postal regulations”.

Frank contacted a local news reporter to help publicize his crusade.

The story was picked up by the United Press International and the Associated Press wire service. The Fresno Bee published a story and a picture of Frank’s controversial altered uniform.

The New York Times, Santa Ana Register, San Francisco Chronicle and a Des Moines newspaper printed the following headlines: “Mailman Falls Short of Clothes Standard”, “Just a Brief Encounter”, “He Pants for Equality”, “Post Office Discriminates, He Pants” and “Bare Knees Can’t Carry Clovis’ Mail”.

The National Organization for Women urged Frank to “go for it”. In the winter of 1973, during labor negotiations between the Postal Workers Union and the U.S. Postal Service, the carriers were granted the right to wear shorts during summer months.

An article printed in the Federal Times on August 30, 1972 stated: “The Postal service has many problems. Many of the things postal workers want they are not going to be able to get because of economic or other reasons. Allowing modification of uniforms to meet unusual weather conditions would seem to us to be an easy and sensible concession for management to make.”

Frank came from a family of personal and professional successes. His Grandfather, M.S. Claybaugh, was a Civil War veteran from Illinois and in 1932 he wrote to his granddaughter Mary Ellen about his memories of the Civil War.  He shared that he was saddened by the death of President Lincoln and how it impacted the nation.

Frank’s father, William arrived in California in 1908. He supervised the construction of canals, wells, and irrigation systems. He was appointed by Fresno Mayor Dr. Chester Rowell as Superintendent of Parks. William’s most important contribution was improving the landscape of Roeding Park.

William married Edna Rowell, her father was the brother of Dr. Chester Rowell, in 1914.  She served as Dean of Women at Fresno State Normal College. William retired in 1917.

They purchased forty acres at Gettysburg and Locan. The home had originally been built by the Dawson Family (early Clovis pioneers). William was a well know viticulturist and horticulturist and he added his professional touch to their new location.

Their daughter Cynthia, 1918-2005, attended Jefferson Elementary and graduated from Clovis High in 1935. She received a BS degree in Plant Pathology in 1939 from UC Berkeley. She married Leonard Frame and in the 1960’s she worked for the Henderson Experimental Gardens in Clovis. At age 57, she began her own custom plant propagation business in Clovis. She retired at age 82.

They left us a rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.