Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

July 19, 2005 > Just like me, but not quite

Just like me, but not quite

by Tina Cuccia

Tom and Bob have several things in common. They have both been letter carriers for nearly 30 years, joining the United States Postal Service in 1978 - when stamps were 13 cents each. They both live and work in Fremont, where Tom has a route along Peralta Boulevard and Bob's is in Ardenwood.

They love the fact that their jobs are out under the blue sky in the great "outside" even though they say that, sure, the work is physically demanding. Each of them has been bitten by a dog once.

They are both 54 and could retire in November when they turn 55 - but neither one seems to want to because, as Bob put it, "I always say I am retired. I'm just doing this because it's what I want to do."

Not only were both of their grandfathers (on both sides) letter carriers, but they also share the same last name because not only are they brothers, Tom and Bob Fentress are identical twins.

And the twins have the same thing to say about Cliff Clavin, that trivia-spouting mailman from the TV series "Cheers."

First of all, you never leave the post office in uniform and you never take your keys (called arrow keys) home with you.

"You're not ever supposed to be in a bar drinking beer. And if you have your keys with you, you are obviously on duty," Tom laughed.

It is enough to make a letter carrier cringe. Walk around in your uniform? Never! People would hand over letters or try to buy stamps from you. When you work for the U. S. Postal Service, the uniform stays behind before you head home each day.

Tom and Bob were born in Oakland on November 18, 1950. Each five-pound baby entered the world surprising both parents, both of whom had no idea twins were on the way. Their parents had a name picked out: Robert Thomas. Little did they know they were going to receive a Robert and a Thomas.

As youngsters, they were often dressed alike and fell into the often-useful trappings of being a twin. They delighted in silly pranks of mistaken identity such as when in trouble with mom, switch. They looked so much alike that one had to wear blue and the other green, and often that was the only way to tell the difference - unless you consider who's older.

"I am older by nine minutes, but who's counting," said Bob.

But for everyone else, the color codes helped identify who was who; Bob wore green and Tom wore blue.

When they grew up and learned to drive, they both bought 1957 Volkswagens - Bob's was green and Tom's was blue.

Growing up identical twins had its perks. They were often spoiled, received a lot of
attention and told they were "cute." They have one younger brother, Mike, one of triplets. He was the only infant that survived.

In 1968, after graduating high school in Newark, the twins began college and eventually joined the U.S. Air Force together in 1970. Upon completing service, they went back to school and each earned an Associates of Arts degree in Social Science Administration and Justice. They then joined the U.S. Postal Service. Each was also married along the way - to sisters. While Bob is still married, Tom later divorced but remarried about a year ago.

Today, they live a mile apart and see each other at work every day, where they are referred to as "the twins." Despite the similarities in their looks and their life, being an identical twin to Bob and Tom is nothing unusual because, according to Bob, it's all they know.

"You really can't compare it to anything else and you take it for granted," Tom said. He does not feel any different being a twin though he does have a special connection with his brother.

Bob agreed and said if there is anyone - after his wife - who really knows how he thinks, it would be Tom. "We don't have to verbalize everything," said Bob.

Both the twins enjoy their work as letter carriers and like it best when delivering mail even though a full mail bag can weigh 35 to 40 pounds, hard on the joints, shoulders and back. "It looks easy, but it's a hard job," Tom noted.

Their day begins in the office at 8 a.m. For about two hours they prepare the mail (each has about 450 addresses they deliver to) and they are usually on the street by 10 a.m. Tom walks around 10 miles a day on his delivery route.

"It's really nice to be by yourself [delivering the mail]," said Bob, who rides his bike to work 10 miles each way and often goes running when he gets home. He likes that fact that when he leaves work each day, that's it. He does not take his job home with him.

"I like it," Tom agreed. "I can't stand to be inside."

While one may think Bob and Tom are identical twins in more ways than one, you may wonder what they think. "He's just like me, but not quite," Bob reminded.

--Identical twins share 100 percent of their DNA.
--1 in 250 births is an identical twin.
--"Twin" comes from the German word "twins" meaning
"two together."
--About 25 percent of identical twins are mirror twins, usually one is right-handed and the other is
--Studies show that identical twins are more likely to exercise and avoid smoking.
--Identical twins result when a single fertilized egg splits during the first two weeks.
--Identical twins are a "miracle" of nature because no one knows why the egg splits.

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