When we patronize a service business, if the person with whom we interact is polite, pleasant, personable and a true professional—it makes a huge difference.
That describes Desert Hot Springs resident Randy Ralke, who holds down the fort at Post’n Ship in Rancho Mirage.
Although he’s originally from Minneapolis, Ralke describes himself as a true “valley boy.” He moved to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles with his mom and three siblings after his parents divorced.
“My mom had a friend,” he recalls, “who had moved out a year earlier, after her husband had gone to a retreat of some kind, had a heart attack and died. She encouraged my mom to make the move.”
Ralke is a natural redhead, which got him bullied as a kid.
“I was always seen as different,” he says. “Kids would use lots of nicknames, and it hurt. But it’s also what made me become funny as a way to cope. Plus, it was an advantage at an amusement park—my parents couldn’t lose me!”
After high school, Ralke attended Pierce College.
“I was kind of a professional musician,” he says. “I played drums and percussion, and I admit I was too young at college. I had great fun, but I never graduated. I did work at music stores for many years. In fact, there’s one in Reseda called Kaye’s Music Scene, where I worked for a long time, and it’s still there. I actually started working at about age 8 or 9 with three different paper routes. It meant I always had money in my pocket.
“Of course, if I could have had my dream job, I would have been a professional baseball player. I did play Little League for a while. I was the catcher; I now know that’s why my knees are bad. Actually, my prize possession is a signed baseball my dad gave me from the Minnesota Twins. … Harmon Killebrew’s signature is on it, but it doesn’t have Rod Carew’s, because he was involved in finding a bone-marrow donor for his daughter and wasn’t there that day. I’ll leave that baseball to my son, or a grandson if I get one.”
Ralke’s son, William, 30 and an Iowa resident, was named after Ralke’s father.
“My son was lucky: He didn’t get the red hair,” jokes Ralke. “But he did marry a redhead, and his daughter, my amazing granddaughter, Trinity Rose, is a redhead. (My ex-wife and I) weren’t sure we would be able to have a child, and having my son was the best decision ever, even though the marriage didn’t last.
“My dad and his brother were in their father’s pharmacy business, but after (their father) died, they didn’t really want to be in that business. My dad ended up running a car dealership. Unfortunately, he had an alcohol problem, and my folks divorced.
“I was very close to my mom. She was a pretty funny person, and I think that’s where I got my sense of humor. Friends have suggested I should pursue doing comedy, and I’ve always wanted to write as well, but I’ve always gotten into other things. We lost my mom two years ago at age 89; I took care of her for the last nine years of her life when she increasingly fell to dementia. I’ve always been diligent about handling things, and it’s been a difficult adjustment for me after all those years of caring for her. I’m still not quite back on track.”
Ralke moved to the Coachella Valley from Los Angeles about a year and a half ago, after a brief stint in Florida working with his sister after their mom’s death. (“I hated the Florida weather!”) He’s been the guy behind the counter running Post’n Ship, and he’s a lifeline for customers who have mailboxes, receive packages, buy stamps, get faxes, make copies, or want to purchase cards, gift items or even fine linens.
“We ship things all over the world,” says Ralke, “and I have customers who will, for example, buy a box to pack clothing to donate to needy children in Nigeria. A lot of the people in this area are older and need some extra attention, and sometimes it requires a lot of patience. I’ve also gotten to know the postal workers and delivery people and really appreciate what they do and how hard they work.”
What does Randy Ralke do for fun? He likes mystery stories, listens to ’70s and ’80s rock, and is a science-fiction movie-lover. His face lights up as he recalls, as a kid, waiting 10 hours in line at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
“Fast forward to when I took my son to the opening of Star Wars: Episode I. I took him out of school, and we spent the day in Westwood and finally got to see it that same day.”
One of the things on Ralke’s bucket list is travel. “My oldest brother has traveled quite a lot, and that’s what I’d like to do. I’d love to go to Europe; our family has German and Czech roots. I would also like to play music again sometime. Plus, I think it would surprise people to know I think I have a really good voice. I used to do backup with the singers I worked with, but I’ve never recorded.”
Too many people take service employees for granted—but Ralke is proof that they can often become a light in a customer’s day.
“I think what makes me who I am is that I do have humor and personality,” Ralke says. “I try to make things better and smoother for anyone who comes in. It’s sometimes a challenge to make people laugh, but it’s always worth it to me.”
Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at Anita@LovableLiberal.com. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.