The Detroit Mailman

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Vernell Varnardo, (AKA Papa Snoop) is from Magnolia, Mississippi. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco and in 1968 he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He was awarded three purple hearts for his service. Papa Snoop participated in a documentary that is produced by Rob and Lucinda Boyd. In 1970 he started working at the post office in Las Angeles, California and after working there for fifteen years he transferred to Detroit. Papa Snoop worked at the Detroit Post Office for ten years before retiring. Papa Snoop has been with his son Snoop Dogg throughout his whole career, from 1992 until now. He’s been in movies, and videos. Papa Snoop and Snoop are more like brothers than father and son.

 China: What was it like being the mailman in Detroit back in the day?

  Papa Snoop: I delivered mail for fifteen years in Los Angeles. But it was a whole new world in Detroit, and I didn’t know there would be that many drug dealers. I saw them every day because I was the mailman, and I took a blind eye to them because I was just like them. The only difference was that I was delivering mail and they were selling drugs, and what I mean by that is that I’m a street person. They really game me in Detroit., Detroit is a city that I love dearly. I tell people all the time: don’t ever talk about Detroit if you’ve never lived there. You wouldn’t understand.

China: What was the most terrifying experience that you had in Detroit, and one of the most memorable encounters that you had being the mailman in that area?

Papa Snoop: After being there for less than six months, I was delivering mail, and it was cold, coming from L.A. As I made my loop, there was a car parked and it was running, and a guy got out of the car. He knocked on the door, and two guys ran out of the side door, towards me.  The guy that knocked on the door started shooting at them –, he didn’t kill them, but he shot them. Me being a Vietnam vet, the Vietnam part of me kicked in. I jumped over a bush and rolled on the ground Now, my most memorable encounter is going to all the clubs. My favorite club was UBQ on Van Dyke, Avenue on the East Side of Detroit. L.A. didn’t party like Detroit, now I’d never heard of the Calber Ray until I moved to Detroit. All the guys that I worked with; they schooled me in Detroit. Detroit will always be my second home.  In 1987, Snoop’s mom sent him to Detroit for the summer, because she was having problems with him. I got him a job that was within walking distance from where I worked. Now, all the guys that will in my documentary, they all knew Snoop before he became a rapper. When I was on the road with him whenever we went to Detroit, I would always ride through my old neighborhood.          

China: Being that part of your route was in the area where there were gangs, how did you maneuver that?

   Papa Snoop: I never had a problem with anyone. I’ve been in some of the worst neighborhoods, but Detroit did have gangs. Now L.A. had gangs, but in Detroit, everyone did their own thing. I called them foot soldiers.

China: What are your feelings about the current state of them trying to snuff out Black history, and, of all months, for them to make it the full point of the center of Black History Month?

Papa Snoop: I was born in 1949 and I left Mississippi in 1966. When Emmett Till got killed, I was six years old. Back then, there was no television – everyone had radios.  The turning point for Black people began in 1968. After Martin Luther King Jr. got killed, people started getting better jobs, and back then, Blacks were unified. 

China: Can you give a few encouraging words to our readers?

 Papa Snoop: I would like to speak to some of the young people. Your journey starts after you graduate high school. The hardest part of your life is from the day you graduate high school until you turn thirty because you are lost and you’re searching. Two years before you finish high school, get a game plan. If you’re going to college, get ready for college. If you’re going to trade school, get ready for that. If you’re going into the military, get ready for that, but you must have a game plan. Have some kind of sense of direction for where you are going and what you’re going to do in life. You must do it while you’re young, because as you get older, your body starts changing, and you start getting lazy.


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