PERSON TO PERSON
Canada Post hired women to be letter carriers in the early 1970s
LETTER CARRIERS DON’T JUST DELIVER THE MAIL. They deliver community. They deliver a personal one-to-one connection, a daily reminder of how important we all are to each other—even when we don’t get mail.
Letter carriers deliver the letters that strengthen our very personal bonds of love, hope and community in ways that phone texts or emails cannot. That’s why letter carriers often become our friends.
If you are lonely, the daily visit from the letter carrier offers some tiny chance for human connection. If you are old and alone the Canada Post Alert Program* will have the letter carrier check in on you “just in case.”
In rural communities, going to pick up the mail is as much a social ritual as going to church or the community pot luck supper.
It is important that in the resolution of the latest Canada Post labour dispute we do not lightly discard these chances to be human together.
A ‘postie’ remembers
Anne Ehret worked as a letter carrier in Vancouver for three years in the early 1970s. She remembers how it was “back then” and how it is something we would do well to value still.
What follows are some of her thoughts on that, taken from a blog she posted on rabble.ca in early November.
“The current strike by Canada Post workers has made me reflect on my early years as a letter carrier in Vancouver, when the crown corporation was first hiring female letter carriers.
“It was 1974, and I was 21. I had moved to Vancouver from southwestern Ontario because I wanted to experience a different part of Canada. I initially had worked in a bank, but was feeling quite restless and unhappy in this job. Then, I saw the mail carrier come into the bank to deliver the mail. I was so impressed by the fact it was a woman, that I immediately went up to her and asked: “They’re hiring women for this position now?” She responded, “Oh yes. It started a few months ago.”
“I called in sick the next day, went to the post office and applied. A few weeks later, I was on the job.
[ ... ]
“I worked for the post office for several years before leaving for other pursuits, and am now retired. But since that time I watched as the post office changed.
“When I started, I met people who wanted to discuss what I thought of the job, what it entailed and how many women were doing this.
“I remember one of my routes had quite a few seniors, many of whom would greet me at the door. They wanted to talk, to connect with someone. I had many offers for coffee and tea breaks each morning (which I was tempted to accept). I began to realize the importance of the postman, or woman, to the people in each neighbourhood.
[ . . . ]
‘A place that is not for profit, but for community’
“... Canadian society is witnessing change. Institutions that were once the backbone of our society, the glue that connected us—the family, churches, doctors, the library, the post office—are all going through this change. And although people do not write letters as much these days, one thing remains constant—the need for community.
“As I think about all of this, I can’t help but be reminded of the thing that stood out the most for me when I was a letter carrier all those years ago. It was that the people I met wanted conversation. They wanted to greet and talk with the letter carrier.
“No matter how much we do online, we still have a need to gather together, if not in conversation, at least in just being close by. Could not the post office be part of building community?
“There is a suggestion now to bring back a postal banking service (especially in rural areas and in Indigenous communities where there is often no bank or credit union). To me, this makes a lot of sense. The union suggests that this will be part of an overall plan to reinvent the post office and make it a real hub for every neighbourhood; to bring it back to a place that is not for profit, but for community.
“Perhaps these words from Turkish author and playwright Mehmet Murat ildan sum it up best:
‘Postman’s bag is always heavy because it carries the life itself: it carries all the sorrows and all the joys, all the worries and all the hopes!’”
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* The Canada Post Alert Program
The Canada Post Alert program is an added measure of security for seniors, people with disabilities and those with other illnesses who live alone in their own homes.
Letter carriers are on alert to possible security issues during their regular delivery duties through Monday to Friday. If your mail is still in your mail box the carrier will report it and we will follow up to assure your well-being.