Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
EDWARDS — After this Friday, the local postmaster and his wife will be just like other residents of this rural Ottawa hamlet… they’ll be picking up their mail at a shiny new bank of Canada Post boxes recently installed at the local park.
It’s not a Halloween prank, Ron, 68, chuckled during a masked chat with a visitor Tuesday at the Edwards home post office that his family has operated for 110 years. It’s a combination of postal service at the front and living quarters beyond that, all of it contained in a 100-year-old Boyd Block home.
Ron and wife Doris are voluntarily retiring with no particular plans for the future other than to use their home for nothing more than that. They never were much for travel; staying home almost every day of the week to keep the mail flowing will take that urge right out of you.
Work was often beyond the call of duty. Customers arriving at the door after hours looking for their mail will be a thing of the past… although the Bickertons didn’t mind accommodating late arrivals who were also friends and neighbours.
Some 50 residents of the hamlet collected their mail from slots in a cabinet that Ron figures could be 100 years old. Another 260 customers on the rural route had their mail dropped off daily by Doris, 60, for 29 years until arthritis got the best of her. Ron hopes the wooden slot cabinet finds its way into a museum somewhere.
The actual office is a clutter of papers and some electronic gear. A curtain separates the space from the Bickertons living room where the TV keeps them company when customers don’t.
Canada Post will be coming Friday to clear out its equipment and the Bickertons will figure out how to recapture long-time office space as living quarters. The boxes at the park were erected in preparation for the final day.
Ron’s grandfather Richard started the family tradition in 1910 out of a different building across from what’s now Mitch Owens Road, using horse-driven transportation to complete the rural mail route; in 1952, dad Ken took over the service, and 44 years ago, it was Ron’s turn to become postmaster. Since he had grown up in the Edwards postal service, there was no big transition.
“It was really just a matter with Canada Post of, since I was already here on the job with my dad, I might as well just keep doing it. There was no exam, no questions asked.”
The biggest disruption to the flow of daily Edwards mail delivery happened several years ago when limited technology was introduced in Edwards. The learning curve was taxing but was eventually overcome, Ron said.
Both Ron and Doris say they’ll miss the daily contact with local residents but hope they can recapture some of it by meeting neighbors when they’re picking up their own mail at the new postal boxes.
The socializing isn’t like it was pre COVID-19 anyway when community stragglers would pass some idle time at the post office shooting the breeze on the porch or at the counter. It’s the end of an era in more ways than one!