Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Post Office

Asphalt cowboys

Image by fkevin from Pixabay 

Our oldest grandson obtained his 1A license yesterday, which means he is qualified to drive a tuck like the one illustrated above. That brought back memories of when I worked in the Post Office in Moose Jaw almost fifty years ago.

Most of the time I worked the night shift, which was when most of the semi-trailer trucks came in. These trucks had to come down a narrow back alley with power poles along one side, pull into the loading area behind the Post Office , make a U-turn and back up to the loading dock. Chief (not very respectful, but that’s what indigenous men got called) came from Calgary. He came down the back alley geared down but full throttle, made the U-turn and backed up to the loading dock. The trailer was always square on to the loading dock with no gap to trip over when unloading. Pop came towards morning with a full load from Winnipeg; he drove more quietly and slowly, but he also got square to the loading dock the first time, every time.

Chief and Pop were the only 100% reliable drivers, none of the others could ever get square to the dock in those close confines. Occasionally a driver would make several attempts, but still leave an open angle between the trailer floor and the dock. We were thankful that those trucks never had large quantities of mail for us. None of us ever got hurt taking bags and packages out of those trailers, but the danger was there. Usually one of us would get into the trailer and throw stuff out to the others.

Extra truckers were called into service during the Christmas rush. I remember one who wouldn’t even venture into the alley. He looked it over and then decided to park in the street in front of the Post Office. We wheeled a cart out to the street and he handed the mail bags out to us from the side door of the trailer.

Stamp collecting

I collected stamps when I was a boy. It was a fascinating and inexpensive hobby. Many stores sold packets of used stamps for less than a dollar, either mixed or sorted by country or theme. One could also buy from mail order stamp companies. If one had the money to spend there were more expensive albums and stamps available, but there was an abundance of stamps and supplies available that fit my small budget.

I learned a lot about history and geography from stamps. I learned that many countries called themselves something different than the name I had learned. Germany was Deutschland, Holland was Nederland, Norway was Norsk, Finland was Suomi and Hungary was Magyar. I learned of countries that didn’t exist anymore, such as Bosnia & Herzogovina. Bosnia has reappeared in recent years and I know where to find it on the map because when I was a boy I found out where Bosnia & Herzogovina used to be.

I saw how the stamps of Deutschland of many years ago had been continuously overprinted with new amounts containing many zeros and learned about the hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic. I saw the stamps of French colonies overprinted with France Libre and learned how Charles deGaulle had created a new French army to fight the Axis powers after the capitulation of Pétain during the Second World War.

Do boys still collect stamps? Stamps have become more and more colourful over the years, more and more expensive, and less and less useful. How many people today anxiously await the arrival of the letter carrier in the expectation that there will be an important letter? In our home, we only occasionally get a personal letter via the postal service and hardly any bills. Almost everything comes by email, including a lot of junk emails.

I believe there will be a need for the postal service for many years to come – but it won’t look much like the postal service of my boyhood and will never again be as important in our lives as it was back then. That makes postage stamps less interesting to boys and girls, despite the effort to make them look more interesting. And that’s too bad, there is so much that can be learned from stamps.

Something else that has been lost since my boyhood is the place of the Bible as an anchor for society. It isn’t that everybody read the Bible, or believed it, when I was a boy, many people didn’t. But enough people did at least believe that it had some worthwhile advice for our lives that it served as a stabilizing influence. The number of people who will even pay lip service to the Bible is quite small today.

We have lost much in many areas of life, but the most crucial is in our concept of family life. A large percentage of children growing up today will not experience a united home with the same father and mother during their growing up years. Those who grow up in such a setting may never have a chance to observe a stable, happy, two parent family. They probably don’t even know that such a thing is possible, or desirable.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). In French the last part reads “sans frein”, meaning unchecked or unbridled, literally “without brakes.”  That’s a good description of today’s world; we have lost the vision and so people rush on trying to fix their problems with solutions that are more apt to make their problems worse.

The Post Office may not be fixable, but this situation could be fixed if only the vision could be regained.

Snowy day and thoughts

Shortly after dinner today, we decided to drive to Delisle, our nearest town. It was snowing, but it didn’t look too bad, so off we went. Once we got on the highway, we realized that we didn’t have a realistic view of things from home. Here we are protected from east and northeast winds by the trees along our neighbour’s property line; out on the road the snow was blowing and visibility wasn’t that great. But we made it there and back.

I dropped my wife off at the library and made stops at the Post Office, the Credit Union and the Royal Bank. Lorrie, the postmistress, told me some news that stirred memories and a variety of thoughts. Mail sorting for Saskatchewan is now centralized in Regina and Saskatoon. The big old post offices in Prince Albert and Moose Jaw have closed, leaving only retail postal outlets. That leaves a number of postal workers with no work to do. They still come in and punch the time clock, but there isn’t enough work to go around anymore.

This has happened before. When I was a boy there were postal cars on the trains and mail was picked up, sorted and dropped off at towns along the route. I’m not sure when that was stopped, but I started working in the Moose Jaw Post Office forty years ago and Don Knight and I were the first new hires in many years, since the post office had been over-staffed since the end of sorting on the trains. In fact, the older employees wee still very careful not to do too much in order to spread the work around.

The adversarial management-employee relationship in the Post Office is not entirely the fault of the union. For years and years individuals who had served in the armed forces were the preferred candidates for jobs in the post office. Management consisted almost entirely of former officers. Unfortunately, military experience didn’t seem to be good preparation for running a business.

I remember when the Post Office operated a savings bank and deposits and withdrawals could be made over the postal counter. The Post Office Savings Bank was closed in 1968, after 100 years of operation. Now there are suggestions from the postal union and some others that the idea should be revived. There is some logic to the proposal: there are no bank branches in many remote communities, but there are post offices. Many poor people do not have bank accounts and the big banks see little opportunity for profit in this segment of the population.

Payday loan companies have sprung up to fill the vacuum. They offer cheque cashing services and small loans, for seemingly outrageous fees. But the default rate on these loans runs 5% or higher and the many small branches of payday loan companies make for high overhead. The Post Office branches and personnel already exist and it would seem that overhead costs for a Post Office bank would be minimal. But what do I know? No doubt there are many persuasive reasons why it wouldn’t work. Yet . . . Post Office banks are thriving in places like France and New Zealand.

Anyway, those were my rather pointless musings this afternoon. The snow has stopped, I think we received about 10cm.

A tactless conversation starter

There was a Bible College in the city where I was living forty years ago.  At that particular time, there was an emphasis in this school on overcoming the inhibitions that would prevent one from freely following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  At least that was the intention.  A lady in the church my wife and I attended at the time talked about how this emphasis of the college was leading her young brother to act in a rude and pushy way, without much consideration of others.

I was working the afternoon shift in the Post Office, sorting the mail that came in on trucks from the city, rural towns and on semis from across the country.  The Assistant Postmaster’s son was a student at this college and had been hired as a temporary summer worker.

One evening, I went to the lunchroom as the same time as a lady who was another recent hire.  All I knew about her was her name and that she was Roman Catholic.  There was no one else in the lunchroom as we sat down and opened our lunches.

“He told me I looked like a horse!”

“Huh?” was the most intelligent response I could come up with.

“That young man.  He looked at me and he said ‘You look like a horse.'”

She was obviously hurt.  This time I couldn’t come up with any response, intelligent or otherwise.  Tact had evidently become a casualty of the college’s quest for spiritual liberty.

“He’s going to Bible College.  What are they teaching him there?  Why is he going to Bible College?  Does he want to be a missionary or something?”

We talked a little about what had happened and agreed that it did not appear that this young man was learning any skills that would be useful on a mission field.

I hope she was somewhat comforted by my sympathy, because this lady had been hurt by a young man who really had no clue of how a Christian should relate to others.  Saying the first stupid thing that pops into one’s head is not the same as the free leading of the Holy Spirit.


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