Mom, Christmas Postie

Mom, Christmas Postie


In the early ’60s, my mother worked at London’s postal sorting station during the Christmas rush. It was for a few weeks when the volume of mail overwhelmed the sorting capacity of the regular staff. It was the only time my mother worked at a job where she had to clock in for regular hours. Very tiring, just standing all day. The other women told her to bring egg cartons. She’d flatten several cartons or get the 2 1/2 dozen flats and take them to stand on.

It was odd coming home from school and Mom not being there. It was kind of fun but I don’t think I’d have liked it all the time. I think that’s how she felt about the work too – fun to go somewhere and do something different and nice to have the bit of extra money but not something she wanted to do day in and day out.


I never thought at the time how she managed to pull Christmas together at the same time. She made dinner for us, her parents and her sisters and their families. Dad set up tables in the basement, using sawhorses and half sheets of plywood. Plastic Christmas tablecloths covered them. All the food got carried down from the kitchen. It was the only time of the year that our unfinished basement was used as a dining room. It was fun. In the evening, after everyone had left and Mom had cleaned up, we would drive to my other grandparents’ house and have presents and another huge meal there.

Postal Workers

I don’t know if Canada Post still hires casual Christmas workers. There is not the deluge of Christmas cards mailed that there used to be. We got so many that Mom would cover walls with them hung on loops of string. She sent just as many too.

All this was before automated sorting and postal codes or the strikes that seemed to happen every few months in the 1970s. It was before courier services took over much of the mail delivery, because of the strikes. It was before postal workers began making a very good wage, and before the head of Canada Post earned half a million dollars plus bonus each year. And of course, it was before faxes and emails, Facebook and Twitter.


People mailed letters and thank you cards, party invitations and birthday cards, sympathy cards and thinking-of-you cards, postcards that got back before you did from your vacation, and airmail letters on onion-skin paper to save on weight. It was all delivered to your house or, if you lived in a small town, you went to the post office and had a chat with the postmaster or –mistress while you collected your mail. In the country, it came to a box at the end of the driveway, delivered by someone like my grandparents who had a mail route for many years.


There’s still some of that of course. Superboxes haven’t replaced all human postal contact, yet. And they’re fine, as long as they don’t freeze up in winter or jam in summer. But you still need post offices for stamps and questions that the website can’t answer.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Royal mail don’t discard any mail. I worked there for 5 years. My mum and sister still work for the company. The staff at local sorting offices are very knowledgeable about there own local area. If it has the right house number, the right street and the right town, by the time the item reachs the local sorting office someone will know where its meant to be going. Your card will get there, probably wont even experience a delay! Ideally all the sorting office need is a house number and postcode, but the sorting office get millions of items with out postcodes, sometimes without even towns and items still arrive. I could explain the whole letter sorting process if you wish but its very dull, Letters are when you’ve seen a fair few thousand! To all the people who put the royal mail down… Have you had Christmas cards!? Did they arrive intact? did your postman put them thru your letter box? Think of all the people who have been working 50-60-70 hours this week just to make sure you all get your christmas cards on time. My mother and sister wont finish work till 4pm chritmas eve, and will to be in work midnight boxing day! Its not an easy job. Enjoy your time off!

    1. This comment was stopped by the spam filter due, I suppose, to the link in the poster’s name. But it makes valid points about the hard work done by inside and outside postal workers.

  2. I first worked for the post office the xmas of 1969, pregnant with Ben and newly-married, we needed all the extra cash we could get. What a boring stupid job, I thought, and continued to finish high school and teachers’ college. Ten years later, jobless and a single parent, I hired on again, thinking I would do this to pay the bills until I got something I liked better. I called it “the golden handcuffs.” When the boys grew up, I went back to university, but having student loans up the wazoo, I went back to the post office — until I got something better. Eventually I realized that retirement was looming and I needed a pension to live. In 2012, 43 years after I started and with 35 years of service, I retired. As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. But without that job, I would have had a very hard go as a single parent, probably on social assistance, unable to buy a house or car or support my kids, or even the means to go to university (for what that was worth.) I eventually grew to have some pride in my job, especially at the end, as a letter carrier. I saw that many people needed that human contact, with myself coming to the houses every day, and also with the presents and items and cards and letters I brought them. I felt we were a necessary part of the Canadian fabric, bringing connections from one citizen to the other, for one price, from the biggest city in Ontario to the smallest hamlet in NWT, in a business which made millions of dollars for the Treasury, when it was “at arm’s length” from the government. I worked hard hard everyday and I had enough money to pay lots of taxes, keep the economy rolling, and not be a burden on society. I paid into an adequate pension, which wasn’t lost in 2009, that should sustain me in my senior years. Soon 8 000 Canadians will not be able to say that. There are no “good” jobs anymore. Those 8000 will be getting part-time service jobs, barely able to live on their own, let alone have a family. And something great will be lost of Canada when they kill home delivery.

    1. Hi Bonnie, your story also beautifully tells the story of the postal service and what it can (should) be both for the workers in it and the recipients of the mail. Thank you.

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