After 46 years, Francis Turner notched her time card for the very last time at the downtown post office Friday night.
“When I punch out tonight, it’s done,” Turner said with a hint of joy in her voice. “Now, I can get to be the customer.”
Turner started working at the post office in 1969.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she moved to the city as a child. It was different back then, she said.
“There was lots more volume of letters. At Christmas time, cards were five cents and the ones that only had five words in the message were just three cents,” she recalled.
“I can remember people mailing 400 Christmas cards.”
But, she's pleasantly surprised that some people still carry on that tradition today.
“I had a lady here yesterday that bought 120 of them to mail,” she said.
“I think the younger generation, it isn’t as much to them as it is to the older people. Older people, I think, like to keep their cards and go through them. As time goes by, even as people pass, you’ve got cards from them that are hanging up at Christmas time.”
The downtown post office was in a much larger building than it is now when Turner was first hired. It was located near where the Calvin Kruk Centre sits today.
It was “way bigger,” she said. “Now it’s all split up because there is the processing plant where all the letter carriers work out of.”
Mail came in on the train in those days, and was sorted there before it ever came into the post office.
“They used to have a fellow on the train that sorted the mail,” so at every drop it was all ready to go, she said.
“I can remember when we used to send an order to Eaton’s and we’d expect it back in a week,” she said. For mail today to come from Toronto is “about" ten days.
“We used to have the airmail here,” she also recalled. “We tied the bags out at night and they’d take them from the Windsor Hotel up to Fort St. John to the airport. It went straight to Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto or Montreal.”
Now, she says, “it all goes to Edmonton, is sorted there” and then comes back to post office’s like the one downtown. It’s not any better or worse, just different, she noted.
Although she is happy to be retiring, Turner will miss interacting with people.
“They get so they’re almost like family,” she said. “It gives you a perfect opportunity here to intermingle with the tourists because they come to buy stamps.”
She recounted one story about a letter carrier from Germany that dropped by. Turner exchanged a Canada Post pen for his letter carrier’s tie.
She is hoping to spend some more time in her garden this summer, and plans to take computer courses at Northern Lights College in the spring.
“I am not very computer literate so I would like to take some time and learn it,” she said.
Turner leaves an industry that has changed a lot since her first day. It’s a job that, in some ways, was held in a higher regard in years past.
“It’s a different attitude that people have,” she noted. “Not all of them.”
But, “the general public doesn’t see you like they used to.”
Turner plans to come back as a member of the public and give her former coworkers a bit of guff from time to time.
All in good fun, of course.