Looking Back


Post Office for Sale?


In today's high-speed world of digital communication, the services provided by our local post office may fade away before we know it – just as the horse-drawn buggy and the blacksmith, the thank you notes you wrote and mailed, and the wood-fired stove that kept the house warm and cooked all the meals – except it is happening a whole lot faster!


Think about what it meant to Onoway's settlers to go to the post office and get a letter! Or a post card from a son serving overseas! Onoway Museum remembers our post offices and how they served us so well over the years.


When a few settlers had made their homes within a "short" distance of each other, some entrepreneur soon set up a store; the post office was often part of that store. Mail was brought out from larger centres in different ways, depending on transportation available. Perhaps the postmaster went in weekly by horse and wagon and brought back the mail – a good part of it having travelled for weeks over the ocean and across our country. (One mailman delivered mail from Edmonton to St. Albert with a cart drawn by two young moose!) Banking, money orders and mail order service were part of the services provided.

Box rental
                                    stamped cancellation
Did they pay box rental in Mr. Beaupré's post office?
Hand stamped cancellation

Wm. Beaupré established Onoway's first post office in 1904 along the main "highway" – Lac Ste. Anne Trail. As the village developed, the post office moved to Main Street (where a telephone exchange was added to the services).


Mailing a letter meant that the postage stamp had to be obliterated (cancelled). Each letter and parcel was stamped by hand with the post office stamp showing the date the letter was processed. Another stamp had wavy lines – this showed that the stamp was obliterated and could not be used again. You saw the "R" stamp on the envelope when it came back to you – return to sender. These wooden stamps were about 5 inches tall and were used with an ink pad to get that deep purple colour.


                                    and R Stamp
The post
                                    office was also a bank
Obliterator used after 1971
Wavy line = cancelled.  R = return to sender
The post office was also a bank!
Obliterator used after 1971

With time came increased mechanization. The obliterator (maker of wavy lines) came on the scene in Onoway in the 1970s; post office staff could simply feed the letters one after the other and crank them through rather than hand-stamping every one.


And today? It looks like the inbox is replacing the mailbox. Let's slow down and remember what it was like to enjoy sending and receiving paper mail.

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 Last updated: October 19, 2017