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
pay box rental in Mr. Beaupré's post
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
line = cancelled. R = return to
office was also a bank!
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.