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The Post Office - Most Important Building in Town


Way back in the last century, for those who lived in rural Alberta, the post office was one of the most important buildings in the area. The post office might have operated out of a resident's home or, quite often, was part of the local store. It was via the letters and postcards that came through the mail that people were able to keep in contact with family and friends. This was especially meaningful for those who had family members in "the old country" and, during wartime, those who had family members in the military.

 

But the post office brought more than just letters – there were bills to pay, the much-awaited catalogues from Eatons and Simpsons, parcels of goods purchased, the annual glut of Christmas cards, etc.

 

One of the most used functions at the early post office was money orders. This was the easiest way for locals to send money – whether it was to pay a bill, purchase something from the catalogue or send someone a gift. They paid cash at the p.o. and received a money order (slip of paper) with the handwritten name of the receiver as well as a little receipt. This receipt was an important part of business paperwork.

 

Money
                                    orders 1935

Money orders

The little receipt for a money order purchased at the post office was always
kept for business accounting and by private individuals – just because.


Box
                                    Rental 1974
Envelope
                                    1908

Box rental

As the smaller post offices closed down, Onoway Post Office needed more space to accommodate all the locals as well as businesses with their own postal box. Melvin Pederson was Onoway's postmaster for 29 years.

Envelope 1908

It cost only 2˘ to send a letter from NY in 1908 (with a Canadian stamp!)



The area around Onoway had many post offices in the early days – Heatherdown, Bilby, Noyes Crossing, Glenford, Nakamun to name a few. The postmaster might have gone to the nearest "big" town to collect local mail or picked it up at the railway station. As transportation improved, the rural post offices closed down and rural mail delivery became more common. Today there are two rural routes in Onoway and two in Gunn.

 

In 2004, a celebration was held marking 100 years of postal service in Onoway. The first post office had been in the home of W. P. Beaupré (at the west entrance to what is Onoway today) and had been known as "The Beaupré Post Office". Because there already was a post office named Beau Pré, postal authorities agreed to his suggestion of "Onoway" as the site/post office name. Beaupré was Onoway's longest serving postmaster (32 years) and served in two locations (both in his home). Today's post office was built in 2002.

 

A special exhibit in the Onoway Museum showcases Onoway's post offices and postal services. It reminds you of how "communication" and transporting it has changed. And that's not even mentioning the role of stamps in the postal world!

 
Gunn
                                    Post Office

Gunn P.O.

Gunn Post Office operated from 1903 to 1963.
This sign now hangs in the UFA equipment shed at the Onoway Museum.

 

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 Last updated: October 3, 2021