Making friends at the mailbox

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Fred and Ruby Robinson have watched their customers grow up on the side of the road.

The couple has been delivering mail to the Petrolia Rural Route 4 for 21 years and is set to retire Jan. 3. They say they will miss their customers, many of whom they have seen grow from toddlers into adults.

Fred says the job of rural postal carrier came as a bit of a surprise when a friend who worked at the post office caught him on the street and told him Rural Route 4 was about to open up. “He asked me on the street if I wanted the job. I went in and I got the job.”

Fred trained at the post office for a day and then he and Ruby hit the road to begin delivering the mail.

On those fine days in the summer, Fred and Ruby love the time whizzing up and down the back roads. Winter is more of a headache. They’ve been caught in snow banks at people’s mailboxes more than once. Often a customer would fire up their tractor and pull the Robinsons out so they could continue their route.

“The rule is if I can push it with the bumper, then it’s too deep,” says Fred with a laugh.

And, like every postman who delivers the mail in rain and sleet and dark of night, the Robinsons make an attempt to deliver the mail whatever the weather. Even during the massive snowstorm which left people stranded on the 402 two years ago, Fred and Ruby loaded up the mini-van and made an attempt. They were not able to deliver the mail for three days, the longest stretch ever.

In spite of the sometimes-treacherous conditions, the Robinsons have loved their work and it’s all because of their customers.

“The people will sometimes meet us at the mail box,” says Fred. “The people at the Lambton Meadowview love to wait for Fred to come and put mail in the box,” adds Ruby. “They’re mad at me if I’m late,” he says.

Sometimes, while they’re driving their route, someone in a car will wave at the mail van. The couple will try to decide who it might be and after a while will decipher who it was. “When we took the route, they might have been this high,” says Fred measuring with his hand. “They grew up before our eyes,” adds Ruby.

Times are changing at Canada Post. Soon Fred won’t be able to have Ruby along to help – another way for the company to save cash. His back is not strong and he can’t lug the mail bins around without her help. So they will retire Jan. 3.

They’ll miss working with the people at Canada Post and one of the minor perks of being an employee; “now, we’ll have to get our mail from the front instead of the back,” jokes Ruby “we’ll have to use the lobby like everybody else.”