This spring, celebrate the 50th anniversary of a valuable service that many Comox Valley residents use every day without much thought or effort: door-to-door mail delivery.
A survey held in January 1971 revealed that there were 2,475 residences in Courtenay and 1,076 residences in Comox, pushing the region over the required minimum of 2,000 homes and qualifying them for the service.
Preparations began in February. Circulars were hand-delivered to inform households that they must display their house number clearly and install proper mailboxes or slots for receiving their mail.
The shift in delivery required sweeping changes in the post office’s operations and handling of mail. All mail would continue to flow through the Courtenay Post Office, but one sub-station at the E & B Market in Courtenay was added. Nine mail carriers and two supervisors were hired, doubling the staff and adding $60,000 per month to the payroll.
Applicants for the position of mail carrier were encouraged to have a general knowledge of street and business locations, plus take a written and oral exam, and pass a medical exam. Annual salaries ranged between $6,680 and $7,150, with an allowance for uniform, boots and gloves. They also received benefits including a superannuation plan, an option for a medical plan, three weeks paid vacation per year, and sick leave.
In addition to staff changes, 14 street letter boxes were established in Courtenay and eight in Comox, where people could drop off letters and parcels. Four ‘mail-mobiles’ were put into service.
An inauguration ceremony was held on Saturday, May 8, 1971 at the Courtenay Post Office — the current site of the Courtenay and District Museum. Guests included Alderman Harry Harris representing Courtenay Mayor George Hobson, Comox Mayor Ron Ellis, and M.E. Pringle, the MP for Fraser Valley East, who represented the Honorable Jean-Pierre Côte, Postmaster General of Canada.
Pringle spoke about the advantages of more-efficient delivery that would come with Canada’s new postal code system and expressed hopes that all of BC would be using postal codes by 1973. He then presented gifts of ceremonial letter openers to the officials. Pringle encouraged the two city hall representatives to use their openers on the “first letters” to be delivered: notes of congratulations from Côté to each community on the inauguration of their door-to-door delivery service.