Friday, June 10, 2011

Edith Mary Essex

With a postal strike just beginning, I thought it would be fitting,  to tell you about Edith Mary Essex, a once country
Postmistress from Cedarvale BC

In January of 1996 I wrote this article for "The Interior News" It was published in the February 7, 1996 addition.

"Fond memories of a country postmistress"

The country postmistress. I received a letter today from Edith Essex's Homemaker. Reading the Kitwanga address I knew that Edith Essex had died. I couldn't wait to see what was in that letter, hoping I was wrong. My daughter and I lived in Cedarvale for the summer of 1984. We met Edith then and have been corresponding ever since. I loaned her my Agatha Christie mysteries and she gave me advice on how to raise my daughter and told me not to worry. For the past few Christmases as I get to her address in my address book I wonder if she will still be with us. The letter would be sent in hopes that she would receive it. It was always hard to decipher Edith's letters, I very much enjoyed trying. The last letter I received from Edith was Christmas of 94, In the card she wrote a P. S. "Did you think I would still be here this Xmas?" Inside the envelope from Anne the homemaker was a brief  message saying that Edith had passed away on January 19Th. She also sent back the last letter I had sent to Edith Opened. She had received my letter although she didn't remember who Karen was.

Edith Mary Essex was born in Liverpool England on June 28, 1906. The family moved to Cedarvale BC in 1913. To get to Cedarvale you must take a train or drive the long dusty road west from Kitwanga. At one time you could take a ferry across the river. At the age of 14 Edith started working as the assistant Postmaster in her fathers post office and general store. She walked the two miles to work six days a week until she was 87, rarely missing a day. She became the Postmistress in 1942 and was retired in 1971. She continued to work as Postmistress for Rick Freeman until 1993.

Perhaps three or four years ago you had taken the train West and as the train came close to Cedarvale the conductor told you about Edith. She would be standing in the door way of her store waving. She never failed and it made you smile and feel good to wave back. If you had driven there the road would have taken you over the tracks and right to Edith's store.

"Store" was all it said on the little log cabin by the tracks. Every time I went into that store I saw something different. She had advertising from the 40's I'm sure. I loved going in just to look. Off to the right was the post office, to the left was the store and in the back of the store she had a wood stove for heat and a place to rest or drink tea, have a meal, pour over seed catalogues and save post marks. She had no running water, and no power at the store. On a wall in the back hung a plaque that Canada Post presented in 1989 for her dedication and years of work. At the ceremony the Heritage Club gave her a gold watch. She wrote to me and asked if I had seen her on TV? They televised the ceremony held on her 83rd birthday, and Edith was thrilled.

In 1993 Edith was nominated for the Silver Postmark. At that time Edith was the longest serving Postmistress in Canada, and she possible still is. One of the criteria was that she had to be an employee and she had already retired.

True Edith was dedicated to her work but she did have a life outside the "Store".  She owned a property next to her brother, and loved her cats, dogs and garden. Edith published two books of poetry "Old Love Letters and Other Poems" and "Rhymes of a Country Postmistress". She was the director of the Meanskinisht Village Historical Association and felt it was a shame that the Cedarvale people took no interest.

What will happen to the "Store" and the history of Edith Essex?

A selection from "Rhymes of A country Postmistress" by Edith Essex.

At the tiny post office in Cedarvale
The place were people call for mail
It was inspection day and you may guess
The post office was in an awful mess.
Parcels scattered on the floor
Mail bags stacked by the door.
Magazines and papers belonging to self
Piled up haphazard on the shelf
Piled up unread since the Christmas rush
Only needing a little push
To join the parcels on the floor
and the mail bags by the door.
"Oh ! dear me"' to myself I said
And I expect my face was red.
"Have the place as neat as a pin
And nary an Inspector will never drop in".
The examining Postmaster was very kind
To my faults I know he was not blind.
As he patently said, "Bring your Manual up-to-date.
Do you understand how to fill out Form three eight?
C.O.D. parcels you must not hold
No matter what hard luck tales you are told".
Inspection over. It didn't take long
And I pile the parcels where they belong.
The empty mail bags go out to the train
To be put into service once again.
Like to know what he wrote in the visitors Book?
As soon as I can sneak a look.
For neatness This office would not be a winner
Financials and inspection Good, signed A. J. Penner.

The back cover of "Rhymes of A Country Postmistress"

Edith Mary Essex

1 comment:

Nancy Gould said...

Beautiful blog of a beautiful person, who I would never have gotten to know without your post. I wish that I would have known Edith in real time, I wish I could read her books. I hope this note finds you well and thanks again. Nancy Gould