by Mary Cook from Duncan, BC
Apr 6, 13

My eighty-eight year old Mom phoned the other night. She phoned to tell me that the mailbox at the corner had disappeared. This may not be disturbing news for most but I found it disturbing. 

I knew right away which mailbox she meant: the mailbox on the hydro pole at the corner of Broadway and Torrington in Ottawa’s Glebe. It had been there for over 75 years. It is a neighbourhood landmark. As children we were told, “don’t go past the mailbox.” Mrs. Lennox, our elderly next-door neighbour at the time, would give us a chocolate bar to run to the box and mail her letters. Coming home late as teenagers, so as not to have car noise in front of the house, the drop point was, you guessed it, the mailbox. And after Dad’s hip operation last year, when he could walk to the mailbox and back, we knew he was going to be just fine.  

Over the years hundreds and thousands, of Christmas cards, birthday greetings, sympathy notes, and regular letters have been posted there and sent all over the world. Expressing personal thoughts and feelings, sentiments and wishes.

I am writing this letter on the ferry to Vancouver. Tomorrow I am flying to Ottawa for two weeks with my parents. And now, when I send my postcards I will no longer be able to take that familiar walk to the corner to post them. Instead we will have to get into the car, drive ten or twelve blocks to the nearest Post Office and hope there is a parking spot. It’s just not the same.

That stoic little red soldier has been at its post for hundreds of seasons, weathering sun and rain, snow and ice. Through World War II, and over ten Prime Ministers. Its welcoming slot has accepted generations of users, countless paid bills, life stories and shared secrets.  

Canada Post tells me that a mailbox needs fifty letters a day to remain viable. As our corner mailbox no longer met this criteria it had to go. I’ve suggested they put it back, sealed up, as a piece of neighbourhood history, an artifact. I have not received a response.

I am very aware that things are changing rapidly all around me and I am told that I should accept these changes and adapt. Every once in a while though, one of these changes upsets a certain balance in my heart or my memory and there is an impulse to reject the ‘new’ way. This is one of those times. I believe the culture and history of a neighbourhood deserves to be protected.  

The mailbox at the corner was an eloquent testament to times gone by.