ODD THINGS happened with the mail after the Labour day weekend. Home-grown postie Barry Sheppard had ridden off into the wide blue yonder, replaced by a very large fellow on a scooter and a couple of blokes in a shiny white van.
All were complete strangers to the recipients of the parcels and letters. Australia Post had to look abroad after Barry handed in his 90-day notice after seven years and the company was unable to convince another local to take the gig.
Enter Walton Logistics, a delivery firm based in Ormeau, near Brisbane. Boss Kris Walton spent the Tuesday delivering parcels with Alf Foster from the Toowoomba mail centre, who said he handled mail contracts. Foster said tenders had to be called twice before Walton Logistics, who operate 11 delivery vans in Gladstone, took it on.
“After the long weekend, there are a lot of parcels,” said Walton. “Between the three of us, it’s happening.” He said he was keen to hire a local to make deliveries with a motorbike and the van. In the interim, a bloke from Gladstone was covering.
The big fellow, Shaun Kausch, was busy delivering letters on a scooter because he didn’t have a motorbike licence. The scooter didn’t have saddlebags, so he had to return often to the post office to collect batches of mail. Some customers commented their mail wasn’t arriving until 5.30 in the afternoon, not like in Barry’s day.
Peter ‘Sixpack’ Anderson, a driver on one of Rick Brain’s property mail runs, said he wasn’t interested in the least. “I’ve got to look after this body,” he said. “I do enough driving as it is. It would be like going from here to Dalby if you did the lot.”
Postmistress Jo Woodcroft said the bureaucracy associated with a town mail run these days was too daunting for most. They had to have operational plans, workplace health and safety strategies and clearances for employees. She said Barry, a racehorse trainer who owned the BP service station for 25 years, knew where everyone lived and he knew all the goss. He was never sick and he never had a holiday.
“A lot of letters don’t have street numbers, but that didn’t matter to Barry,” she said. “If this was the Gladstone mail centre it would be returned to sender. People would move from pillar to post, but he would still track them down.”
Jo said Barry’s retirement party the previous Friday comprised some balloons and a chocolate cake. She gave him a scratchy and some souvenirs from the visitor information centre. She said Charleville courier Matt Vigilante would miss Baz the most. Matt asked her for his phone number and said he’d phone him at 10.30 every morning.
Barry and his wife Shelly have moved to Goondiwindi where they bought three house blocks several years ago in Veronica street with their daughters Marcelle Gorrie and Kerri-Anne Tuckwell. Marcelle said her father was back training racehorses after a 12-month break, with her daughters Ash, 15, and Jess, 12, as enthusiastic strappers. He’d just picked up a second horse from his nephew Ross Sheppard in Toowoomba and would be racing another at Moree that weekend. Moree was paying a $240 travel subsidy for every starter and he could race every weekend without going more than 200km, Marcelle said.
“After 69 years in Cunnamulla, I wouldn’t say he’s as happy as Larry, it’s going to take some adjusting,” she said. “He only had two days off from the postie bike in seven years, for the funerals of his brother Slim and his father-in-law.”