"Many wondered how a woman was going to do
it. She did it, and she did it magnificently, as well or better than
most men. She brought friendliness, courtesy and efficiency always.
She never failed us once." - Gordon Sargent, Longbeach
resident. September 30, 1958
It's been 40 years since Connie Cummins delivered the mail up and
down the North Shore, but her legend in these parts still looms
"It was a long time ago that's for sure," Cummins told the Daily
News from her Victoria home Thursday.
The year was 1944 and life in the Kootenays was far different
than it is today. The Second World War was raging overseas and there
was a lack of men to fill what was thought of as traditional male
Connie was a mother of two daughters and her husband, Con, had
the mail contract for the Nelson area. In February of that year
Con's driver for the rural route east of the city became sick and
thus sealed Connie's place in the local history books.
"The driver on the rural route fell ill and wanted to quit,"
Connie remembers. "So I was basically stuck . . . in those days the
mail had go out come hell or high water. So I just loaded up the car
and away I went with it and learned the route along the way."
Starting at 6 a.m., Connie would begin sorting the mail for the
day, she would then hop in her vehicle and deliver mail to more than
500 families from the eastern border of Nelson to Balfour - 54 miles
a day, six days a week. At the time it was the longest rural route
"I had two children in school at that time so I would get them
started with their breakfast in the morning and I went on to do the
mail," said Connie, who is now 86-years-old.
For the first year, Connie delivered the mounds of letters and
parcels in a car. However, after about a year on the job she got
behind the wheel of a jeep and her image was secured.
"I had one of the first jeeps in the area because it was just
when they came out," she said. "A car dealer saw me with a sedan car
and he said `I think you need a Jeep' and let me use it the next
day. It was a lot better because I could get right up close to the
boxes and I didn't have to get out of the car so often." In the
summers she would have the top off and a sun hat blowing in the
wind. In the harsh Kootenay winters Connie would don the parka and
head out into the snow.
In 14 years she never missed a day, except in November, 1947 when
two of the most blizzardy days the area has seen hit.
Mail in the late-1940s and early-1950s was a much more cherished
item than it is today and Connie became a smiling symbol of
correspondence and information exchange.
"I used to keep pretty good time and there would be many people
who would come up and stand at the mail box and wait for it," she
said. "They would be there visiting with their neighbours and
waiting for me."