On September 30, Cathy Dent, the last person who had worked at the old Blaine Post Office on H Street, retired as senior mail carrier. She received flowers and cards from residents with whom she’d created lasting friendships, a potluck from colleagues and came home to balloons and flowers from her husband on the last day of her 29-year career.
“It was an awesome day,” she said. “It was quite a bit of a surprise a lot of people were that emotional.”
Dent applied for a job at the old Blaine Post Office in 1991 after seeing a “help wanted” sign in the building, now home to the Blaine Police Department. She and her husband, Wayne, had just moved from White Rock and she was intrigued by the self-sufficiency of the job.
Dent said she doesn’t remember her first day at the Blaine Post Office because she was too busy learning the 700 addresses she needed to memorize for her route, which has now split into seven other routes.
“There’s so many names and numbers and streets,” she said. “Most people have these weird postal nightmares where you go to the wrong building.”
For the past decade, Dent said her route started and ended on Bay Road, making a loop from south of the C Shop, Grandview Road and BP Refinery. She’s seen changes including whole new subdivisions, increased downtown activity and more young families and professionals moving to the area. “It’s more of the longevity,” Dent said. “Watching everything change over the long haul.”
Dent said it’s not one memory that stands out, but a collection of little memories, like the time a couple framed a note Dent wrote when she noticed their dog died, or the cups of coffee she receives on a cold day.
When she first started, Dent said the post office only had five routes and she’d deliver mail in her baby blue Ford Fairmont. As online shopping became more popular, letters and magazines were replaced by parcels. “They always told us when computers came in mail is going to end,” she said. “The actual job hasn’t changed that much; it’s just gotten a lot heavier.”
Dent said she chose to retire shortly after her 60th birthday because of the increased wear on her shoulders and back, especially during the holiday season. Heavy parcels from online shopping added strain to previous injuries, including a fall that took nine months to recover.
Dent said residents don’t always see the effort that goes into delivering mail. Carriers sort packages for hours in the morning before delivery, where dark roads and wet weather can cause nerve-wracking conditions, she said.
“Most of the people who come here to work, most, don’t make it,” Dent said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
In her retirement, Dent said she’s looking forward to gardening and seeing family across the border when the pandemic is over.
“I watched some people’s kids grow up. You get to know their dog’s names. When I’ve been injured or when my dad died, there was lots of cards and lots of caring,” she said. “There are a lot of people I’m going to miss. I’m going to have to stop by and say hi.”