After a quarter of a century and 6.6million kilometres, the local “mailman” Tom Chandler, and his wife Bev, retired last week.
The pair has been responsible for delivering mail and groceries to rural properties around Tilpa, Ivanhoe and Nymagee for the past 25 years.
Prior to taking on the rural mail run on July 2, 1994 Tom had worked underground at the CSA Mine for 25 years.
“It was a real good place to work but I’d had enough of going underground,” Tom said.
“I decided to take voluntary redundancy.
“We had the corner store and that was going well, and we’d also put the laundromat on the back of the shop.”
After leaving the mine and joining Bev to work in the shop, Tom said he found they “were spending too much time together” and so he applied for the rural mail contract.
“Our son Craig was born with a crook heart and I didn’t want him to be a burden on society and I thought it would be a job where he could also work.”
Craig used to do the Ivanhoe runs and occasionally would also do the Tilpa and Nymagee runs.
Tom said originally the mail was delivered once a week but then the Federal Government deemed that rural customers should not be disadvantaged.
The contract then went to two days a week which meant that Tom was on the road six days a week delivering mail to rural customers in Tilpa, Ivanhoe and Nymagee.
“We tendered every five years for the Australia Post contract.
“We delivered on public holidays and were even supposed to work Christmas Day,” Tom said.
He said over the past 25 years, he and Bev had only one week’s holiday in Cairns and the occasional Easter weekend away in Sydney to go to the races.
Tom said the best part about the job were his customers and one of those was the Cull family at Boonora Downs north of Cobar.
Nardine Cull said nothing was a problem for Tom.
“He was a friendly face and always made a point of seeing the kids when he called and brought them each a choccie.
“They looked forward to his visits twice a week, and there was plenty of excitement when he’d deliver a big box of their Distance Education materials,” Nardine said.
Tom said he also used to spend a bit of extra time having a drink and a chat with “Old Doc Brady at Mulchara Park, Dave Knight at Lynwood, Joe Bourke at Pullpulla, Bob Bourke at Blue Hills and Chris and Debbie Bourke at Mt Gap”.
“Sometimes I didn’t get back from a run until about three or four in the morning and Bev would ask me why it took me so long,” Tom said.
For many of his isolated rural customers, Tom was the only person they’d see in a fortnight.
And after driving over 5,000km per week and 250,000km per year for the past 25 years, Tom and Bev now plan to take a holiday.
“We were going to fly up to Darwin and hire a car, but I think we’ll drive,” Tom said.
Peter Lawrence, who’s been working with Tom part time over the past five years, has now taken over the contract.
Tom said he’s happy to help Peter out from time to time doing a few more mail runs so Bev probably shouldn’t wait up for him.