After 66 years with Australia Post, Keith Austen has finally stepped out from behind the big, wooden counter.
“Everyone seemed to know me, wherever I go,” said Keith.
“My nickname was ‘the red fox’ because of my ginger hair.”
Keith’s career began in 1956 at South Post Office when he was a 16-year-old telegram boy.
Telegrams were usually only sent for important news and Keith isn’t revealing their contents but he did once have to go out into a big sandstorm three times to deliver news to the same house.
Keith progressed from telegram boy to postman and working at the counter then, when he was 21, moved to Paupa New Guinea for two years because of a dare.
Returning to Australia, he worked at the town Post Office then moved to the Lane Street Post Office in 1967, where his daughter, Elizabeth Grimshaw, used to help out.
“When Dad was first doing it, it was all in ledger books,” she said.
“We were never allowed to use calculators.
“Dad said it was ‘pen and paper and your brains.’”
In 1983, Keith opened North Post Office and has been there ever since.
Keith’s daughter-in-law, Jonnah Ortega, has been keeping North Post Office open since March, after Keith became incapacitated. There wasn’t time for training and Jonnah had a steep learning curve.
She recognised gaps in the delivery of service for customers who are not technologically savvy, especially the older generation.
“I felt really lucky to be able to make those small, laminated QR codes for them,” she said.
Jonnah said that she has met some really lovely people at North Post Office and they have returned the compliment
“They bake cakes and cupcakes for me and bring chocolates and flowers,” she said.
Keith is also very appreciative.
“I couldn’t have done it without Jonnah,” he said.
Jonnah will be staying on at North Post Office as a “casual casual.”
“Not even as a casual but only for emergencies, to help out Cher” she said.
Cher King is the new owner of North Post Office and will be bringing in some changes.
“I’ll introduce in the new year a larger Australia Post range, as well as retail items and gifts and, hopefully, a refurbishment,” said Cher.
Cher was born in Broken Hill and has lived here all her life and cared about the fate of North Post Office.
“I decided to buy it because we live in this area and there were alot of people who were worried about the Post Office closing.”
Locals will be relieved as, due to COVID and Christmas, Australia Post is currently delivering two and a half million parcels each weekday.
“I’m just a small cog in that big wheel,” said Keith.