You’ve got mail.
And if you live in Oamaru, you can probably thank mail officers Geoff Loe and Bryce Gilchrist for that.
For the past 40 years, Mr Loe and Mr Gilchrist have worked for the New Zealand Post Group in Oamaru, and are the two current NZ Post employees with the longest service.
Eager to leave secondary school, both former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupils applied for the same job 40 years ago.
“I wasn’t allowed to leave school until I had a job,” Mr Loe said.
Thanks to higher maths grades, Mr Loe, then 16, was the successful applicant.
“I went to the interview on the Monday and three days later I was working,” he said.
But Mr Gilchrist did not have to wait long until opportunity knocked – he was hired three months later.
Neither man expected to still be working for the postal service 40 years later.
Mr Gilchrist was not even going to apply for the job, until his parents changed his mind.
“I said to them ‘who would ever want to work in that building on the dark side of the street?’, and now 40 years later I am still connected with the place,” he said.
When the two men started working at the post office in 1981, it was in the Waitaki District Council building.
Now their office is tucked away in France St, where Mr Gilchrist is the first point of contact.
As a bright-eyed 17-year-old, he had his first post run on Cape Wanbrow.
“It was the run that nobody wanted because it was so steep,” he said.
Manning a 26-inch gearless bike and carrying hundreds of letters, he braved the hills every day – but there were some perks.
A lot of older people lived on the South Hill and they appreciated getting their mail, he said. So much so, he would often be offered drinks and fresh fruit.
Now he splits his time between the mail room and the post office box lobby, starting his days at 2am.
During his time in the postal service, Mr Gilchrist had made many connections with people.
”They don’t forget you,” he said.
He was particularly touched when people trusted and confided in him.
Those connections were the reason he was now 40 years into the job.
“I’m a people person through and through.”
For Mr Loe, it was the variety the role offered that kept him there for so long.
“Between processing and delivering … I think if I was just a postie day in and day out, I probably would have left by now,” Mr Loe said.
Over the years the two men had seen a major rise in online shopping and a drop in the number of letters sent.
“There’s still something about a personal letter,” Mr Gilchrist.
The mail officer might be a little biased on the topic, as he met his partner, Heidi Luck, through the written word.
Before Ms Luck moved from Germany to be with Mr Gilchrist in Oamaru 15 years ago, they were pen pals for many years.
“I still have the first letter she wrote to me back in May 1991.”
Between developments in technology and changes in what they were delivering, one thing remained over the past 40 years – the mail was delivered no matter what.
In 2017, a state of emergency was declared in Oamaru due to flooding, but it did not stop Mr Loe from hopping on a motorbike and getting people their mail.
Covid-19 had also proved to be challenging, but like other essential workers, they got the job done.
“At the end of the day, it’s your job to get the mail out,” Mr Loe said.
With retirement looming, the two men had no plans for a late-life career change.
“We have a really good team in Oamaru,” Mr Loe said.
“It can’t be that bad if I’m still here.”