Lavella delivers every time
CLIFTON post mistress, Lavella Bowe, has spent close to half her life delivering and sorting the mail for her country customers.
For the past 27 years, Lavella has worked in the Clifton Post Office, as either a cleaner, mail sorter, or licensee and owner.
Lavella and her husband, Gerard, purchased the 140-year-old Clifton Post Office and the license from Australia Post back in 1992, and when Gerard fell ill in 2001, Lavella had to step up and take over the reins.
I dread the Christmas period as it is so hectic.
She has been post mistress ever since, and thoroughly enjoys her days delivering and sorting mail, and serving customers in the busy rural post office.
Lavella has seen a lot of changes in the mail system since she began as a cleaner in the post office 27 year ago.
"The letter volume has dropped compared to what it used to be, with the advent of texts and emails, but we haven't noticed it as much as in the cities," she said.
"We have an older population here in Clifton, so they probably still write letters, whereas the young ones don't seem to.
"The amount of parcels has increased greatly though."
After working as a cleaner in the post office, Lavella took the job of mail assistant, doing a two-hour shift in the afternoon, before she and Gerard bought the business.
Growing up in Charleville, Lavella met her husband to be when he worked in the Post Office in the western Queensland town.
"We moved to Charters Towers and were married up there. I also worked as a nursing assistant at Eventide Home when we were living there," she said.
"Then Gerard got a job back at the Clifton Post Office, as all his family are from around here."
Gerard was the acting post master at Clifton, when Australia Post decided to change it to a licensed post office.
"Australia Post gave us first offer so we bought it."
So the Clifton Post Office became Lavella's life, starting most mornings at 5am sorting mail, and finishing at 5.30pm when the last mail left to be sorted in Brisbane.
"When we started the mail was sent to Toowoomba to be sorted, but now it goes down to Brisbane. It comes in to us in postcodes, and then we have to sort it into mail services," she said.
"We have five mail contractors who operate out of our building, and Australia Post pay us for allowing them the use of our premises."
The Clifton Post Office like many others is coming into their busiest time of the year - Christmas.
"I dread the Christmas period as it is so hectic, but last year our sales were down a bit due to people buying gifts over the internet," Lavella said.
"Nowadays we do a lot more than 20 years ago, as you can now pay almost all your bills at the post office - electricity, phone, registration, a lot of insurances - just about everything," she said.
"Back when we started, we only sold post paks and stamps, and now we sell a whole range of giftware and cards etc."
Lavella still delivers the mail a couple of days each week, and the town mail run takes about three hours to complete.
She's been chased by plenty of dogs in her time, and bitten.
Luckily she can see the funny side of the many falls, accidents and mishaps she has had while on the job delivering the mail.
"I went down a Telstra man hole once while delivering the mail, as I was distracted by a passing motorist," Lavella said.
"Another time I was riding past a house where a dog had bitten me recently and was looking behind me to see if the dog was chasing the bike, when I ran straight into a telephone pole. That was about two years ago and I broke my arm in that accident," she said.
"My worst accident was when I ran over a toddler about four years ago. I was delivering mail to his home and he ran out from behind a bush. I just didn't see him, and I ended up on top of him with the bike on top of me," Lavella said.
"I thought I had killed him. It was a very frightening experience, but he was okay."
Lavella said she prefers working in a small country post office, such as Clifton, to working in the city.
All her family have worked in the post office with her at some stage including her three daughters, Deena, Shonel and Natasha, and son, Matthew.
"It's nice to be able to chat with your customers and find out all their news, plus what's happening around the district," Lavella said.
"It's been a good life, as we are sort of our own boss, but the days are long, so we are looking forward to retirement, and not having to get up at 4am each day."