‘Back in the day’ when there were less than a thousand people living here full time, everyone pretty well knew everyone else….and where they lived.   In the early 80′s, when a new family bought an old home on North Road from a local mechanic, there were no house numbers.   When describing their location to new island acquaintances, they found most  would exclaim at some point – “that’s Gus Hussey’s old place!”     When being introduced, neigbours would say, “these folks live at Gus Hussey’s old place.”    It became a bit of a family joke and after a couple of years of living at ‘Gus Hussey’s Old Place” they decided to give the place a name of it’s own that reflected the elements of the property, and they painted it on the old mailbox at the side of the road.

snailmail box

A few old mailboxes still grace the island's roadsides. Snail mail anyone?

  Very few of the old mailboxes remain, but they are reminders of a time when leaving your mail in an unlocked box by the road was the norm.   If the box was turned with the door facing the road, that meant there was mail to pick up, or mail had been delivered. 

I cannot write about mail on Gabriola without mentioning two of my favorite old-time islanders –  ’Wayne & Phyllis’ , who delivered the mail for many years (between smoke breaks).   Wayne, who taught mathematics at the College in Nanaimo for a time, was a small man with a deep voice that would be the envy of any radio announcer.   He and Phyllis were fixtures in the White Hart, where they practically owned a table.  Avid smokers, they were good at growing and curing their own tobacco as well.  They had a few good friends with whom they shared their harvest.   Apparently they would even deliver their home-grown tobacco  right to  your mailbox – a service frowned upon by Canada Post.    When you were checking your mail (perhaps for your government cheque), it was easy to tell if Wayne and Phyllis had been there yet;  there would be fresh spots of oil in front of the mailboxes where they had stopped their tired old vehicle.   Although they have long since moved away, I am sure many folks still remember them fondly.


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Long-time Gabriola Island resident over 21 years of age.

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07 2010

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  1. nick #

    Gabriola’s smoking economy

    Your reference to Wayne & Phyllis’s tobacco growing reminded me of the following found in the Nanaimo Community Archives (John Cass fonds).

    On December 9, 1910, 100 lbs of tobacco leaves was shipped out by a Gabriola Island Syndicate under the name “Nanaimo Mixture”.
    Nanaimo Free Press, May 1, 1911

    The dates John gives are hazy, and I wasn’t able to find the original newspaper item—-but what else is new? Was growing tobacco for your own use ever illegal?

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