Post office job a labour of Love

Welcome to Love, Sask. | Letters and tourists flock from around the world to get a little bit of Love

LOVE, Sask. — They come in all sizes and colours of envelopes, boxes and bubbled packages, some adorned with exotic characters and symbols from faraway lands. They include wedding invitations, valentines and letters, some pre-stamped or stuffed with money or redemption coupons for postage.

Their destination is a tool shed-sized post office in northeastern Saskatchewan and their common goal is to receive the coveted teddy bear cancellation stamp that links them forever with Love.

Recently, the famous post office added a second cancellation stamp adorned with a heart and the words, “love at first site.”

Connie Black-Sturby, Canada Post’s postmaster in the village, works from a white-sided building with scarcely enough room for a second office chair, but she’s not complaining about cramped quarters.

“This is like a dream job. You never know who will come through the door,’ she said.

There was the couple from Haiti and another from Wales, hunters from Wisconsin and two youths from Austria. All visitors are recorded in a guest book.

People from around the world share their stories with her.

An 80-year-old Kingston, Ont., man living in a care home apart from his wife of 54 years asked Black-Sturby to forward his valentine card with the Love mark to his sweetheart.

From England came a request for the postmaster to sign and address a card to his secret admirer.

Black-Sturby said China is especially fond of Love, showing a letter that reads, “We’re thirsty for your postmark and the postcard.”

A Saskatoon man mailed her $5, writing, “please post this letter from Love, Sask., with this money and take your valentine for coffee.”

Ontario schoolchildren sent cards they designed themselves, ready to be mailed with Love stamps.

Black-Sturby said her office’s mail volume surges from January through March.

A world map beside the service counter is dotted with hearts showing where letters have come from and stars indicating where letters were mailed to.

She loves the attention and doesn’t much mind the extra work and meticulous recordkeeping for Canada Post. She gets some help from a daughter, who is creating a scrapbook from the notes her mother has received and helps adorn the office with flourishes of red and pink for the season.

Black-Sturby has lost track of the number of times she has had to pay out of pocket when letter senders were short on postage.

“I didn’t tally it because I think it would scare me,” she said.

She often encloses a personal note or a postcard designed by a local resident if corresponding with senders.

“This is just so much fun,” she said. “No one should be short Love on Valentine’s Day.”

Black-Sturby, who operates a mixed farm at Gronlid with her husband, said the exposure is good for Love.

“Any type of awareness about our area increases our volume,” she said.

The post office services 84 boxes, the village of 57 residents and an area stretching to Torch River.

It’s not the only such post office in Canada linked to Feb. 14, with Saint-Valentin, Que., and Cupids and Heart’s Content, N.L., also vying for valentines at this time of year.

Joelle Hamilton of Canada Post said the mail service helps make someone’s Valentine’s Day special.

“Whether you’ve been with someone for a year or 30 years, sending a card through Love, Sask., is a great way of showing them that you still love them,” she said. “It’s just a bit of fun.”

Visitors come to Love to post letters but also to drive past street signs such as Lovers Lane and Pucker Up Alley and a pole with glowing hearts beside the town office.

Mayor Valerie Rodgers said Love was named for train conductor Tom Love and recognized as a village in 1945.

A more colourful version of its origins depicts two young lovers on the railway tracks who were “up to hanky panky,” she said.

Rodgers said former postmaster Pauline McKinnon hatched the idea for a special cancellation stamp for the village post office in 1993. McKinnon also operated a gift shop and arts and crafts barn.

“She really promoted it and got it going,” said Rodgers, noting that the “bubbly” Black-Sturby continues the work as an enthusiastic Love promoter.

“They knew Love was unique and what better way to promote our community and businesses than through our post office,” she said.

Love, nestled in nearby forest, lake and farm country, celebrates the month of hearts with its annual Valentine Winter Festival, which attracts 500 people to participate in events ranging from pillow fights and a sweetheart couple contest to smoosh races and mail bag races as well as a dance and pancake breakfast.

Love’s Staggerin Bar and Grill decorates its peanut bar for the occasion and offers specials, said owner Judy Arcand.

“Everyone loves to come here,” she said.

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