Everyone around Long Flat knows Kath Carey, and that’s why she’s gone on working for so long. Kath has worked in the post office for 70 years, and has decided it’s time to retire.
“I have always liked the job and loved the contact with the people. But I won’t miss the early mornings,” says Kath, who gets up before 5am and runs the post office from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Born in Taree, she came to Long Flat aged 12 with her parents, who took over the store, which included the post office. As a teenager, Kath boarded at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Sydney, made new friends, but was always glad to come home in the holidays.
“We got the steam train to Wauchope – sometimes it took 12 hours,” she recalls.
At 17, she began working in the shop, and ran the manual telephone exchange. Only a few businesses had phones, including the hotel, the number of which was Long Flat One.
Kath married a widower, Lance Carey, when she was 27, and became stepmother to his three sons, who are still her friends. She went on working in the store and post office, and her father took over a bakery in Long Flat.
“My husband died in 1971. My Dad helped me and we were lucky enough to sell the shop. I bought this house in Long Flat and got permission to move the post office here, and I’ve been here 44 years.”
In recent years, when Kath wasn’t well, her friend Jan O’Neill came from Wauchope to keep the post office open.
“Jan has been a very good assistant, who has relieved me when I was in hospital,” says Kath, who is in good health again.
When she retires, the post office will go back to the store in Long Flat. Kath says she’s done plenty of travelling so she will stay where she is, and get her home in order.
“I’ll do those things I hadn’t time for when I was working, and if I don’t, well, they won’t get done,” she says with a smile.
Her cat, Bella, was a stray brought to her by a neighbour 11 years ago, and loves to keep Kath company. Customers often bring her treats.
“They are very nice people here in Long Flat. Bella gets a few prawns at Christmas, and she loves oysters. She drinks out of my mother’s crystal vase, because when I had roses in it, she used to knock it over.”
Kath will be missed by her customers who think the world of her. Paula Chapman, who delivers the mail from Wauchope, says she is very popular.
“She’s just beautiful. She will do anything for you, and everybody knows her,” says Paula.
So when Kath closes the shop on February 24, she can be sure that all the people she’s served over the years will wish her a very happy retirement.