When George Culshaw started delivering the Red Deer Advocate to city homes and businesses, front page stories were about the just-signed Canadian-American Free Trade Agreement and Meech Lake Accord.
Rick Hanson had just finished his Man in Motion tour. And in the U.S., Oliver North was spilling details about the Iran-Contra affair.
It was 1987. Culshaw had decided to take a second job as a newspaper carrier to boost his income and “help get me out of my shell.” The then-shy 40-year-old figured he’d have to interact with a lot of strangers as he dropped off the (at the time) afternoon newspaper and collected subscription fees.
Three decades later, and the Advocate is now a pre-paid morning paper — but Culshaw, who credits his carrier duties for “opening me up and making me a different person,” is still delivering it, come rain, sleet, heat or snow.
“Once it gets into your blood, you have to keep on doing it…”
The 71-year-old admitted he’s seen a lot of changes, but some things stay the same. He still enjoys getting exercise the old-fashioned way — by walking when he delivers paper and fliers.
“I tell people, you have to buy a gym membership, while I get paid to exercise!”
Culshaw has delivered all over the city, often joking with regular customers. One time he suggested to a hotel clerk that the in-hiding terrorist Osama Bin Laden might be staying in an upstairs suite. “The girl said, ‘No way!’” recalled the chuckling carrier.
His most hair-raising incident was when a vagrant tried to pull him out of his vehicle, stealing his wallet. The thief bought breakfast before Culshaw could get his debit tap card cancelled. He now follows the company policy of keeping vehicle doors locked while waiting for paper drop-offs.
“I’ve had some adventures!” Culshaw added — and many have involved four-footed creatures, such as the rabbits and deer he’s seen cavorting on sleepy city streets. “One time I saw two moose. I scared them, and watched them take off down the road.”
Although Culshaw gratefully wasn’t sprayed by the two skunks he nearly startled, he’s had a couple of run-ins with aggressive pooches.“There was this one dog… if he was sitting on the step when I tried to deliver the paper, he would go for me.” Culshaw recalls using a rolled-up newspaper to keep the dog’s teeth at bay.
But most of the time, he said hounds are more bark than bite. He figures his biggest occupational hazard is bitter cold and snow. “You have to bundle up or you’ll freeze.”
Culshaw still likes delivering the Advocate. “I don’t mind doing it,” he added, noting the extra money helps him in his retirement years.