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Postman completes 50 years of First Class service in Maidstone

David Rawlins has been delivering the mail to the people of Maidstone for 50 years.

But now, having reached his 66th birthday, Mr Rawlins from Pilgrims Way, Boxley, has finally hung up his sack, eased the shoes off his aching feet and is enjoying his well earned retirement.

David Rawlins and his wife Jean
David Rawlins and his wife Jean

Mr Rawlins began his career with the Post Office as telegram boy working out of the sorting office in King Street, Maidstone. He was 15 and had just left school at Vinters Boys (now Valley Park.) He explained: "In those days of course there were no mobiles and many people didn't even have a land-line, so the only way to get an urgent message through to somebody was by telegram."

The message was tele-typed through to the sorting office, printed out on a piece of paper and the young Rawlins dispatched to deliver it.

He said: "It was difficult at first because I didn't know my way around too well, but I soon got the hang of it."

After a couple of years, he graduated to being a postman. He said: "My first round was the Sandling area and Weavering Street - then a quiet country road, Grove Green didn't exist!"

His rounds changed over the years - he finished up delivering to Oakwood Park and Shaftesbury Drive, but the round he enjoyed most was delivering to the Leeds Castle estate.

Breakfast by the water at Leeds Castle was always a treat
Breakfast by the water at Leeds Castle was always a treat

He said: "You'd be surprised how many lodges and homes there are within the estate. I used to take my breakfast and eat it by the lake watching the sun come up."

Which brings us to the early starts. He said: "We began at 5am to sort the mail and then be delivering by 7am. In those days, we made two deliveries to every address each day - now it's only one."

In 1983, Mr Rawlins followed the Post Office as it moved to a new sorting office in Sandling Road, and then 10 years ago, moved again as the office switched to the Park Wood industrial estate.

He said: "The Post Office was a good employer. After I first started they paid for me to have lessons to ride a moped and then later - after we moved away from using bicycles - driving lessons for the delivery van."

He also liked the uniforms. He said:" "We started in dark serge, but later graduated to comfortable lightweight gear."

But there were downsides.

David Rawlins delivering the mail by push-bike in 1992
David Rawlins delivering the mail by push-bike in 1992

He listed them in order as the weather, dogs, and inappropriately placed letter boxes.

He said: "It's a healthy job. You get plenty of exercise and fresh air. But you also have to deliver in all weathers, and it's usually too hot, too cold, or too wet!"

Dogs he generally managed to avoid apart from "a few nips around the ankles" but he revealed that he and his colleagues kept a marking system in the sorting office labelling the addresses that had dogs to watch out for.

And letterboxes? "Don't get me started," he said. "Some are broken and you can't push the flap open, some are right down on the ground and you have to really bend over, others are up high.

"On my last round there's a block of flats where the letterboxes are above my head - and I'm 5ft 10in!"

Neighbourhood Watch officer PC Mick Wright and David Rawlins, 1993
Neighbourhood Watch officer PC Mick Wright and David Rawlins, 1993

During his time at the Post Office he featured in a campaign led by the then Maidstone Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator PC Mick Wright to encourage the town's 300 postmen to look out for suspicious activity on their rounds, perhaps signs a house had been burgled, or indications such as the milk not being taken in that perhaps an elderly resident was in trouble.

Now he's retired, Mr Rawlins plans to spend more time on his hobby of collecting old post-cards of the places he used to deliver mail too, which included Allington Castle as well as Leeds.

A bachelor for most of his life, Mr Rawlins is also planning to spend more time with Jean, his wife of just three and half years, who is the widow of his best friend.

He said: "We've actually known each other 40 years - in fact I was her postman - and we're very happy together."

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