The earliest days of Dunster saw mail sorted out by the station master, then mail distribution was moved into the post master’s private residence. Dunster’s first official post office was opened on December 1, 1915 by postmaster George A. Hall in his home. It wasn’t until April 1, 1926 that the mail was moved across from the station to the newly built General Store by Mr. Alec McDonald.
Mail delivery was a major event for locals as this was their main source of communication with loved ones in the outside world. As such, locals were eager to get their mail as soon as it was delivered on the train, which meant that for the person sorting the mail, mail nights were often long and tiring, with mail sometimes not fully sorted and distributed until 11 at night.
The original store contained housing for the family upstairs as well as a dining room downstairs. Often travelers arriving on the train in the small hours of the morning would be offered a bed and a hot breakfast by the store owners before they set out for their final destination. Business was booming in the late 40’s and early 50’s to the extent that the owners of the time, Leola and Bob Haan, built a warehouse to store additional supplies. In March 1955, while the Haans had caretakers looking after the building, the store and most of its contents burned to the ground. Mail had to keep moving, so the warehouse (the current store) was opened as a smaller store with post office.
The Dunster Store has changed hands many times over the years, but remains a centre for the community—not just for groceries and mail, but for community news and a meeting place for residents and tourists alike. Lilly Hill, who retired in 2005, was the longest serving postmaster at 32 years.
Photo: Dunster Store (left), 1940s. Warehouse on the right was built by Bob Haan in 1945 and became the present store. Valley Museum and Archives, Dunster Women’s Institute