K0K 2K0: When postal codes were new. And people were mad.

Now, postal codes are so accepted that Canada Post plasters them all over its mailboxes. But it was not ever thus.

Now, postal codes are so accepted that Canada Post plasters them all over its mailboxes. But it was not ever thus. I remember when people were seriously ticked about the very concept of postal codes. A long, long time ago.

It’s funny how every now and again you are reminded of how something that is totally normal and taken for granted in your everyday life (and everybody else’s everyday life, for that matter) was once, long ago, brand new, and strange. Like laptops. Or cellphones. Or the internet. Or: postal codes.

I got thinking about postal codes tonight because Raymond and I were writing Christmas cards, and several of mine were to the postal code K0K 2K0, which is Madoc, Ont. – and by extension Queensborough, which is Rural Route 2 from Madoc. My very first postal code.

Here I am totally dating myself. I am so old that I can remember a time long ago when, in Canada at least, there were no postal codes. When “Katherine Sedgwick, c/o Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, RR#2 Madoc, Ont.” was all that was needed in the way of an address to get a letter or postcard to yours truly from the farthest ends of the earth. And then sometime in the early 1970s, postal codes came along, and the thing I most remember about it was how steamed – and I mean steamed – almost everybody seemed to be about them. “Why should I have to add this?” “What the deuce?” “What was wrong with the old way?”

It seems funny now. Who would think of being bothered by having to add a few letters and numbers to an address? Our American friends and neighbours had been doing it with zip codes for more than a decade before our postal codes came into effect, and they lived to tell the tale.

But it was a complication (though not very complicated) to something that had been simpler. People always resist life getting more complicated. It’s human nature. And I remember laughing at all the old farts (as I thought of them then) who were complaining about postal codes, and feeling very self-righteous as a young modern creature who understood the need for mechanization and was kind of into postal codes, proudly putting them on all my letters and cards when the oldsters were still trying not to.

Ah, simpler times. Can you imagine getting steamed about having to use postal codes? If only people then had had an inkling of all the things to come that really merited getting steamed about. Like, for instance, the ungodly and usurious roaming rates you have to pay for using your phone when you leave the country.

Oh, wait a minute: no. Let’s not even think about what it would have been like to have had to explain roaming rates – or, come to think of it, cellphones – to people who were busy being ticked about postal codes. Worlds, and technology, collide, and we just have to let people be mad about the collisions that happen in their particular era.

Tonight, though, I am a little nostalgic for the time when the highest-tech thing we had to complain about was: postal codes.

8 thoughts on “K0K 2K0: When postal codes were new. And people were mad.

  1. Lovely post. Too true about all the change we have adapted to wrt technology. It working for us, or the reverse. People really did think of postal codes as a serious challenge to their autonomy!

  2. Yes, I recall grumpy opposition to the implementation of postal codes, but I believe it paled in comparison with the hysterical reaction many Canadians had toward official bilingualism, the metric system and, more recently, the long-gun registry. In the 1970s, all such change was seen as a commie plot – or worse (a French plot).

    • It’s funny, isn’t it, Jim – all the things people thought would bring wrack and ruin and that are now just totally accepted. Although I say that as someone who still measures herself in feet and inches, and translates distances from kilometres to miles. Which, come to think of it, makes me feel a bit dinosaurish.

      • It is funny, Katherine. I’m a bit dinosaurish, too, but not when it comes to the metric system. That’s odd, I suppose, considering that I’m a fair bit older than you. Which reminds me of another change that caused an uproar – maybe THE uproar to end all uproars: Canada’s adoption of the Maple Leaf flag. It was before your time, but BELIEVE ME, the fuss over postal codes was a Sunday school picnic next to the hullabaloo over the “Pearson pennant.” I can still see and hear jowly old Dief the Chief fulminating over the loss of the Union Jack.

      • Oh you can be sure I’ve heard and read a lot about that one, Jim! It’s another great example of things that a large number of people totally get their knickers in a knot about (though I don’t much like the image of Dief with his knickers in a knot, come to think of it) and then, not so many years later, we just look back and laugh about how silly the furor was. And congratulate ourselves on what a nice flag we have!

  3. The Canadian postal code was a total headache to write on a typewriter…all that clunky changing between SHIFT and non-SHIFT at every single stroke. Maybe the fact that it’s not nearly as bad on a computer is part of why people don’t hate it quite so much now – that and the wonders of mail merge, where you only have to write it once into your data list.

    • It is still a headache on the iPhone, having to switch keyboards for the letters and numbers. I would have thought Apple would have figured that out by now, but apparently not. But dealing with it on the iPhone is probably a lot easier than the shift on a typewriter, so yes – I can see how people were annoyed. Though as I recall it wasn’t the typing thing that irked most people; it was the general newfangled cussedness of it all. My goodness, it seems so amusing in retrospect!

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