Last month marked a special anniversary for Don Cross, mail officer at Levin Post Shop, as he celebrated half a century working with New Zealand Post.

Over his career, Mr Cross has watched the postal service change in ways he could never have imagined when he first signed up as a postal cadet on 8 April 1968.

He has worked in various positions, from records, personnel and salaries management to managing mail service contracts, as well as being the Registrar of Electors in Lower Hutt and a fleet manager and before moving to Levin where he was the Post Shop's manager.
Mr Cross's sister worked at the Post Office and when the cadet position became available, she encouraged the then 17 year old to apply.

"I earned $950 a year then, which was enough to pay Mum and Dad some board and to save," Mr Cross said.

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"I bought my first motorbike."

Now working in the box lobby at Levin Post Shop, Mr Cross says there have been events over the course of his career that he has never forgotten.

"Two days after I joined the Wahine sunk. We had two staff members who were on the Wahine, on their way back to Wellington after having some training in Christchurch. They ended up in the water, but survived," he said.

"[Another thing] that sticks in my mind was in 1984. Robert Muldoon, the Prime Minister of the day called a snap election because he had someone in his ranks who was a dissenter. I was registrar of electors in Lower Hutt when that happened."

"Suddenly we had to get the roll revision done and we had only a matter of weeks before the snap election. I worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for three weeks to get all the processing done in the time required.

" That was a real challenge. I recall I got to work early one morning, the war memorial was right next door and as I worked, the dawn parade was taking place. "It was 4am and here I was working! I just had to get the work done. In the end, Muldoon lost the election, after all that work."

He has also seen some major changes over the years, especially in the area of technology.
"The biggest change would have to be computers," Mr Cross said.

"Although sometimes it feels like it generates more work than it eliminates, they do make things quicker."

He says that when he first moved to Levin, the post shop did not even use tills.
"We had a cash drawer that wasn't connected to a till and everything was paper based," he said.

"We had to manually balance everything at the end of the day."

During his time as the Post Shop's manager, Mr Cross would often organise displays for new stamp issues brought out.

For a stamp series on rescue services, he organised a display that celebrated emergency services, including an ambulance and fireman's uniform.

"The Post Office was the hub of the community. I always wanted to do something interesting," he said.

"We would often have the local flower arrangers do some arrangements for us. Our customers really enjoyed that."

It was when the Queen Mother turned 100 years old in 2000 that one of Mr Cross's displays secured him a personal letter from royal residence Clarence House.

"We set up a table with a book for locals to record their best wishes. We even managed to find a local Queen Mother lookalike," Mr Cross said.

After collecting all the messages, he sent the book to the Queen Mother and still has the letter he received back from her private secretary thanking him.

Mr Cross says that what he has enjoyed most in his career has been making connections and doing his best for people.

"What I do now here, I like to think I can exceed people's expectations of NZ Post," he said.
"It is going the extra distance, putting a little more into something.

"When I see customers coming in and I know they have a parcel, I have it ready and waiting before they get to the window to ask for it. I would say I know 90 per cent of the customers by name, so you feel you can give really personal service to people. That is what I enjoy most."