Villagers locked out in rude rent shock
By LUIS FELIU
THE mail didn't get through at Tumbulgum yesterday and the villagers were not amused.
Only major floods in the past have stopped or disrupted the historic riverside village's mail but yesterday morning it was a bizarre turn of events which prevented locals from picking up mail or posting letters for several hours.
The landlord of the building housing the Ferryside Store and Post Office locked out the postmaster/storekeeper over a dispute related to rent.
When postmaster Scott Schieb, who lives in the building with his wife and two young children, tried to open up the store about 4.30am, he was given a rude shock - landlord Joseph Hoctor had locked him out of the store and post office - a business he has run for five years.
Mr Hoctor had placed a notice on the front door telling customers that as owners of the property he and his wife Patricia had "regretfully taken possession of the premises due to non-payment of rent", apologising for any inconvenience.
An irate Mr Schieb sat outside busily making calls on his mobile phone to his lawyer, Australia Post officials and others while Mr Hoctor remained inside the store.
Just about every local and visitor who stopped by to check their mail boxes, buy milk, bread or newspapers or other goods, sympathised with the well-known postmaster. Local Eric Slight said he felt it was "a little bit severe to close down the post office".
"It's a bit of a shock, how am I supposed to get my mail - the landlord really should have made some effort to ensure the post office was kept open" Mr Slight said.
Villagers Rob Gerdes, June Archer and Fred Smith also agreed it was "a bit of shock" to have their local shop and post office suddenly closed down.
"It's put the whole town out," Mr Gerdes said.
Local Bob Wyghton said he thought the lockout was "completely out of order?.?.?.in a little town like this, it's completely unnecessary - I've run big companies and you wouldn't think of doing this to your worst enemy".
"They're good community minded people trying to make a living," Mr Wyghton said.
Mr Hoctor refused to comment other than saying "the notice says it all it's something I didn't wish to happen".
Later, at about 10.20am, Mr Hoctor agreed to let Mr Schieb in to sort the mail.
But with the doors unlocked, more locals streamed in to buy goods and pick up mail but Mr Hoctor, by then standing outside, told them it was mail-only, saying to one he was "sorry about this but I couldn't see any way out of it". Customers then left the shop.