That’s been the twice-weekly routine for Comox Valley Record substitute carriers Hal and Lorraine Holt for the past two and a half years as they rise bright and early from their home on Denman to catch the ferry to Buckley Bay, pick up their papers at The Record, then deliver the news to hundreds of loyal readers.
As “sub carriers” the duo never knows until the day before publication how many routes they will be filling in on for regular carriers.
“Terry (Record circulation manager Terry Marshall) calls us ahead of time to let us know,” said Lorraine, adding they have sometimes filled in for as many as five routes.
“They’re real life savers,” Marshall said. “They’ve never refused to do a route.”
Newspaper delivery is nothing new to either 82-year-old Hal or 86-year-old Lorraine, who Hal notes were born in the same wing of Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.
“I was a field rep for Black Press in Victoria and also delivered papers for routes we couldn’t fill,” says Lorraine.
Hal used to deliver the Times Colonist to highrises in the James Bay area.
“I had 500 to 700 customers all on my own,” he says, adding the then seven-times-a-week daily generated generous tips from subscribers at Christmas.
Lorraine notes that tips for substitute carriers are rare, but much appreciated. However, that is far from what keeps them travelling all the way from Denman Island to deliver The Record.
After she worked almost 29 years with the Ministry of Continuing Education in Victoria, Lorraine said she and Hal packed their bags and headed to Denman Island in 2011. It was a homecoming of sorts for Hal.
“Hal’s ancestors are all here,” said Lorraine. “His mother was a Harmston and Denman Island is loaded with his family, too.”
The couple has three children: a daughter in Calgary one son on Denman and another son in Victoria.
The husband and wife team began their sub carriers role in 2014.
Why would the octogenarians not just relax and enjoy life on Denman?
“We’re getting older and we want the exercise,” says Lorraine. “It gets us off the island and gives us something to do. I like walking,” she added. “It’s very good physically and mentally. That’s why we do it.”
The Holts have never missed delivering The Record due to a ferry breakdown, although they were delayed once. In fact, the only time they were unable to make their rounds was when Lorraine fell and broke her knee.
“It was two weeks before I realized it was broken. I limped around. The doctor told me to stay away for three weeks, so I did. It healed,” she said.
Lorraine said they have thought about taking on a steady delivery route. “But then we think, ‘What if something should come up and we can’t do it?’ So we stuck with the sub carrier.”
“I think that’s the wisest thing to do when you start getting up there (in age),” Hal added with a chuckle.
A typical Tuesday/Thursday delivery day sees the Holts up at 5:30 or 6 a.m.
“We usually get the 7:20 ferry, or if the routes are short or there’s not too many, we get the 8 a.m.,” Lorraine says. Hal says they usually finish deliveries around 12 or 1 p.m., then go for lunch. White Spot is their favourite restaurant, with Ricky’s getting a thumbs up as well.
After doing any necessary chores in the Valley, they grab the 4:05 ferry and are home by 4:30 p.m.
They cheerfully note that delivering the paper is a labour of love, as they spend more money than they earn in order to do it.
Lorraine says the people on their routes are very friendly and their only encounter with unfriendly dogs was solved when she tossed some biscuits at a pair of barking Rottweilers. “They stopped (barking) right away,” she said.
The Holts say they are looking forward to continuing to work as a team to provide Record readers with the excellent delivery service to which they’ve become accustomed.