The Avondale Historical Journal
Volume 5 Issue 29
I know Kerry through an internet messageboard I belong to.One day, she wrote this wonderful description of what it waslike to work in the telegram department, towards the end of the old service. I asked if I could republish her memories,and she said yes. Thank you, Kerry. — editor
I had a wonderful time working in Telegrams, absolutelybrilliant job!! My first job after leaving school is hardlyworth mentioning (shorthand/typist at a stock company).Went to Oz for a short working holiday, then on return man-aged to get a job with at the Post Office, in the Telegrambranch. Every staff member was sent away to "TrainingSchool" and for me it meant going to stay in Christchurch tobe skilled up with the knowledge for the job. As typingwasn't such a common skill then, it also included learning totype for many. I already had typing skills so didn't need totake the full term on offer which could be up to three months.(Three months!! What firm would pay your accommodationand time away to those skills now?) I whizzed through thecourse in three weeks and came out of there believing I kneweverything I needed to know about telegrams. Well - I shouldhave, that's what they told me.
The job was full of variety and we rotated around week byweek. One shift involved receiving the phone calls, andtyping out the telegram that people wanted to send. We typedit onto a card which had a tear off slip where we marked onthe caller’s phone number and exchange. The card was thenpassed through a gap in the window for the next stage. Thisshift was where I learnt to knit!!! We had to just sit on thephone waiting for calls to come in, and if it was quiet wewere allowed to pick up a book, or knitting needles to helppass spare minutes in between.
The next stage of the telegram was on a shift where we didthe typing. It was on a very heavy machine, and I can't think what we must have called it. It wasn't as modern as the telexmachine (remember them?) When you typed on these ma-chines you could not see what you were typing. If youthought you made a mistake, you would add on "E E E" afterthe error, so people at the other end knew to delete that. Itwould be cut out. We would gather up a bunch of telegramsfor say Auckland, dial up the Auckland post office, and typeout the telegrams. Hang up, then dial up another post office.These numbers were different to phone numbers... I think thenumber for Christchurch was 4401.
When we went up a step in technology, we went to a VDU(Visual display unit). Here we could see what we were do-ing!! It was there that our errors were marked with XXXXXafter it. Obviously no backspace or delete available then, itstill had to be accurate typing. If we really messed up, wewould start the telegram again. They never looked the sameonce they were printed out on plain white paper at the otherend. It was the end of the yellow pads once we got theVDUs. Remember the yellow paper? Yep, they came as pads,and when each telegram was composed, we would tear it off,and pass it on to despatch.
The next shift to work was at the receiving end, where thetelegram message would come out of a machine on the tape.As it slowly came out, we would thread the tape through alittle dish that had a wheel in it. This carried the tape through,up and over a quick waterbath. The tape had adhesive on thebottom side (like we have for stamps) and wetting it, made itto stick. With practice you were soon able to pull the tapethrough with the scissors which were in your hand, and wewould place the tape into position on the page.
Despatch had the job of looking up the person's phone num-ber and if possible we would phone it through. If we had noreply after one hour, then we would send the message out bycar/bike to the person's home. Nobody home - we wouldleave a note in the letterbox and keep trying to ring them. If still no further response, the sender was notified of progress.How's THAT for service?? Telegrams were meant to be de-livered within an hour of the first phone call. If it was afterhours with no telegraph staff around, the toll exchange wouldpass them on. If one needed to be delivered - they wouldhave a taxi come and collect it.
Some of my Memories
By Norma Slattery
Thank you, Norma, for these memories and the wonderful photo on the front cover this issue! — editor
I was born 3 December 1923 at Nurse Manning’s MaternityHome. Christened St Judes Anglican Church Avondale 24February 1924. Lived at 15 Victor Street Avondale with myMother and Grandmother. She had 13 children then broughtup an older cousin Trevor Vendt who later took his father’sname of Barton.
My mother died when I was 5½ year old. My grandmotherwas Mrs. Emily Margaret Vendt. A brother of my motherlived in front of the house — Laurie Vendt and his wife Roseand two sons: John (known at school as Billie (William), andyounger son Ray.
Living next door in Holly Street was my mother’s sister Ritawho married Jack Crowhurst. Two sons: Noel and BasilCrowhurst.
We were the first in Victor Street to have electricity, 1922.Our house was owned by Mr. David who cared for my familyand came down from his store in Otoroa. His property 15Victor street went down Holly Street to where the schoolentrance is. Circumstances and the Depression forced himgradually to sell his property in sections. A wonderful man.He passed away before my Grandmother who died May1938.
I moved to Ponsonby to live with my Aunt Rita who hadhelped her Mum and myself over the years off and on. I livedwith her in Ponsonby 1938.A lot of changes made in the last 68 years!!!
by Kerry Mitchell
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