Volume 3 Issue 18 July – August 2004

The Avondale Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated
Inside this issue: Post Office Days Avondale Postmen 1–3 3–4
George Baird is a new member of the Historical Society, and a treasured find. Through his words, we have a chance to see what it was like to be an Avondale and Waterview “postie” in the middle of the last century. Thank you, George, for the wonderful gift of your words and your memories. — Editor I commenced work at the Avondale Post Office on 16 December 1936 as a messenger. The Office was then situated in the old Hotel building on the corner of Great North Road and Wingate Street and occupied the whole of the ground flor. The Postmaster previously resided upstairs on the 1st floor, but at that time had a separate residence half a mile back along the Great North Road so the rooms upstairs were vacant. A messenger wore a grey uniform and his mailroom duties consisted of receiving inward mail and making it available to the Postman for sorting and making up outward mail consisting of letters, registered articles, packets and parcels and dispatching them mainly by train but sometimes by tram to the C.P.O. in Auckland. Other duties consisted of assisting the messageboy in the delivery of telegrams which were George Baird on telegram delivery, numerous in those days, especially on Avondale Racecourse, on a Race Day. race days, and relieving Postmen who Courtesy, G. Baird. may be on leave for whatever reason. In other words the Messenger was a “general dogsbody”. There was no such thing as domestic assistant in those days so the messageboy and messenger did all the sweepcontinued on page 2

Recollections of Early Days at the Avondale Post Office
by George Baird

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society: Saturday, 7 August 2004, 2.30 pm at the Lions Hall, corner Great North and Blockhouse Bay Roads, Avondale. Please contact the Society for details. Note: This will be our AGM.

Membership Details for Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Membership is open to all who have an interest in history. Subscription rates as at June 2004 are as follows: Single $10.00 Couple/Family $15.00 Corporate $30.00 If you wish to join, our contact details are on the back page. All cheques to be made out to the Society, please.

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sideration with the messageboys coming last. If one complained the stock reply was that leave was a privilege which you should be pleased to be granted if and when possible! Mail closing times coincided with Railway running timetables to give sufficient time to date stamp all letters and parcels, record any registered
Below: Ready for the Road George Baird, Charles Butler (Postmen), George Button (Head Postman), Douglas Smith (Postman). At rear: An unknown Message-boy, & George Shirley (Supervisor). Courtesy, G. Baird.

Above: The Post Office in the Old Hotel. Left to Right: Jack Holmes (Message Boy), Charles Butler & Eric Turner (Postmen), George Button (Head Postman, Acting Telegraphist), Jim Doherty (Telegraphost), J G McGregor (Postmaster), Bill Mitchell (Message-boy), Norm Rutherford (Postman). Courtesy, G. Baird.

ing, mopping of the office, back rooms, mailroom and toilets. But no that was not all: there were those vacant rooms upstairs which periodically had to be swept and kept free of cobwebs. It was when sweeping upstairs we discovered a loose floorboard which when removed gave a wide clear view of the mailroom directly above the Postmen’s sorting cases. Is this where the P.M. previously used to keep an eye on his early morning sorting staff? At the time I started work at Avondale the Postmaster was Mr. J. G. McGregor and his first assistant was George Shirley. Jim Doherty was a cadet counter staff and telegraphist. Head Postman was George Button and additional Postman over a period of time were Jack Dewar, Don Kerwan, Charles Butler, Eric Turner, Norman Rutherford and later Douglas Smith. Messageboys were Jack Holmes, Jim Mitchel and Warwick Brothers. However the total staff at that time was nine. Mail was delivered by Postmen twice a day with about nine tenths of the district receiving the second delivery in the afternoon. There were four postal “walks” basically known as Rosebank, Waterview, New Windsor and Avondale South. Of course it was all delivered on bicycle and some of those roads were unsealed and without footpaths. There was still a clear class distinction between Clerical and Postal staff in the eyes of our Postmaster of the time. One way this was reflected was in the Christmas leave rosters. Some postal staff relieved in the office while office staff took their leave first and then the postal staff came into con-

mail, make up a waybill, seal the bag or bags and get them up to the Avondale railway station and into the guard’s van of the passenger train from Henderson to the City. Those trains used to run on time and the slightest delay in getting a mail closing underway meant desperate efforts between the Post Office and the Railway Station for the person responsible. A mailbag across the handlebars of the pushbike and hell-for-leather up Crayford Street and across the railway tracks with the train under full throttle over the St Judes crossing was no piece-ofcake. The ignominy of missing the train and having to come back to ask the Postmaster to telegraph a special memo to the Auckland mailroom informing them which tram to meet was daunting and humiliating. In time, in 1938, a new purpose-built Post Office was opened on the corner of Great North Road and Rosebank Road. The Postmaster was very proud of his new office with walk-in strongroom and a combination lock which gave him untold trouble to open at times. There was central heating from a coal-fired boiler, spacious mailroom and counter space and very adequate public area. We also now had a handcart to pull up the Rosebank Road hill to the railway station with the mail onboard.

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bags for the Postmen to various points on their deliveries, and extra boys would be employed to assist the Postmen. Frequently because of the bulk of mail and the extra time taken sorting, deliveries would be late leaving the office both morning and afternoon and extremely late returning to the office in the evening. It was a long day, and sometimes after an early start. However there was a plus side to it. Some of the Postmen had become very well known on their Christmas run and the public were often generous with gifts, cash, and perhaps a bottle of wine or a bottle of perfume for the lady in their life etc. I recall one occasion when a Postman had been sampling his bottle of whatever and we had to send out a rescue party to find him. George Button The Head Postman Mr George Button was a diminutive man of about 5ft 3” or 4 inches if that. A returned soldier of the 1st World War and proud of it. He was a fast mover, a man of many skills and a fund of local knowledge. His skills reached beyond his duties as head of the Postmans Branch, and he was regularly called upon to perform duties in the office whenever telegraphists or counter staff were on leave. He could take his place behind the telegraph morsekey and sounder, or on the public counter without any trouble at all and frequently did. He was as conscientious a man as any I have ever worked with and yet was never fully appreciated by the Postmaster of that time and was in fact at times shabbily treated.

Jim Doherty transferred elsewhere and additional telegraphists and counter staff in Les Lyons and Corban Ward joined the staff. I eventually had my designation changed to Postman. Soon after the outbreak of war in September 1939, for reasons of economy the office was closed from 12 noon to 1 pm each day. Business was increasing and staffing becoming more difficult due to the demands of the armed forces. Female staff were beginning to be employed. At Avondale Rhoda Nesbit became the first Postwoman and later 2 sisters Pam and Jane Silver if my memory serves me correctly were employed on telegram delivery and counter work. And then it was my turn to depart and join the Army for service overseas. I did return to the Avondale office in late 1945 and resumed in my old capacity as a Postman. However I soon transferred to the Engineering Branch for the remainder of my 40 years service. At the time I left the Avondale Office the Postmaster was Mr. W C Main.

Jack Dewar Mr Jack Dewar, Postman on the Rosebank delivery was another local man. Always bright and "breezy and well liked in the district. He eventually moved on and I took over the Rosebank delivery. Jack became a Postmaster The Postmen’s Walks There were 4 main "Postmen’s Walks" in Avondale when himself before he retired and I recall him being at Kaipara I joined the staff in 1936. They were known as Water- Flats in that capacity at one time. After he retired from view, Rosebank, New Windsor, and Avondale South. the permanent staff he came back on the temporary staff Later a Village Walk was established consisting of those as a recorder at the Construction and Maintenance Branch in business areas and adjacent streets. This was a much at Takapuna. shorter walk than the others though it still carried quite a bulk of mail. Mr George Button was given this area to- Charles Butler gether with other office and mailroom duties after he had Mr Charles Butler, Postman for the New Windsor delivcompleted the walk. Postmen were rotated on the four ery, lived in Chalmers St with his wife and 2 boys and a main walks and so became familiar with the whole of the girl if my memory is correct. A very straightforward sort postal area. However at Christmas time the same Post- of person, liked a bit of fun and was good at his job. Postman always reverted to the same Christmas walk. So at men of the time were always called upon to use a whistle that time (i.e.1936) Mr Button had the Waterview walk, each time they delivered mail to a letterbox and we all did. Mr Jack Dewar Rosebank, Mr Charles Butler New Win- Charlie’s whistle was different: it had a bass rumble rather than a shrill trill. I do not know what happened to Charlie dsor, and Mr Don Kerwin Avondale South. after I left. Large Deliveries There were very large mails at Christmas time in those Don Kirwin days of Greetings cards, packets and parcels and when an Mr Don Kirwin was entrusted with the Avondale South overseas mail arrived by ships from the UK in particular delivery which had the longest distance to travel and some there would be loads of newspapers as well. continued on next page Messageboys would be kept busy delivering overflow

The Postmen of Avondale. 1936 and into the 1940s era. by George Baird.

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rough metal roads and plenty of hills, A caring man; he was the one who helped me most to find my feet when I started as a raw recruit at Avondale and when I moved on to sorting letters and delivering mail. He later became a Public Service Driver. Norman Rutherford Those were the main mail carriers in late 1936. Another boy who came on the staff soon after was Norman Rutherford who lived with his parents in St Georges Rd. He was an Army Territorial in Signals, when he could find the time. He was a Postman also. He left the Postal service and eventually became prominent in the Police force in the Henderson district. Jack Holmes Jack Holmes was a Messageboy at Avondale; also resided in St Georges Rd with his parents. Jack moved on to Postman’s duties at Mt Albert and the Symonds St Office. Now retired and living in Mt. Roskill. Douglas Smith, Eric Turner, Rhoda Nesbit Douglas Smith, Postman, who lived at Point Chevalier, later started his own business. Also joined the NZ Armed Forces in Signals. Eric Turner, a quiet spoken man was at times a relieving Postman at Avondale. Also served in the Armed Services overseas. Rhoda Nesbit; First woman mail deliverer at Avondale, always full of fun. Lived with her parents on Rosebank Road - Riversdale Road corner. Was there when I left to join the Armed Forces, and was there when I returned. Bill Mitchell Bill Mitchell was another Messageboy who commenced his service with the Post Office in the late thirties.
(below) Avondale’s Unity Building, Cnr. Great

Lived with his parents in the Rosebank area. Was not at the Avondale Office very long before moving on. I have no recollection of Bill in later years.

North Road and Rosebank Road, Avondale, c.1940s. Photo donated by Mrs. Jean Jones. The Unity Building was erected in 1932, to tie in with the new tram terminus. Featured here is the “Self Help” store that once graced the corner.

The Avondale Historical Journal
Published by the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. Editor: Lisa J. Truttman, 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804 Fax: (09) 828-8497, email: historian@avondale.org.nz

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The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank

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for their continued support and sponsorship of this publication.

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