January 2014 Newsletter - Memories of a Junior Postie

Memories of a Junior Postie in Yallourn in mid-1960s…Neil Crawley (great grandson of Yallourn’s Dad/Pop Brewer)
I finished Grade 4 at Yallourn Primary (although the first year was held at the High School in a room near Strzelecki Road) and then shifted to Morwell, but came back a few years later and worked at Yallourn Post Office in my first ever job, soon after decimal currency came in.
My Junior Postal Officer (JPO) duties included telegrams, collecting mail from roadside boxes, collecting money from public telephones, riding a bike to Hernes Oak to either carry out house deliveries or on alternate weeks, deliver and pick up mail bags to the Hernes Oak Store. I did meet a lot of people in the course of a day.
The only dislike duty with the PMG was having to polish the brass door furniture and PO Box locks and hinges each Monday morning. My hands were a greeny black for days afterward. The other drawback was Amos Woods, who would stop and talk whilst blowing cigar smoke all over me while I worked.
I actually had to do a Post Office entrance exam to get the position and this was held in the Library at Yallourn one afternoon....the standard can’t have been too high because I top scored for Gippsland. I was never a scholar and couldn’t wait to get out of school, however did forensics and other Uni courses later in life with good results.
I never reached the exulted heights of Postman....that was the next step....I was a Junior Postal Officer (JPO) which was really an apprentice dogsbody...there were two of us and the posties were, from memory, Lindsay Metcalfe and the Senior Postie ?? Ryan. From there it was Postal Officer (Clerk) Jim Evans (he had a mini...grey...that he used to scoot around in). Another fellow called Vic Wilde worked there for a while...he had an FJ Holden with wide wheels....most impressive and he was sort of a Fonzie that all the girls chased. I never had that problem back then! There was the Snr Postal Officer who was I think an Oliver. The Postmaster was Ross Cook, a single ‘old bloke’ probably at least 40+. I was 15 at the time so anyone over 25 was over the hill. Mr Cook, as he was addressed, lived in the residence above and he came from Millicent in S.A. to take up the position.
My salary was about $36 a fortnight and out of this I paid 23 cents each way on the bus from and to Morwell. After getting to know the drivers, they would get me to sit behind them without paying and if they saw an inspector at a stop ahead, they would slip me a ticket around the drivers’ seat. The bus went through Hernes Oak and then around past the hospital until it was closed. I used to travel with a trainee nurse (her surname was Strong and I thought she was lovely). The 23 cents bus fare was a lot out of my pay given that I had to pay a fair bit of board. Any saving was like winning Tatts. The funny thing was that although our PMG uniforms were supplied, the shoes weren’t. We were allowed to purchase shoes or boots and the PMG would then reimburse the amount. Here was I getting $36 per fortnight and my father would ensure I bought Julius Marlowe shoes with fancy soles and, in due course, I would get a cheque for the purchase price of $100.
One week I would start at 8am and finish at 4pm - Monday-Friday. My duties that week were to sort the Hernes Oak mail, ride out on the bike and deliver it and the Hernes Oak PO mail bags in the morning. General PO duties after that until 1pm when I would again ride to Hernes Oak and pick up the mail bags from the PO in time for them to go out in the afternoon mail from Yallourn. I think we used to deliver the bags to one of the buses which would then take them to the train at Moe or Morwell. The next week I was 9am–5pm and would be telegram boy, street box pickup, telephone clean & collect and general go-fer at the PO, also make up and deliver the mail bags to the bus. Quite often we would have a telegram for Hernes Oak or somewhere like Hazelwood Cres; deliver it and when we got back to the PO, there would be another for the same place or nearby. The saddest part of my duties was delivering telegrams informing families of the death of a son in Vietnam. I knew what was in the telegram having removed it from the teleprinter and having to check that it had printed legibly; then the Postal Clerk would record it and seal it in the envelope. We weren’t allowed to divulge any contents under the Official Secrets Act and on occasions, had to deliver messages to widows who lived on their own. This happened at Hernes Oak one day and I first went to a lady next door and told her what I was delivering. She went in to visit the lady and I went around the block and came back and delivered the telegram after she had entered the house. (The widow’s name was Munday or Mundy and her son had been killed
in action). We all felt really terrible delivering KIA & MIA messages and used to worry about the family a lot. After I started telling neighbours, I was always worried about Commonwealth Police arriving and arresting me. I quite often had to wash the money from a public phone outside the shop in Heather Grove....someone used to tip beer in the coin slot (I hope it was fresh beer...sometimes it was recycled beer) and it used to gum up the machine and the money was glued together. When clearing the phone boxes of money, we had to take disinfectant and clean them as well as the windows. People used to also put something up the coin return chute so peoples’ money wouldn’t be refunded when the number dialled wasn’t answered. They would come back after a while and see what they could collect by removing the obstruction. All sorts of things used to be placed in street letter boxes as well. As a check on us, the Postmaster would sometimes also post a Test Card addressed to himself and it listed the time & date it was posted. This was to ensure we didn’t skip a box because we were tired or it was raining.

It was a good job and kept us fit riding those armoured Malvern Stars around. The steel carrier at the front made them so much heavier. A lot of the older residents used to give presents at Christmas to the two of us and also the Posties used to do alright as well. Dogs had a habit of chasing us and we quite often came off second best if we couldn’t avoid them. During the time I worked with the PMG, my cousin worked part time with the SEC at Yallourn during his school holidays. We used to meet at the Yallourn Hotel one day a week for a counter lunch. I was 15 and fairly tall for my age and he was 17 and also tall. We were fairly conscious that the police would kick our bums - and our fathers would do worse when the coppers informed them of our antics. I would park my PMG bike around the back along with the SEC bike my cousin rode from the works. We would then enter through the back door to the Bar and order our counter lunch along with a beer & lime juice each. We always sat at the back of the Bar so we could slip out the back door if the police came in through the front. A few years later at Mornington, I came across a policeman named Pat MacKivor who had been stationed at Yallourn during that time. He had been an acquaintance of my father’s who had played cricket with him and also knew my great grandfather ‘Dad” Brewer as Pat had been a handy footballer for the Yallourn team. Pat, when reminiscing about Yallourn, told me about these two underage kids who used to have a counter lunch at the Yallourn Pub, leave their bikes out the back.... and one of them even worked at the Post Office !!! He indicated that he and his mate thought on a number of occasions about taking the bikes back to the station and see how we explained their loss to both the police and our respective bosses. I was not surprised later when I went to the Mornington Station for my Driving Test...Pat told me it was about time I got a licence seeing as I had been driving for at least twelve months!!