TRARALGON POST OFFICE 1887 - 1987
Address by Mr. Ron Murray (Dawn Hustler)
At our monthly meeting on 10th. November (1987), we were fortunate to have Mr. Ron Murray, the current Post Master at Traralgon, to be our Guest Speaker. This being the Centenary Year of our Post Office and public offices, we found it very appropriate and interesting. Ron Murray began his postal career at Sale, in 1960; and came to Traralgon as Post Master in 1980.
The first Post Office in Traralgon, which opened on 1st. January, 1861, was conducted by Duncan Campbell on the premises of the Traralgon Hotel at an annual salary of £10.0.0.
By 1866, postal facilities were available from 9 am. to 8 pm.. At that time William Noble was the sorter. Charles Dennis, a returned serviceman, took over in 1867, and his duties included being the Registrar of Births and Deaths, and issuing Mining Licences.
A front room of the Campbell home in Argyle Street ("The Ark"), became the Post Office in 1872, with Kate Campbell installed as Post Mistress. The Telegraph Office began in May 1875, and all was moved to "The Retreat", the new home of the Campbell family in Kay Street in 1880. The slot for posting letters could be seen there for many years after that office went out of use.
A deputation of local Councillors, Messrs. Bodycomb, J. Campbell and Peterkin, approached the
Government for a Post Office building in 1883-84, and in 1885 it was
announced that public offices, comprising a Court House, Sub Treasury, and Post and Telegraph Office would be built.
These were designed by Henry Bastowe. The original plan did not include the clock tower. To pay for this addition, Mr Peterkin donated £100 and Council £50, the balance being eventually raised by public subscription.
The buildings, completed by 1887, were described as "striking and ornamental". The main entrance was from Kay Street with a full length counter. Living quarters for the Post Mistress Mrs. Betty Starke, were above the Post Office, the private entrance to these also being in Kay Street. Folding stairs in an ante-room provided access to the platform surrounding the clock tower, from which a great view of the town and surrounds could be obtained.
Although local papers give the opening date as January 25, 1887, staff actually moved into the new office on 26th May of that year, and the Court House began operating on Wednesday, 29th June. Strangely enough no official opening appears to have taken place for any of these buildings.
It was due to the efforts of the local Progress Association that the clock was finally installed in the tower in l892.
Telephone communications began with 14 subscribers, in September 1910, and a telephone box was provided, inside the Post office, for use by the public. A new 200 line switchboard was installed l920. This board, manufactured in England, was shipped to Australia in a zinc-lined packing case. When the case was opened up in Traralgon, some I0 or more rats of all sizes, all totally blind (this probably being their first contact with light) greeted the mechanics. Apparently a pregnant rat had taken up residence prior to final sealing of the packing case , and reproduction had taken place during the transportation period of at least six months. The wax impregnated cotton and silk insulation of wiring and the cords, together with cannibalism, had provided sustenance. Photo right, of switchboard and rat damage, from the Society's archives.
A directory list published in The Record, in 1914, listed 40 subscribers, and by 1932 this number had risen to 237. Local calls at this time were 1d. (One Penny) and it cost 1/9d to ring Melbourne. In1939 during the bushfires, the exchange was manned 24 hours a day, and, no doubt there would have been some very weary telephonists. There were also 2 postal rounds each day, with 1 on Saturday morning (so much for progress!).
In 1965 major renovations took place, doing away with the Postmaster"s residence and the old telephone exchange. While this work was being done business was carried on in the S.E.C. offices in Seymour street. Further alterations in 1979 included additional mail boxes. Over the last 20 years or so, the Post Office has gone through many changes, including the re-painting of the original colour scheme of 100 years ago.
Our thanks are extended to Ron Murray, for the time he must have spent in such thorough research into the records available thus providing us with this most interesting address. The photographs and plans on display added further interest. Mrs.Hazel Graham, our member, who was present at the meeting, was a long-serving member of post office staff and she had been able to provide information to Mr. Murray.