Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Postmen of Avondale: 1936 and into the 1940s era

More by the late George Baird. First article here.

The Postmen’s Walks
There were 4 main "Postmen’s Walks" in Avondale when I joined the staff in 1936. They were known as Waterview, Rosebank, New Windsor, and Avondale South. Later a Village Walk was established consisting of those in business areas and adjacent streets. This was a much shorter walk than the others though it still carried quite a bulk of mail. Mr George Button was given this area together with other office and mailroom duties after he had completed the walk. Postmen were rotated on the four main walks and so became familiar with the whole of the postal area. However at Christmas time the same Postman always reverted to the same Christmas walk. So at that time (i.e.1936) Mr Button had the Waterview walk, Mr Jack Dewar Rosebank, Mr Charles Butler New Windsor, and Mr Don Kerwin Avondale South.

Large Deliveries
There were very large mails at Christmas time in those days of Greetings cards, packets and parcels and when an overseas mail arrived by ships from the UK in particular there would be loads of newspapers as well.

Messageboys would be kept busy delivering overflow 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.

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 himself before he retired and I recall him being at Kaipara Flats in that capacity at one time. After he retired from the permanent staff he came back on the temporary staff as a recorder at the Construction and Maintenance Branch at Takapuna.

Charles Butler
Mr Charles Butler, Postman for the New Windsor delivery, lived in Chalmers St with his wife and 2 boys and a girl if my memory is correct. A very straightforward sort of person, liked a bit of fun and was good at his job. Postmen of the time were always called upon to use a whistle each time they delivered mail to a letterbox and we all did. Charlie’s whistle was different: it had a bass rumble rather than a shrill trill. I do not know what happened to Charlie after I left.

Don Kirwin
Mr Don Kirwin was entrusted with the Avondale South delivery which had the longest distance to travel and some 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. 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.

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