Post Office



In my youth one of the Institutions that controlled and played a large part in our daily lives was a most unlikely candidate, the Post Office. It’s hard to believe that it had such a profound effect on our lives, even though it was completely and tightly wrapped up in Government ‘Red Tape’. At that time the Post Office seemed to have a finger in every pie, it was the number one business centre in most towns. Sure it was an extension of our Government, but to be fair at that time we couldn’t have managed without it. It was the mail centre, telegraph Office, and as well the only interface to the Government, being the payer of all the Government’s pensions and Child allowances. As well the sole operator of the New Zealand Telephone systems and of course, our Telegram service.


The Post Office was the licensing agent for most of the Government’s other activities such as the tightly controlled Radio, both the transmitting and receiving mediums. In addition, it also ran a well structured Banking Service which paid interest on Savings accounts. This was only 3½%, the going rate at the time. Of course it was also responsible too for it’s core business, ‘Mail Delivery’, the sale and issue of Postal Stamps. As you can see it was all powerful, and if you weren’t happy with the service you just had to put up with it, as there was no second choice. It was inevitable that some employees took advantage of the situation and became very pedantic and difficult to deal with if should you step outside what they considered the accepted norm.


With the telegraph and cable systems available, the Trading Banks used them in a very efficient manner to speedily transfer money and cheques around New Zealand and the World. Every Bank Branch had a Code Book and a ‘Key’ which was changed at regular intervals, and as well additional security was built in with several ‘Tests’ to guard against any fraud. I never heard of anyone taking advantage of this cheap method of dispatching money around the Country which had evolved over time and was delightfully simple. For instant, there was one word for any registered address. Then say for example to take the code word ‘CAADF’ This said when expanded, ‘Pay and advise…….The sum of…..Currency…..Sent by….. And all you had to do then was fill in the gaps. Of course, the Gaps were also in code. A final check, was a ‘test’ number made up from several components of the message. Of course there were hundreds of additional five letter codes available to cover every contingency.


Another one of the organisations that we depended on was the Friendly Societies. They were a grouping of benefit Lodges such as the Odd Fellows, Foresters, Buffaloes, and perhaps even more. They had amalgamated to provide and subsidise both the Medical Services and Medication. These friendly Societies or Lodges were all very wealthy institutions, albeit from only the small sums all members paid in weekly. They were a godsend to those for all those who suffered from ill health. Some of their social benefits even extended to monetary matters and they even lent money to members for housing.


When I joined the Banking Service, any machine within their hallowed walls was a rare item indeed. There was the odd mechanical adding machine, but certainly no calculating machines. All calculations had to be carried out with pen and paper. I enjoyed a very rapid promotion by being put in charge of a Ledger Department of a City Bank. I felt that this was not because of any outstanding ability of mine, but I suspected is was because no one else wanted to have a bar of working with Women, or these new Fangled Machines, that were being introduced. I loved the job and the new challenge, which evolved day by day until the ultimate technological arrived, in the form of a computer.


The Railways also played a large part in our early life. The Railway Stations were the show piece of spit and polish and their many brass fittings were polished daily. They all as well seemed to have show gardens that were all kept to a pristine standard. The Christchurch Station also boasted a set of six or eight highly polished bronze doors which I admired every time I passed through. However the once imposing Station has now been sold and Rail activities relocated to a small inferior building on the edge of the town. The old Railway Station has been born again as a Movie Multiplex. Yes, the bronze doors are still there in the foyer, but it’s not the same. Today they are a sorry sight, grimy, and covered in verdigris. I’m not happy with what’s happening, with the efforts of the graffiti delinquents and the steady decline in our standards we will soon be living in a ghetto unless steps are taken to arrest this trend.








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