Recently the ABC’s “7:30 Report” did a story about the difficulties faced by the owners of Licensed Post Offices (LPO’s).It featured our own Post Office in Geeveston which for the past few years has been run by Alison Kennedy. I wrote a piece about post offices for this blog a few months ago so today I’d thought I’d re-post it. If you would like to see the television interview please click here.
Yesterday I heard that Australia Post had conducted an online survey to see whether people would prefer getting deliveries 3 days a week or paying $30 a year for the privilege of getting their mail 5 days a week. I would be interested to know if those were the only two choices given as I would not want to answer yes to either of them.
On the same day Hubby told me that our local post office operator was meeting with the State Premier to discuss the possible effects on owner operated licensed post offices if the Federal Government were to sell Australia Post. Obviously she has some concerns about her business.
I feel as if we are going backwards in some ways. When I was a child the postie came six days a week, Hubby can remember when there were two deliveries a day on weekdays plus one on Saturday morning. We would always know when the postie was coming as you would hear him blow his whistle as he dropped the mail at each house in the street. In those days many posties still rode a bicycle although the motorbike was already becoming the norm in the suburb where I lived. Australia Post was still the GPO then and along with the letters, cards, postcards, mail order catalogues and parcels there were also telegrams. Hubby’s first job was delivering telegrams on a bicycle. I can’t imagine that Hubby was the speediest thing on two wheels even in the 1970s but he assures me that telegrams for people living more than 3km from the post office were delivered by employees on motorcycles. Getting a telegram was an event but not always a good one. It might be news that someone had died, that someone was arriving unexpectedly or the one you always hoped for, the one that would tell you that you had won the lottery. If you were celebrating your golden wedding anniversary or 100th birthday you might get a telegram from the Queen and reading congratulatory telegrams at a wedding was still one of the best man’s more risky tasks as they were often full of double entendres.
The “Postie Bike” is such a familiar part of our landscape that they have become collectible, people buy them from Australia Post auctions, do them up, race them, modify them and tour on them. There was a club for collectors which no longer seems to be active but the website does have the technical specs for the bikes and links to other sites.
Saturday deliveries and the whistle disappeared a long time ago. Apparently all that whistling disturbed people and of course paying posties time and a half on Saturdays just wasn’t on. Telegrams are gone now too so we can no longer ask who will send the Queen a telegram should she live to be 100 like her mother did. It’s certainly true that we don’t write or receive letters and cards as much any more but with online shopping becoming so popular parcel post is booming.
Post Offices have changed too. Many of the grand old buildings have been sold and are now cafe’s, restaurants and tourist information centres while the post office is a more functional modern building more often than not located in a shopping mall. They provide many other services, bill paying, banking, enrolling to vote and applying for a passport are all things you can do at the post office. I used to sometimes use a post office in the Adelaide CBD which provided all of the above and also sold office supplies and other goods, the stamps you got from a vending machine outside the door! I don’t mind that so much, in a country town it’s very convenient to be able to do everything at the Post Office, especially if you are not computer literate as many of our older citizens are not. I do think it is a shame though when a grand building like the Adelaide GPO for example is modernised inside to the point where you can no longer enjoy the architectural features. Just because I’m buying stamps or paying the dog licence doesn’t mean I don’t care about the aesthetics.
I live in a rural community now and our local post office provides many of the services that we would otherwise have to travel 20 kms or more for. If we were to lose those services it would cause hardship to many local people. I realise that means little to the present government who are only interested in cost cutting but I think that would be a poor end to 205 years of postal services in Australia.