Monday, September 12, 2016

Thames (NZ): Post Office Messenger Boys

Early 1900s Government Buildings, Queen Street, Thames
'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1451'
From the 1870s the principle Post and Telegraph Office was located at the north end of Queen Street. A grand set of buildings at the Grahamstown end of town - Police, Courthouse and Post & Telegraph located side-by-side. (photo right)
Today the old Police Station and part of the courthouse remain standing and are in private ownership.

The post and telegraph services were in high demand, even after the peak population dropped. Mail, banking and telegraph services a necessity. A large number of staff were employed at the Post and Telegraph Offices - as can be seen in the 1903 staff photo below.
Back row: A V Pearse, J F Craig, T G Swindells, H G Sanders, H C Bull.
Third row: F Arns, H J Pearse, J Davies, T E Mullins, R McDonnell, A L H Stott, J McLean, E G May, C K Edwards, F L Cunnold, C H L McLean, J E Childerhouse.
Second row: W B Teasdale, C W Jansen, J Thorne, T Aitken (chief clerk), W McHutcheson (chief postmaster), A H Turner (second clerk), E Clark, J T W Collier, T F Gibbons.
Front row: W Steward, W Sawyer, M Lannigan, R Quick, R Jury (messengers)
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19031112-5-1
 
The messenger boys at the front of the staff photo, were the equivalent of later telegram deliverers, in the days when it was quite customary to send urgent messages via the telegraph services. A telegram once received was hand delivered by the boys, by foot or by bike. Interestingly in the Thames Star 26 September 1911, a report about messenger boys was included. It stated: “No post office messenger boy in England is supposed, in the discharge of his duties, to walk more than ten miles a day, or to cover more than 24 miles on a bicycle.” Unfortunately they did not state what the norm was for the Thames messenger boys.

By December 1916, Thames had eight messenger boys employed at the Thames Post & Telegraph Office. They were: A Anderson, C Comer, R J Donnelly, L R Hancock, F M J McGuinn, W H McDonald, S E L McLean, and F Strange.
 

This wonderful Xmas card (above) belongs to John Strange, his father Frank Strange was one of the messenger boys named on the card. Frank went on to work 25 years in the Post and Telegraph service.
 
The card is fascinating, the business acknowledging the work of the messenger boys and giving seasons greetings to their customers. It is a tradition that New Zealand Post appears to have continued, each Xmas it remains one of the few businesses that send a card out delivered by their 'posties'.

POSTSCRIPT:
Some later background on Mr Francis (Frank) Strange (1900-1998).
Frank "was a sorter on the mail train to Wellington and would get off at Whangamomona and return sorting again back to Auckland. He attended the Ponsonby Post & Telegraph and became an experienced and sought after Morse code operator. In April 1928 he married and he was transferred to Whangarei Post Office until he became Post Master at Kamo. In 1940 he cashed in his Pension and bought a herd of cows and property at Hikutaia where he remained" until his death aged 98yrs.
Source: J Strange (son)

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