THE YEAR OF 1964 - TELEPHONE MAINTENANCE DUTIES IN THE MELBOURNE CENTRAL
The year of 1964 is well remembered as the year in which the Beatles came to Melbourne!
There was a vast parade down Swanston St watched by thousands, and the Beatles appeared
on the balcony of the Melbourne Town Hall, then stayed at the South Cross Hotel.
In my employment with the Postmaster General's Department, I spent 12 months in 1964 maintaining
telephone and Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) services in the Herald and Weekly Times newspaper building in Flinders
This was a promotion to the grade of Senior Technician, after two years as a Technica at Deepdene Exchange.
I was one of three senior specialist technical staff with responsibility for this work, which included
maintenance of services in the city block bounded by Flinders St, Russell St, Exhibition St, and Collins St.
We also looked after the newly commissioned Pentaconta Crossbar PABXs in the newly constructed Southern
Cross Hotel in Russell St, the big new Walton's
department store in Bourke St, and the CML Building in Elizabeth St.
Those buildings, except the Herald office, are long gone, having been replaced by new structures!
I learned a heck of a lot about the operations of a major newspaper. In those days, the Herald
was the afternoon paper, with the first edition on the streets at around noon, known as the "City" edition. Then there was
the "City Extra" edition, which appeared in the early afternoon, followed by the "Late City Extra" and "Final Edition"
in late afternoon. The "Final; edition would be bought by commuters leaving their city offices as they wound their way to
Flinders St or Spencer St railway stations.
I recall that the Herald was sold half way across Princes Bridger by a gentleman in a black leather
apron and baseball cap.
On Saturdays, the final edition was "All Sports Last Race", which followed the "Final" edition.
No Sunday papers in those years!
Football matches were played only on Saturday afternoons, for the Victorian
Football League (VFL)-
they would finish at around 4.30 pm, and the All Sports Last Race edition would carry the results in red printing at the top
of page one, and was on sale in newsagents around Melbourne around 6pm! Now that's really fast service!
As far as I know, the ONLY time when the Herald was published in the morning
was on June 2 1953
on the occasion of the Hilary/Tensing ascent of Mt Everest and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I still have a copy of
that edition, which was marked "Late City Extra"! It cost three pence!
The company also published the "Sun News Pictorial" paper - the first edition came out at about 11pm,
which was the country version, offloaded on to trucks and trains at Spencer St railway station. The final edition came ut
at around 5am, which was the suburban edition.
It was traditional to buy the Sun at your local railway station and read it n the way into the city!
Many people chose the tabloid Sun over tghe broadsheet "The Age". It was ust too messy trying to open
and read the large pages of the Age in a rowded compartment of a railway carriage!
Our little technical group was offered perks and inducements or roviding quick on-demand service when
anything sent wrong with the elephone services.
We had access to the staff canteen at the Herald Office for free meals - e were given free copies of
each of the papers when they were published.
The Herald office was huge - all typesetting was done by hand - computers would not be invented until
20 years later!
The rotary high-speed presses were massive, with big cylinders which had lead curved plates. At the
end of each "run" these plates were melted down and reused.
I also recall seeing stacks of curved plates containing the biographies and photos of famous people,
which could be used at short notice for "special editions" in the event of the passing of an important person.
The senior management of the Company was located on the top floor, and we often chatted in the lifts!
In that era, the Herald office had many "outdoor extension magneto telephone lines" to various locations
around greater Melbourne. These included lines to the Law Courts, the Victoria Police ("Police Rounds"), the Stock Exchange,
Victoria Barracks (St Kilda Rd) all racecourses and major football grounds. It was from those direct telephones that reporters
would ring in the sporting results and scores, and other activities, on Saturdays, without the problem of using the automatic
Every Saturday, one of us would be rostered on, based at our office in the Herald building, which was
adjacent to the Herald's main switchboard. Faults on any of the external magneto extensions would be reported to the switchboard
and it was our job to fix them! Occasionally, this was due to failure of the physical open wire aerial links by storms, winds,
or other causes. We were expected to know where these phones were located and to rush out there in a taxi.
The PABX at the Herald office had been installed in 1925, and consisted of Strowger electro-mechanical
switches and uniselectors in conventional racks.
This survived until well into the 1970s when it was replaced with a modern installation. This switchgear
(bi-motional selectors) required constant maintenance. The problem was aggravated by the enormous amount of black sooty particles
of printing ink which permeated the entire building from the
Frankly, the environment was appalling, not helped by the heavy pollution from the Flinders St railway
yards directly opposite.
In later years, the Herald and Sun News Pictorial were merged into the Herald-Sun, and in 1993, the
offices of the Herald-Sun moved to Westgate Park, Port Melbourne, ending the Flinders St occupancy which had begun in 1925.
HISTORY OF THE HERALD AND WEEKLY TIMES
In 1921 Keith
Murdoch became Editor-in-Chief of the Herald, which then became the highest circulation paper in Australasia. The following
year Hugh Dennison's Sun Newspaper Company (established in 1910) launched the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial. The Herald &
Weekly Times was an aggressive company, however, and in 1925 it bought and then closed down the Melbourne Evening Sun, a competitor
to Herald, as well as the Sun Newspaper Co. The Sun News-Pictorial then became the highest-circulating Australian daily newspaper.
In 1928 the company opened a new building in Melbourne, which it celebrated
with the issue of a
medal (NU 33124). At that time the Herald and Allied
Publications published the Herald, The Sun News- Pictorial, The Weekly
Times, Sporting Globe, Table Talk, The Listener-In, The Home Beautiful, The Weekly Times Annual and Table Talk Annual.
In 1929 the business expanded into Melbourne radio, buying radio station 3DB. The business expanded
with interstate newspapers, and in 1956 it launched HSV-7 commercial television station. The following year it gained control
of the Melbourne Argus, including a stake in GTV-9, which it quickly sold. In 1960 its purchases included the Melbourne and
Brisbane Truth. Rupert Murdoch, Keith Murdoch's son, launched the Australian in 1964 and began to buy extensive international
publishing businesses in the later 1960s.
THE LISTENER IN
This was a weekly publication, which
first appeared in 1927. It was small format, about half A4, and by the late 1930s had grown to over 60 pages! It contained
details of daily radio programs for the following week.
Details about daily shortwave transmissions were also given, in order of language: listings of May
23 1937 showed broadcasts from the German station DBA in various languages, and from Czechoslovakia OLR.Italian programs
from RO were also provided. I think RO was the Italian Radio! Broadcasts from the French station TPA were provided.
The magazine had many features, including constructional articles for receivers, crystal sets, antennas,
amplifiers, adverts for Melbourne-based firms selling radio and electrical equipment, ads for cough medicines, books for home
mechanics, Ju-Jitsu schools.
There was a special "Junior Section". An article of May 23 1937 was titled "DX Listening and Reporting
- how to tune in distant stations and how to get verifications of reports".
In 1934, the Australian DX Club was founded in Melbourne, and was strongly
linked with the Listener-In.
This Club, via the "Listener In", published the "Australian DX Club News, with reports from readers
about SW and MW stations members that they had been hearing, QSLs received, schedules, technical tips, and antenna details.
Melbourne members met at the Wireless Institute of Australia rooms in Queen
Branches came into being, such as at Bendigo, Barmera, Sydney and Brisbane.
In 1938, the Club started its own magazine - I have a copy of the first edition and manyh others, into
The ADXC continued until its abandonment in 1945. In its heyday, it arranged
picnics, dances, excursions
and amplifier contests, listening competitions.
Membership of the ADXC was three shillings and sixpence annually - members were allocated "callsigns"
such as ADX2V (V=Victoria), ADX9N (N=NSW).
In 1938, the ADXC started a monthly radio program over Melbourne's only all-night commercial broadcaster
3AK, 1500 kHz, at the convenient time of 2 am! 3AK used to come on the air at 6pm, and was owned by the "Mack's furniture
The Listener-In" ceased publication in 1954. TV had started in 1956, and a new magazine for Melbourne
readers appeared in 1957, known as "TV Radio Week", the name being later changed to "TV Week", which survives to the present.
Our duties in maintaining the new Pentaconta Crossbar PABX systems
right across the Melbourne CBD. Nobody else had any understanding of how this new equipment worked and we were the
experts! After-hours faults were signalled to the staffed 24-hrs main exchange, and the duty officer would then ring one of
us and advise that an "urgent alarm" had appeared at one of these PABXs and were we available to go into the city and attend
to it. This often happened at weekends, day or night, so we hot-footed it into the city, usually by taxi, sometimes in our
These duties were called "recalls" and we were paid at full overtime rates by the Department.
The year of 1964 was illuminating for me, as it exposed me not
only to the
commercial newspaper industry, through daily involvement with the Herald-Sun, but also in developing expert
technical knowledge and skills in Telecommunications maintenance practices as an outposted "site technical
some occasions I started to wonder who my employer was - the PMGs Department or the Herald and Weekly Times!
I finished working
as a Senior Technician at the Herald Office in December 1964, having been promoted to a position of Trainee Engineer
and commenced full-time study at RMIT in January 1965, graduating in December 1966 and advanced to a position of Engineer