Two local ladies with a long association with the Lakes Entrance Post Office – Norma Fiedler and Eileen Willmott – had the honour of cutting a ribbon to mark the 150th birthday of the post office last Thursday morning.
The cutting of the ribbon marked the start of the day’s trading at the Esplanade site.
Mrs Fiedler’s husband, Norm, was a postie in Lakes Entrance and she also used to clean the post office.
Mrs Willmott’s husband, also named Norm, was the post office manager and she also worked on the telephone exchange when it was located at the rear of the post office.
Current employees, Wendy Dunstan and Lyn Drisch (store manager) have seen thousands of names and know the local postcodes inside and out.
Wendy, who has worked at the post office since 1985, said she has seen many changes over her 35 years.
“We’ve had three refurbishments, two out the front and one out the back, and the processes and what we do is different from year to year,” Wendy said.
“People used to post overseas either sea mail or surface air lift. They’ve taken out the surface air lift now and you either send it by air or by sea.
“The postie bike has been here as along as I have, before that it would have been a push bike. How far up the hills they went I’m not sure, but that’s not our area anymore.
“Over the time the hierarchy in the post office has changed as well. When I came here the postmaster was in charge of everyone in the building and now were split into retail and delivery. Bairnsdale manages the postie and delivery side now.
“When I first got here the mail didn’t arrive until 7am, that’s now 5.30am, the posties start then.
“The posties used to deliver parcels, we never used to have a lot of parcels, but in the early 1990s we got a parcel contractor. We didn’t have the volume of parcels then that we do now.
“We used to do telegrams, which we don’t do now. Even people calling overseas, people that didn’t have a telephone at home would come down here and book their call. We’d ring up and organise it, take their payment and send them to the phone box across the road.”
Store manager, Lyn Drisch, who has worked at the post office for 20 years, echoed Wendy’s words.
“When we do something new, Wendy will say ‘we tried that years ago’,” Lyn said.
“It’s now all about making sure it’s getting to the right place and the people receiving it are happy with how they are getting it, offering different delivery options,” Lyn said.
Wendy, who hails from Warragul, got her foot in the Australia Post door when she was offered a position in the postal clerk training school in Melbourne.
“That’s what you had to do to work behind the counter in those days,” Wendy said.
“I did six months in Melbourne learning how to work behind the counter. I got sent out to three different metro offices.
“Just as I was finishing my training the principal of the training school asked if I’d like to go to Lakes Entrance and I thought, oh yeah.
“I came here temporarily and never left. I think I’ve done everything here except actually hop on a motorbike.”
Peter ‘Turtle’ Stewart, was recognised at the ribbon cutting celebration as the identity behind the post office. Mr Stewart passed away following a battle with cancer in late 2017.
Wendy and Lyn said numerous people took notice of a display of historic photos that outlined the post office’s history, some images dating back to the late 1800s, with many stories told.
East Gippsland Shire mayor, Cr John White, was joined by Cr Dick Ellis, community members and current and former staff at Thursday’s celebration, recognising the contribution the post office (originally named Cunninghame before being renamed on January 1, 1915) has played in community life, and the work of current and former staff both in the shop and delivering the mail.
“Congratulations on such a milestone,” Cr White said.
A range of photographs of the shop’s history are also on display inside the shop.
A sausage sizzle to celebrate the occasion acted as a fundraiser for the local CFA with $502 raised.
- The first postmaster at Lakes Entrance (formerly known as Cunninghame) was William Roadknight, who was paid 10 pound a year in 1871. The post office was situated at Merrangbaur Hill.
- Mail was delivered weekly to Cunninghame from Bruthen by T. George Stevenson. Over the following few years contractors changed annually and the contract price fluctuated between 14 and 20 pound until in 1878.
- In 1878 a second mail route was established. This route linked Cunninghame with Bairnsdale, via Metung, Nicholson, Swan Reach and Tambo ferries and was a twice weekly service operated by Thomas Staunton until 1884.
The Bruthen route, which was run by William Chambers, stopped in 1880. In the following year a new mail route from Cunninghame to Newmerella was opened.
- William Roadknight had continued to run the post office until 1875 when Jane Roadknight was appointed. She remained until 1879 when
telegraph facilities were established in town.
- Staunton’s route was now three days a week and was taken over by Edward Foley in 1884 for 148 pound a year. Foley held the position for three years before taking up the mail route from Bairnsdale to Buchan.
- The mail run to Newmerella was extended to Orbost in 1884 and was operated by Alexander Hall for five yeares on a twice weekly basis.
- By 1893 mail communications had reverted to a land route, which came from Bairnsdale, via Nicholson post office, Johnsonville, Swan Reach and Kalimna.
- By this time the Lakes Entrance to Orbost mail route had become six days a week via Lake Tyers, Hospital Creek, Tildesley and Newmerella.
- Total receipts from postal, telegraph and telephone, money order and postal note business in 1906 accounted for 486 pound Expenditure on salaries and allowances totalled 281 pound. It was estimated the post office served a population of 1500, including outlying areas.
- From July 1932 to 1984 a small post office was opened at the Lakes Entrance Camping Park for a telephone service.
- By 1968 Lakes Entrance was a thriving town with a population of around 3750. Its industries, as they do today, centred around fishing and tourism.
- Planning for a new Lakes Entrance Post Office began in 1978. It was completed of a steel-framed masonry blockwork construction with an area with 213 square metres. During the construction the post office operated out of the Mechanics Hall, about 500 metres away.
IMAGE: Lakes Entrance Post Office manager, Lyn Drisch, helpes Norma Fiedler and Eileen Willmott cut the ribbon to celebrate the store’s 150th birthday last Thursday. (PS)