150 years – stamp it

150 years – stamp it

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.


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)