Joe Fitzpatrick was born in 1931 in rural NSW and came to live in Millers Point in 1954 when he started work at the nearby General Post Office [GPO] where he spent his working life. In his interview he talks about living in boarding houses; playing chess and other activities; various types of people he has known around the Point; hotels; assisting with the Queen’s visit in 1954; work as a radio announcer in later life; and his work in the local area with the St Vincent de Paul Society. In the excerpt below he remembers the various kinds of technology employed in the GPO in the 1950s.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
For a whole year I learnt the Morse Code and then I went into the Operating Room at the GPO [General Post Office]Telegraph Branch and started there in 1954. So I worked amongst all these Morse Code keys and telegrams, and also communications. I was one of the first blokes to do the switchboard, they had these Telex switchboards, they’d call up on a Telex and you’d have to plug them through to another Telex number. It only started about 1958, this Telex business. I worked in the GPO for thirty-eight years anyhow but the Morse Code went out in 1961.
When I first worked in the GPO there were five hundred on the roster but you worked around the clock, midnight to six. We had a meteorology section, there was a picturegram room, and we’d send pictures to Melbourne and Brisbane. You’d wrap a film around this cylinder and it would spin around at so many revs per minute and after about ten minutes you’d have a picture on it. Quite often a lot of them were going to newspapers, well the newspapers have got their own now, but in the ‘50s, like Melbourne Cup time and all that, we’d get all these pictures from Melbourne and they’d go to The Sun and The Mirror, they there were afternoon papers running then, and the morning Telegraph and [Sydney Morning] Herald.
So the GPO was quite a place when I first worked there. We had teleprinters coming in where we had received from Melbourne and Brisbane and Perth and Adelaide, all single individual point-to-point bases. Then we had all these country ones like you’d have Lithgow and Mudgee and Dubbo. It was like a beehive, the GPO.