Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sepia Saturday - Workers


Alan Burnett from Sepia Saturday advises the following for today's prompt:


"boxes, paper, workers, machines and dangerously long skirts spring to my mind. All you have to do is to select an old photograph or two and say a few things about them and if you can tie it in with your interpretation of the theme image, well that is a bonus. Post your posts, link it to the list below and then pop in and visit as many other Sepians as you can manage. Easy peasy!"

Well - here she is...my female worker.

No idea if she is wearing a dangerously long skirt...I suspect so.

I am fascinated by what she is wearing.  It looks to be quite a heavy, I don't know, serge type fabric I suppose..quite swish really.  And do you think that is a bib she is wearing?  

Anyway, this is from my grandfather's album.  No identifying information on the photo I'm afraid. I'd say it's a McLoughlin - maybe a sister or an aunt.

She could be working in a Post Office (is that where telephone exchange people worked?)  It's just they look like post boxes in the background there but I guess they could just be any office filing system really.  She is standing rather than sitting.

I'm thinking Bathurst or Orange.

Someone au fait with the history of telephony help me here.

This article suggests that women in country areas doubled as postmistress and telegraph operator.

There's a rather nice image of the women on the switchboard at Anthony Hordern's in Sydney c1905 here on the State Library of NSW website.  And this one of the Jerilderee telephone exchange.

Operators at the telephone exchange in the post office, Pittsworth, ca. 1910  Image by J.H. Pardey and held at John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Copyright expired
These poor chaps look less than inspired by their job don't they?

If you want to find out more you can read Jeffery Rickertt's thesis online called 
Resistance on the line: A history of Australian telephonists and their trade unions, 1880-1988

Looking for more pictures of workers or boxes or machines or really anything ?  
Head on over to Sepia Saturday.

20 comments:

Boobook said...

fascinating post Alex. I must show my aunt who was a telephonist in Victoria.

Bob Scotney said...

My experience of manning a switchboard while on weekend guard duty in the army was more than enough for me especially when more that one call came in at the same time.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

She looks like a modern day DJ for some reason!

Little Nell said...

How wonderful to have such a photograph in your album. I often wonder with this kind of image who snapped the picture and why?

Karen S. said...

Alex, bravo what a fine post this is. I like how the easy peasy stuck with you too, Alan really is remarkable in his posts. This first photo, what a wonderful find that was!

Kathy Morales said...

The contraption around her neck looks heavy. Probably gave her a pain in the neck.

Postcardy said...

Maybe both the mailboxes and switchboard are at a company where she is working.

Alex Daw said...

And this lovely comment from Brett Payne of photo-sleuth.blogspot.co.nz - only my finger was too fat on my mobile phone and I deleted it by accident instead of publishing it....- That's a great image of someone working at a telephone exchange, and I hope you eventually discover which relative it is.

Thanks Brett!

Alex Daw said...

Ooh please do Boobook and let me know if she can enlighten us on the contraption around her neck and the era.

Alex Daw said...

Yes, it's amazing how under pressure, one's sense of humour or charm tends to diminish yes?

Alex Daw said...

Teresa - I love that you've pointed that out - she does doesn't she?

Alex Daw said...

Little Nell I suspect there was an amateur photographer in the family who turned professional...I need to talk to the McLoughlin clan.

Alex Daw said...

Karen - Thank you for your kind comments. Yes I've been champing at the bit all week to post this photo!

Alex Daw said...

Kathy - It almost looks like one of those breast plates found in early photos of indigenous people a la here http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/aboriginal_breastplates/history_of_king_plates

Ann ODyne said...

This aged blogger actually worked on a plug-and-cord switchboard, and here, instead of long skirts I am thinking of a comedy character of Lily Tomlin's where she was a very officious operator, oh and Tracey Ullman had a switchboard chick that was good too.
In my subscriptions list, right under you, another blog I subscribe to has sepia-ority too: Tony in Everton UK

Ann ODyne said...

the breastplate bib is the telephone receiver for her to speak into with 2 hands free for those plugs and cords - think Bob Dylan and his harmonica holder.

the size of that board is a town. There has been great comedy in old films from party lines jokes. Your relative migght have taken a call from the city to a family in that small town, and when The Party didn't answer, she would be able to say to the caller miles away "oh It's Tuesday and Doris must be at CWA meeting so call back after 4pm" - like a whole town having a Secretary.

Alex Daw said...

Postcardy - you could be right...I hadn't thought of that.

Alan Burnett said...

It's a great picture and like all such pictures it poses question after question. I do remember when I used to do the Christmas Post back in the UK in the 1960s, the telephone exchange was in the same building as the post office sorting shelves.

Alex Daw said...

Ann - as always - you are a fount of information - imagine that - the receiver - of course. And yes, I rather imagined that the board was a town rather than a company.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Alan - thanks for your kind comment and the memory.