Monday, August 23, 2010


I am writing this more for my sake than anybody who happens to check my blog (not many do which speaks volumes in itself) as it is nice at my age to sit down and reminisce about the past. I am fortunate in having a very good memory altho' at times little things do escape me.

Previously I wrote about my love for Vic Square (Mercedes) College and my dislike of Perth College and how I managed to persuade my folks to allow me to attend a commercial college to learn shorthand typing etc.

I think I was fortunate that they chose City Commercial College (it was situated above Levinsons the jewellers at 713 Hay Street in Perth) as their students were thought of quite highly by the business houses of the day.

The subjects I learned were shorthand, typing, business maths, business English, bookkeeping and business principles (including banking and that type of thing). I didn't really enjoy either of the latter two subjects which carried through into my working life when I avoided clerical work like the plague. I really enjoyed shorthand and typing and when I was 14 I obtained my Commercial Junior Certificate in all six of the above subjects. The usual age for a student to sit for their Junior was 15 but (probably partly because of correspondence lessons when I was living on the farm) I was always up to a year younger than the other girls in my class.

Having passed the Junior I was of course eligible to look for work but my Dad decided that 14 was far too young to begin work and that I should continue at CCC for a further years. Shock horror!! What would I do as I'd learned all I could and mainly practised my shorthand and typing and in particular my shorthand speeds.

One thing that amazed me was when the college asked me if I would contemplate becoming a trainee teacher at their school. I had been very good at shorthand and they felt I would make a good teacher of that subject. Having always been a rather shy person the very thought of teaching students, some of whom may be older than myself, filled me with dread so I declined their offer.

Right at the end of first term the Principal called me to his office and told me he had a very good job come in (a lot of the insurance companies etc would approach CCC looking for staff) and he wondered if my father would perhaps allow me to attend for an interview. I went home that night and using all my female wiles I asked Dad if I could please at least find out about the job. Fortunately he agreed and that was the beginning of my working career.

Friends at CCC had begun work as invoice typists and the like (they were the ones for which shorthand was a difficult subject) on salaries of about 18/6d per week ($1.85) whereas my first week's pay was two pounds five shillings ($2.50) and I received a raise in pay before I got my second pay envelope and was earning the princely sum of two pounds seven shilling and sixpence ($2.75). It was certainly worthwhile being good at shorthand!!

This first job was at the Royal Automobile Club at 228 Adelaide Terrace, Perth but in their insurance section which was known as Club Motor Insurance, an amalgamation of about 53 different insurance companies. After about two weeks in the job we were told by the boss (Norm Stehn) that the RAC had decided to start their own insurance company and that Club Motor Ins would no longer be situated in their office.

We moved to what had been a shop that had been renovated and converted into an office at 48 James Street (opposite Perth Boys' School) and next to the then Police Traffic Office and also the police training school. I met a couple of very nice trainee policemen at that time, a couple of whom I went out with a few times.

In those days all Third Party Insurance was carried by insurance companies and was not part of the car licence as it is today. All TPI policies fell due on 30th June so you can imagine how busy we were at that time of year, sending out invoices and receiving payments. You had to have your TPI receipt before you could renew your car licence.

After about 6 months the insurance companies that comprised Club Motor Insurance decided to dissolve the business and Mr Stehn made the decision to become an insurance assessor. He employed an ex-policeman (Mac) and a motor mechanic (Sid) as assessors and there were at that time 4 or 5 females who ran the office. Apart from myself there was Peg, June, and Greta (she was the head of the office although only about 20 herself). I think actually Wilma joined us a little later on so perhaps only 4 of us to begin with. We all got on really well together and the office ran like clockwork.

Eventually Peg and Greta married and then Val joined the team along with a young girl (also Val) to operate our switchboard. She was in some way related to the bosses wife and took advantage of this fact by being a bit careless in her work and cheeky too. She really got us very cross and instead of complaining to the boss I decided to look for another job. I had an interview with an office in town and was given the job and then had to go and tell Mr Stehn that I was leaving.

I was told the following Monday (by Sid) that the boss had come down into the main office after we'd left for the day on Friday and said "Sid, come down the pub will you?" They went to the hotel on the corner of James and William Streets quite regularly after work and this is where they went that night. Apparently he asked Sid why I was leaving without an explanation and Sid told him straight out that he felt it was because of the younger Val and her behaviour.

The boss called me to his office that Monday and told me he thought he knew the reason for me handing in my notice and that if Val was the reason then he would sack her. I said I could not allow this to happen beause of me so he said he would speak to her if I would agree to stay on. I said I would and he then offered me a one pound a week raise. I was horrified and said it sounded as though he was bribing me. He laughed and said 'You and June are on the same wage and have been here the same length of time so how about I give you both a raise?" This made sense so I agreed to stay. At this time I was only just 18 years of age.

I truly loved my work there and the people with whom I worked and proof of this is that Wilma and Val were my bridesmaid and matron of honour at my first wedding and Wilma, June and I used to stay at each other's homes and go dancing at the various tennis clubs on the weekend.

I actually did leave this wonderful job later that year but more of that in another story.

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