Monday, June 7, 2021

In Elsie's Footsteps

 Last week we ventured into the city to attend a function where Mr GeniAus was recognized for being a member of his professional body for fifty years. The compere described my husband as "a sprightly old chap"!

Mr GeniAus (centre) with his award

As the function was held in the Fullerton Hotel in Sydney we booked our overnight accommodation there. The Heritage wing of the hotel is the former Sydney GPO where my mother, Elsie Duncan, worked as a telephoniste during the 1940s. On booking in I noticed that the hotel was offering free 90 minute tours of the GPO building so I immediately signed up. 

The Heritage GPO wing is connected to the new tower block by walkways and an atrium

Friday at 10:00am saw us join Tour Guide Alex and three other couples for the tour. We commenced with a little history lesson before venturing out into George Street to look closely at the exterior of the GPO building. Alex asked us if we had ever looked up at the carvings and statuary decorating the building, we all agreed that we looked ahead not up when walking around the city. 

Stopping on George Street we raised our eyes and saw Coats of Arms and various other carvings.

Turning into Martin Place we admired the long colonnade and glanced up once more to admire the many carvings along the facade. Above the entrance door was an impressive sculpture of Queen Victoria. 

Before turning into Pitt Street we visited an art gallery in the former public telephone area of the GPO. The ceiling in in that room is decorated with gold leaf.

Along the Pitt Street facade we saw some ghost signs, more carvings and the former vehicular entrance.

On entering the hotel we stopped to look at the atrium that covers the former courtyard of the GPO. The magnificent replica grand staircase that takes one out of the building under Queen Victoria's sculpture  dominates the northern end of this area.

On the first floor of the old building we saw the rooms where the telephonistes worked. The males on the western wing and the females on the eastern wing. These rooms are now used as function rooms. Standing in the area where my mother spent her days was spine-tingling.

Did Mum have a good view from these windows as she fiddled with the cords and plugs on the switchboards?

Last stop on our tour was the basement of the old GPO building where the horses were stabled and where the Tank Stream was encased in a concrete pipe.

The old stables

The Tanks Stream flows through these pipes.

I hadn't thought much about the work Mum had done at the GPO until I saw some old photos of telephonistes at work in the basement audiovisual display.

The purpose of our trip to the city was for Mr GeniAus to reflect on his long and successful career, I am so proud of his achievments. The unexpected outcome of being able to walk in Mum's footsteps topped off  our excursion to the city.


anne said...

great story and what a great experience to be in the place where your Mum worked.

GeniAus said...

It sure was Anne and such a bonus to our night in the big smoke.

Jennifer Jones said...

Big congratulations to Mr. Geniaus. How wonderful to follow in your mum’s footsteps Jill

Bobbie Edes said...

Thanks for the story Jill, I thoroughly enjoyed it bringing back memories of my lunchtime trips to the GPO in the 70s. I don’t think I ever took in the beauty of the building so thanks for the great photos.

Alex Daw said...

What an absolutely fabulous time you would have had Jill. I am grinning from ear to ear for you. Such a beautiful building. What a treat ! I have many happy memories of meeting people in Martin Place and occasionally going into or near the GPO. I love the photos.

Unknown said...

Hi Jill,

I was recently watching a lovely video of my mother recorded many years ago speaking about her time working at the GPO in the forties before she was married.

I immediately recalled your post mentioning your mother also worked at the GPO and attaching all the terrific photos you were able to share.

One thing struck me as a bit sad. My Mum, Betty Broadbent, mentioned two close GPO work friends who promised they'd always keep in touch however after marriage they never saw one another again. Such were the times. I was wondering if their names, Bobby Blaine (not sure of spelling) and Olive Draper, were linked to any of your readers. You never know!

Many thanks


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