Can’t get much closer than …

My dad. Most of the posts written about him are related to his DNA research. But this time I thought I would write about his work life before and after he met mum. Dad had already put together a folder including photos from various courses he had taken in the 1950s-1980s. But he had also written out some stories of his time as a technician with the PMG (Postmasters General), a department of the Federal Government of Australia. These are parts of his stories:

I was Acting Technician’s Assistant from May 1950 until June 1951.

My mother knew ECA Brown who was the Director in the PMG and I applied for a job as a temporary Technicians Assistant in May 1950. I started off with six weeks training at what used to be the Congregational Hall in Harrington St (it has since been demolished and is a law firm now). My training was to learn the colour code that was used in all the different sized cables used in telephone exchanges and how to terminate the wires on to various bits of equipment including main frame protectors, terminal strips, jack strips and other bits of equipment. The cable was silk and cotton covered with a slight waxing and the wire itself was enamel covered. The wire had to be scraped clean and the covering twisted neatly and just caught under the edge of the terminal strip, wound once around and wriggled to break it off. Then each wire had to be soldered to make it a sound connection.

After this initial training I was sent to Burnie to help install the CB (Common Battery) manual telephone exchange. We worked every day of the week with only Sunday afternoon off. We also worked several nights overtime in order to get the exchange working as the politicians had said that the exchange would be cut-over by some particular date. This was my first trip away from home and it was a real eye opener for me.

There were a lot of men boarding in Burnie and some of us were boarding at the hotel at Wynyard. I remember the cook at the hotel was a woman that always had a cigarette in her mouth with a long bit of ash that was likely to fall off into your breakfast. Sometimes after working overtime it was pouring with rain and I had to go back to Wynyard with a chap who had poor eyesight in an old ute that had wipers that you had to move back and forth with one hand while still driving along. He was Senior Technician, Tim Michael, and he later helped me in my future career in the PMG.

I was then sent to Deloraine to help install a new PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchange) at R P Furmage and Co. which was a large store on the corner opposite the bridge. My boss there was Norm Smith and we boarded at the Bush Inn just over the river. It was bitterly cold at the time and I remember that the frost never melted from the sides of the bridge that we crossed going to work. The PABX was a unit about the size of a small cupboard with only room for one person to work at it and I remember that often we worked with our overcoats on until the room heated up a little.

Here is an example of the type of phones being replaced with automatic phones:

 

I got Mum to send up my bike on the bus (I remember that she wrapped it up with lots of newspaper!) and then I was able to ride all over the place at the weekends. I think I went out to Quamby Bluff but I am not sure whether I climbed it.

We finished the work at Deloraine and moved to Devonport to install another PABX at the Ovaltine factory but I was not long there when I was nominated for a course on Substation Maintenance in Hobart. I returned to Hobart with Senior Technician Eric Rogers in his old Clino utility that he really looked after very well. Norm Smith and Eric Rogers were my lifetime friends in the PMG.

In 1953 dad was promoted to technician on a wage of £596 per annum. He then became acting senior technician for PABX maintenance in 1954 and another promotion in 1955 to senior technician on £938 per annum.

Many of the PABX operators were blind. One blind operator was George Grainger at the HEC (Hydro Electric Commission) office (Linefinder). When I was called to a fault there he would ring down to the accounts office and tell them that Phyllis England was wanted at the switchboard. He was a rascal as he knew Phyllis was my girlfriend!

In 1953, there was a big changeover of telephone numbers in the Hobart area. Many people hadn’t checked their new telephone directories and were therefore calling wrong numbers. Dad had to be called in to help re-route incorrect numbers.

 

In the year I was born (1956) dad became an acting supervising technician grade 2 at Exchange Installation Metro.

From 1960-1970s, he worked at the Bathurst Street exchange as grade 1 then 2 then 3 supervising technician in Telecommunications.

From 1978 until retirement in 1991, dad was the Principle Telecommunications Technical Officer at the Exchange Maintenance Centre and District Support Centre in Hobart.

In the 1970s a lot of exchanges were cut over to computer controlled from Hobart.

This was all very controversial and a new set-up for us all particularly as the first exchange to be cut into service was at Wynyard on the north-west coast. It was my job to go to Wynyard and explain to the local staff that I was now in charge of the equipment and I would tell them what to do. All they had to do was connect up the telephone lines and very little else. Also the staff at Wynyard was to be halved. It was difficult for everyone to understand how we were going to maintain the exchange from Hobart. We had a direct computer line to the equipment also a dial up connection as well as a local terminal. Local staff hated this arrangement and my name was mud because I was held responsible for these changes.

I learnt a lot about my dad and his role with telephone exchanges around Tasmania by reading his stories. He seemed to often think outside the box to fix problems on lines or in the exchanges and he wasn’t frightened to express his own views to either his workers, his bosses or some clients who thought they knew better.

I was pretty good at faults and was sometimes sent out of my area to fix recurring faults that were difficult to find. I was sent to a solicitors office who complained that he was receiving calls but no-one was there. It was an A10 system, two telephone lines and ten extensions. I was unable to find any problem and had been just looking about the office when the phone buzzed. I lifted the handset and no-one was there! So I was then convinced that something was wrong. After sitting in the office for some time with the door open and people walking up and down in the passage outside the office, I was really puzzled about the fault. Just then two people passed in the passage outside the door and the phone buzzed again! I paced up and down the passage until I found that if I trod on one particular spot on the side of the passage the phone buzzed! After lifting a floorboard up I found a nail had penetrated the telephone cable and a bit of pressure on the board caused the solicitors phone to buzz. My ability as a fault man rose tremendously after that effort.

Another fault that I attended was to Mrs Grant at High Peak at Ferntree. She had consistently complained of No Progress calls and other technicians had been there but were unable to fault her telephone or line. I could not fault the phone and I had tested everything thoroughly so I asked her to try dialing a number for me. She lifted the receiver, dialed the number without lifting it to her ear. She handed me the receiver saying “There you are, nothing.” Ferntree exchange was a UAX at that time and very slow before you got dial tone. I explained this to Mrs Grant saying that she had to listen for dial tone before dialing a number otherwise she would always get No Progress or wrong numbers. She quickly told me that she knew how to use the telephone and had been dialing numbers probably before I was born! I reported the fault as “No Fault Found” which she no doubt heard me tell the test desk that I had found nothing wrong with the telephone.

Readers: In your lifetime, how has telecommunications changed? What type of phone did you have early in your life?

 

 

Let’s dance! Square dance that is!

With my parents now heading to their late eighties, I have been looking back at some of the influences of their lives together. This photo represents one of those – square dancing.

Mum and dad met while square dancing.

Before they were married, mum represented Tasmania in 1951 at the Australian championships. She was one of the couples from Swan St Club.

 

The average age of the winners was 16 – mum was actually 17 at this time. Mum’s father, Henry Lewis England, nearly fell over the balcony at City Hall when mum and her team won the Women’s Weekly competition in Tasmania.

This image is of them being congratulated on their win. Click on the image to find out more about the second and third prize winners in Tasmania – A National Fitness Council team and the Elizabeth Street School teachers team.

 

The Tasmanian team enjoyed time out at the Sydney Botanic Gardens while at the championships. Joe Lewis, a caller from America, was the judge and he gave points for showmanship, spirit of happiness, timing, precision, gracefulness and impromptu calls. Click on the image to read about the Square Dance contest in Sydney. The Tasmanian team came second.

 

Now back to mum and dad. They met at St Peters Hall in Harrington Street Hobart on 12 September 1952 when dad was 20 and mum 18. A group of dancers had gone to Collinsvale to do an exhibition square dance on that date but mum and dad were at the hall.  Dad was part of the Bar 8 square dance group hence the number eight with the line through it on his shirt above.

According to mum, when I was about 6 months old, they took me to a square dance at Claremont Hall and the other dancers were amazed that I slept through the music and other noises. I can remember as a small child being taken to square dancing evenings at a hall in Lindisfarne and enjoying the music. This also influenced my life as I too joined a square dancing club in Hobart but also learnt how to teach Round Dancing – a variation of ballroom dancing done in between square dance brackets.

Sources:

Image 1 – personal collection

Image 2 – Mercury Hobart 18 Jul 1951

Readers: Did you or your parents ever take part in square dancing? Where and when? Or maybe ballroom dancing was more their style. Where and when?

 

Using DNA Painter

Over the last year or so I have been dabbling with the chromosome maps in DNA Painter, but today I decided to import a GEDCOM from my Wyatt family tree on Ancestry and start using the Fan tree.

Once the data was in there, I could quickly see a couple of things.

My tree completeness:

This shows how many grandparents I have found so far in my research. I can see I have quite a lot to find that are only a few generations back. I am hoping that DNA testing of mum and dad will help with solving some of those missing people.

How many grandparents I still need to find

My Fan tree created by uploading GEDCOM data.

This shows in a more visual way where the people are that I need to research. As you can see, I need to do more work on my father’s side. But the problem is the DNA matches I have for dad are all in the 4th cousin plus further back on his paternal side. On his maternal side, I have a few births and baptisms with different father’s names.

Visual showing where I need to research the ancestors

 

Readers: Have you tried using DNA Painter or have you created charts like these using your own software or another website online?

Family Snaps

This week in #52ancestors the theme is “Family photos”. Unsure if this meant any photos taken by a family member or photos of families, I thought I would add a few of both in this post as a gallery of snaps. Many of these photos have been used in previous posts.

 

Surprise, surprise!

It is from my dad’s DNA testing that I have had a lot of surprises. I have been researching my family for over 45 years and thought I had all the paper work correct.

Imagine my surprise when I find all these DNA matches to dad that don’t fit into the paperwork I have.

Dad Ancestry matches

The starred matches are those I have as connections in my home database. They include myself, my brother, dad’s half brother (another surprise), five 1st or 2nd cousins already known to us, and finally three cousins who I have now connected to dad’s tree.

But there is someone who is a 1st or 2nd cousin match who I have no idea about. When I look at the shared matches for that person, none come back to known relatives. So somewhere my paper trail must be wrong.

Dad unknown cousin

Then I looked at ethnicity. Dad’s great grandfather was half Samoan, so dad and I should have some Polynesian in our DNA – not a skerrick. Those 5 known cousins do from 3-10%. So where is dad’s and mine?

Dad DNA story

Where has all the Irish ethnicity come from? I hadn’t found any Irish in dad’s paperwork. Looks like there have been some lies passed down in the family oral history. Or maybe the truth wasn’t known and it is only now with DNA that the truth is appearing.

With dad’s half brother (same father) having done a DNA test, I can now sort dad’s matches into paternal and maternal. But when looking at the maternal matches, I find the unknown 1st or 2nd cousin comes in there. But doesn’t match those with the Polynesian ethnicity. So maybe dad’s maternal grandfather is not the son of the Samoan whaling captain I have researched for years.

I have started using the tool What are the odds (part of DNA painter) which allows me to make hypotheses of where dad’s grandfather might be in the unknown cousin’s tree.

Dad DNA painter WATO

Looking at the unknown cousin’s tree, there is a lot of Irish in there, but I still need to find which person is dad’s direct relative.

Readers: What surprises have you found in your paper trail and or DNA trail?