Chermside Post Offices

ca 1867 - The Receiver of Mail - John Patterson

John Patterson lived in NSW and served in the Police Force there before he came to Downfall Creek. He was here in 1866 when he bought two blocks of land in the area. (Photo coutesy of John Oxley Library)

When the first white settlers appeared in the Chermside area there probably was no mail delivery at all. The earliest population figure we have for Downfall Creek-Chermside was in the 1871 Census when 103 persons were recorded. This was for a district about five times larger than the present area of the suburb of Chermside.

John Patterson was appointed Receiver of Mail sometime before 1884, which meant he collected the mail from the passing coach driver and gave him any outgoing mail from the local area. Cobb & Co were running regular coaches from Brisbane to Gympie from 1867 so he could have been appointed by that date.

He was probably appointed because he was the first known shop keeper in the area. His shop was located on the present site of the Green Motel near the corner of Gympie Road and Banfield Street.

People would come to Patterson's shop and collect their mail and leave any outgoing mail. He probably sold postage stamps as the Penny Post had been in operation since 1840 in England. For more information on Patterson see Chapter 3 of the New History of Chermside.

1884 - The Post Office Agency - Andrew Hamilton

This photo shows the skillion Post Office beside the forge which does not have the name Fivemiletown and Andrew's name on it. Apparantly he had not built his carriage workshop at this stage. The Post Office is a very small room, almost a large cupboard with what looks like a corrugated iron roof. (Hamilton Collection)

In 1884 Andrew Hamilton was appointed Post Master which meant that more Post Office business might have been conducted. Possibly Registered Mail, Money Transfer, Licences Issued and Postage of letters and parcels. By this time the population of Downfall Creek had risen to above the 181 of the 1881 Census and the volume of traffic on Gympie Road whould also have increased.

Andrew was paid a salary of 12 pounds ($24) for his part time work in the Post Office which was in a skillion or lean-to attached to his Fivemiletown Blacksmith's forge.

1889 - The Post Office Agency - James Hamilton


When James (Son in Law to Andrew) became Post Master he shifted the office to his house which was on the east side of Gympie Road almost opposite Sparkes Street. This photo shows Mrs Charlotte Jane Hamilton and her daughter Margaret Jane (Janie) standing on the front veranda with the office on the right of the veranda. (Hamilton Collection)

When James Hamilton (Separate family, same name) became the Post Master the population of the area exceeded 400 and by the Census of 1891was 498 and growing steadily.

James Hamilton was a keen photographer and recorded most of the photos that we have today of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He was born in Ireland in 1861 and died in Brisbane in 1921.

1892-3 - 1898 - The Post Office Agency - Little Information.


Gottleib Conradi standing in front of his store which may have been the second store in Downfall Creek. It looks to be a substantial structure with a corrugated iron roof and, possibly, brick walls. (Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library)

1892-3 Gottleib Conradi is listed in the Qld. Post Office Directory as being the Postmaster during this time. The Post Office would have been in his shop, the Polsloe Store on Gympie Road.

How long Conradi was Post Master is not known but he may have been until Sammells was appointed in 1898

David Teague (p.46) notes that by 1892 David Goodwin of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel had the contract to deliver the mail daily to several places including Downfall Creek from the General Post Office in Brisbane. As Cobb & Co stage coaches were gradually declining smaller local carriers were carrying the mail to the local Post Offices.

1898-1918 The Post Office Agency - William & Mary Sammells


It is not clear just what Sammells sold. The name on the store gable says furniture, the end of the awning mentions upholstery and bedding while the family thinks it was a general store. He did train as a cabinetmaker while the use of the word Bazaar is intriguing. (Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library)

William Sammells built the Downfall Creek Furniture Bazaar on the south corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road. The agency was transfered there but it is not clear who was Post Master. Probably William was but David Teague lists Mary as Postmistress in1917/8.

During the Sammells' tenure population of the Chermside area rose from 694 in the 1901 Census to 1,113 in the 1921 Census.


Telephones and Telegraph at Sammells


This letter from the Deputy Post Master General examines the telephone situation at Sammell's Post Office Agency.

The Telegraph service was available in Sammells' shop from 1908 and messages were relayed by phone line to another centre, possibly Albion or Brisbane GPO.

By 1909 the telephone was available for public use also but, according to the above letter, only when it was not being used for telegrams.

Although the letter recommends setting a telephone outside the shop in a telephone box it seems that there would only be one line from the Post Office.

It is not known how long this situation persisted, probably not long as businesses would be anxious to be connected.

The phones were not automatic, they were staffed by operators who would answer the caller and connect them with the person they wanted. Long distance calls were more complicated, and cost more, because the caller had to book the call and then wait to be connected. The operator would have to connect with all the exchanges from for example, Chermside to Sydney; this could take a lot of time.

The Chermside Communications Revolution of 1909


The cost of a telegram was calculated by the number of words used; a penny a word when this one was sent. It was sent by Morse Code from one Post Office to another and was then decoded on to the form which was delivered by the Telegram Boy on his bicycle without delay. In later years when the telephone became common the recieving office telephoned the message to the recipient. Chermside did not have a Morse Code operator in the early days.

The first Post Office was opened in Brisbane in 1829 and the Electric Telegraph arrived in 1860 soon after its invention in the USA. The latter was like an email. See Side Bar.

Prior to 1909, if a person in Chermside wanted to make a telephone call or send a telegram s/he would have to harness up the sulky and spend a day travelling to and from Brisbane.

So when the telephone and telegraph arrived in Chermside it was the first time both could be done by simply riding a bike or walking to the Post Office Agency; the time saving was enormous - sixty times faster.

Post Office Records during 1909 show:

52 telegrams were lodged at a total cost of two pounds six shillings ($4.60) and 82 were received.

Local Telephone calls totalled four pounds twelve shillings and five pence ($9.25).

Trunk (long distance) calls totalled four shillings and four pence ($0.45).

Total Telegram and Telephone revenue for 1909 was seven pounds and nine pence ($14.10).

In 1909:
- The Basic Wage (Labourer) was $4.40 per week.
- You could only make a phone call or send a telegram at the Post Office Agency.
- The Post Office was only open during daylight trading hours and closed on Sundays and Saturday afternoons.

1-5-1918 to 31-10-1935 Five Changes - Rapid Turnover


Ida Grantham's shop on Gympie Road was bought by Mr G Jeffs and used as the Post Office Agency. It remained the Agency till a new Post Office was built in 1962. (Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library)

James C Argo purchased Sammells store and the Post Office Agency towards the end of World War I and his daughter, Christine, became Postmistress so it was a family affair. Christine received an annual salary of sixty pounds ($120) for her work.

1/12/1926 - Mr. R.E. Hall became Postmaster

1/11/1928 - Mr. J.H. Gordon became Postmaster

14/10/1929 - mail being delivered to 133 houses by Postman on bicycle.

1/9/1930 - Mr. Gordon Postmaster died and Mrs. Gordon carried on for a short while.

1/10/1930 - Mr. G. Jeffs appointed Postmaster. According to Teague (p.47) Jeffs purchased adjoining shops and moved the Post Office to Ida Grantham's old shop on 18-10-1933 where he remained till he sold out in 1935.

Sometimes Mistakes Were Made


We will probably never know just why the value of the newspaper franchise was understated. Perhaps Mrs Gordon did not know its true value but it cost her dearly.

This cutting gives some insights into the value of the business and the inflated value of the newspaper. Since this was in the Great Depression the amounts mentioned were considerable as wages were very low and many were still unempolyed.

1-11-1935 to 29-6-1962 - George Reid & Family


Reid's store showing the Post Office Agency, two phone boxes, post box, Commonwealth Bank notice, a 1940s Ford, motor bike and several bicycles. (Photo courtesy of Reid family)

1/11/1935 - Mr. Jeffs sold his business to Mr. G.B. Reid of Sandgate who then became the Postmaster.

The Reid family managed the Post Office Agency until the first purpose built Post Office was opened in Chermside in 1962 on the opposite side of Gympie Road.

The population of Chermside had risen to 2,319 by the 1933 Census and to 5,055 by the 1947 Census. So the business of the Agency was also rising.

George Reid with an assistant in the grocery section of his store. The Post Office Agency was kept separate with a family member in charge. (Photo courtesy of Reid Family)

Reid's shop was a general store supplying groceries, small goods, fruit and vegetables. It served the households and was not a produce store like Hacker's further north along Gympie Road. It had a milk bar and catered for the patrons of the Dawn Theatre on the other side of Gympie Road.

George Reid was also the Newsagent who had to deliver the Brisbane papers, morning and evening, in his car to Chermside homes. This was on every day with only two days off each year, Christmas Day and Good Friday. They were the only days he could take the children to the beach.

Post Office Agency in Reid's store 1948. Josephine Barr (Senior Assistant), Knox Campbell (Telegram Boy), Beresford Arndt (Postmaster), Sandy Robinson (Junior Assistant)

On the 1-8-1949 Beresford Arndt, Son in Law to George Reid took over the role of Postmaster and ran the Post Office Agency till 1962.

When this photo was taken the Agency was catering for a much larger population as the Chermside area was experiencing the post World War II building boom. Houses were being built in their hundreds; new streets and new suburbs were appearing.

There were 5,055 persons recorded in the 1947 Census and 15,215 in the 1954 Census. The Agency was growing with the population and other Agencies and Post Offices were being opened.

Chermside Technical Training Centre - Banfield Street


In 1989 the area north of Banfield Street was only partly developed. This photo shows Youngman House, an extension of Wheller Gardens, at the top. It was built in 1957 and closed in 1990. Opposite is Bob Jane's tyre business and the Green Motel which is red. It was the site of Patterson's shop, later Earley's shop. Below Youngman House is the Telstra Training Centre which was established in 1948 by the Post Master General's Department. The four large blocks were lecture rooms and workships while the remaining buildings were for accommodation. To the left is the Chermside Shopping Centre which began in 1957 and grew steadily. The long narrow building fronting on to the end of Banfield Street was a small church. To the right is Downfall Creek and at the bottom is Somerset Creek which was piped under the Shopping Centre and joins Downfall futrther downstream. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Australia: J2364, 9938/18)

A major expansion of the services took place in 1948 when the Post Master General acquired land on the north side of Banfield St to use as a training depot for linesmen. Building took place in 1949 to accommodate 100 trainees and staff and extensive open areas were used for outdoor practical experience in training linesmen.

This took place when the house building boom was beginning in the Chermside area and before the need for parkland became urgent. The land was originally Murphy's Paddock but by this time had become Sparkes' Paddock.

In 1990 Telstra had demolished all of the buildings except the classroom blocks on the left. A large modern building was to rise on the site. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Australia: J2364, Item 10234/2)

Like most modern organisations Telstra was constantly updating its facilities. A major building project was underway on the site.

Youngman House is still untouched but in 1990 the land had already been sold and the buildings were demolished to make way for the Australian Tax Office and the Commonwealth Building.

This photo was photographed from an earlier photo, hence the wackey angle. We plan to replace it asap. There had been no change in the Shopping Centre since the 1980s and the small long building facing Banfield Street is a church. (Photo courtesy of Westfield)

From 1992 till about 1995 a major rebuilding of the area took place. Telstra built the very larg white building in the middle while the to the left is the Australian Tax Office, which is probably the largest single building in Chermside. Beside it is the Commonwealth Building.

There had been no change in the Shopping Centre until Westfield bought it and a doubling in size took place in 2000 followed by another doubling in 2006. This latter expansion completley obliterated the Telstra complex.

1962 The First Purpose Built Post Office in Chermside


The first Post Office in Chermside built and owned by the PMG Department in Canberra. It was to see changes as big, if not bigger than any of its predecessors. It had the traditional telephone box out the front and probably a post box too, but it has gone.

With the continual growth of population, 19,972 at the 1961 census, it was inevertable that a bigger Post Office would be built. While much of this growth would be served by new Post Offices in the surrounding suburbs, the area served from Chermside was also growing.

The new Post Office was officially opened by Mr. R.C. O'Brien, M.P. for Petrie with Mr. E C McLean as Postmaster This would have been a 'coming of age' in the growth of Chermside to have a fully operational Post Office and not just an agency working in a shop. It was very much a 20th Century office with a wide drive to allow vehicles to drive off Gympie Road around the back to unload or load. The staff were members of the public service in the Post Master General's Department.

The new Post Office was on the west side of Gympie Road a little south of the Dawn Picture Theatre which is now gone.

This Post Office was a traditional one providing postal, telegraphic, telephonic, banking and many other services until 1975 when the Post Master General Dept was broken up into two separate firms:
- Australia Post to deal with Postal matters
- Telecom Australia, now Telstra, to deal with Telephone and Telecommunications.

So the Chermside Post Office became Chermside Australia Post and continued operating. But like the Dawn this office also closed on 7-6-1993 and is now occupied by Ray White Real Estate. At least it wasn't demolished like the Dawn.

1993 The Current Post Office - Australia Post


Chermside Place Office Block is a new privately owned building with better parking facilities. While the population of Chermside had declined to 6,329 in the 1991 Census it seems that the postal business from the growing commercial and professional sectors was probably increasing.

In 1975 the government rezoned the boundaries of the suburbs of Brisbane. Chermside was reduced in size to one fifth of its original size and its population reduced to 7,666 in the 1976 Census

However this population was generating sufficient business to keep the the Post Office operating and then move to the new location on the eastern side of Gympie Road. It is now refered to as Chermside South as there is another Post Office in Westfield Shoppingtown. Both are large offices and sometimes have long queues of customers waiting to be served.

The Smaller Agencies of Australia Post


Instead of a window in front the space is filled with private boxes which characterise the Post Office everywhere. The Australia Post symbol on the awning is a sign that it belongs to a very large organisation and is a symbol of security.

These local post offices are managed by private individuals instead of the public servants. While still known as the local Post Office these small agencies provide services of postage, financial services such as payment of bills and banking, licencing, J.P. services while selling a wide variety of stationary and other goods; some resemble the earlier Post Office Agencies in the grocer's shop.

Post Office at Wavell Heights on Hamilton Road was opened in July 1956 and was operated by a Mr Smith who also owned the next door grocery shop which was managed by Mrs Smith. The area had a creek running through it and there was a Melaleuca Swamp on the other side of Hamilton Road. The old grocery store is now a Pool Supplies Store for swimming pools.

It was a Post Office Agency and dealing in all the functions of post, telegraph, telephone and all the other servicesis of the old Post Office. Now it is still a Licenced Post Office operating within Australia Post as well as having a wide variety of items such as stationary for sale. It is a two peson operation, fully computerised and has the personal relationship with the customers that is characteristic of small businesses.