Family find piece of WA history at Quindalup post office

Geraldine Ogilby is pictured with a copy of the pamphlet featuring her grandmother Constance Letch in the old Quindalup post office.

Geraldine Ogilby is pictured with a copy of the pamphlet featuring her grandmother Constance Letch in the old Quindalup post office.

GERALDINE Ogilby was in for a huge surprise when she visited the old Quindalup post office at Harwood’s Cottage.

On display was a pamphlet about the story of the telephone in WA and in it was an article on her grandmother Constance Letch, WA’s first telephonist.

"I couldn't believe it," she said.

It was Ms Ogilby’s first visit Harwood’s and was unaware of the pamphlet, which was among the post office’s memorabilia.

"We used to call her Perth’s first ‘call girl’," husband Malcolm joked about Constance being WA’s pioneer telephonist.

Constance was only 18 when she connected Perth’s first telephone call on the opening day of the exchange in 1887, which had only 17 customers and only operated on weekdays until 6pm.

She had no idea what she was in for when she started work at the exchange and was "terrified" of being the first person to use the new technology.

"My word, didn’t I get stage fright," Constance is quoted in the pamphlet. However, she was quick to master the new communications technology, eventually becoming telephonist in charge.

Mrs Ogilby feels her grandmother’s place in WA history is understated.

"When I saw the pamphlet I felt a sense of pride that my grandmother was the first telephonist (‘hello girl’) in Perth. It is a pity that there has not been more acknowledgement of this historical achievement," she said.

Constance's family was amused at how she was initially appointed.

"I have now to inform you that your application for the opportunity of lady telephonist at the Perth Telephone Exchange is approved . . . at the rate of twelve shillings ($1.20) per week", was how Constance learnt of her appointment.

Mrs Ogilby chuckled when she read about a conversation that took place between Constance’s father and her uncle when the family arrived in WA in 1872  to start a new life.

When the uncle took them to Perth, by coach and horses, after their ship arrived in Fremantle, Constance’s father asked, "where is the city?"

"Well, we’re in the middle of it," was the uncle’s response.

After existing for just over a century at four sites the Quindalup post office, which also had a telephone switchboard, was decommissioned in 1966, having been on the Harwood property since 1923.

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