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Camden Advertiser Article and Photo for Project Launch, by Iliana Stillitano (27/5/2009)
Book Recalls Powerful Stories.
Camden's one time electricity supplier is being remembered in a special book that chronicles its history and the stories of its employees.
The Nepean River County Council (NRCC) was the only electricity retailer in Macarthur when it started in 1954.
Former employees Sharon Greene and Graham Campbell want to hear from other workers interested in sharing their memories for a book that celebrates the history of the NRCC until its amalgamation with Prospect County Council in November 1979.
'It was like a small family business where everyone was happy to be,' Ms Greene said.
She worked at NRCC from the age of 15 and rose from junior clerk to switchboard operator, to chief cashier and officer in charge of the Camden branch before she took time off to start a family. She returned five months later and remained with the organisation until 1980.
Ms Greene and Mr Campbell met at the NRCC's head office in Picton and have remained friends since.
When she mentioned to Mr Campbell the idea of a book that would tell the 'human story' of the NRCC's employees, he leapt at the idea. 'We were a closely knit group back then,' Mr Campbell, who started working in the accounts department in 1973, said.
He has scoured local newspapers for information about the NRCC and spoke to the brother of the building contractor who lived in a tent on site during construction. He also recently found the woman who designed the NRCC logo. 'She won 25 pounds in 1954 in a competition to design it,' Mr Campbell said. 'When I found her name in the newspaper, I thought `How am I going to find this lady 50 years later?'. But low and behold I did and she told me she used the money to buy a sewing machine a couple of months before her wedding.'
Mr Campbell and Ms Greene are also interested in collecting memorabilia and old photos. They've already been given an unworn pair of NRCC overalls from a former employee. 'The camaraderie made the NRCC a special place and this book is a labour of love for Graham and me because we both loved working there,' Ms Greene said.
On Thursday 28 October 1954 Nepean River County Council approved a design for its official seal. Following a competition suggestion by Alderman P Brown, a large number of entries were received for the £25 prize. The winning design by Miss Leone Rush of Ostend Street Lidcombe depicts electricity being extended to rural areas by a circular outline of the words " Nepean River County Council". A large number of entries were received both from local residents and a large number of Sydney artists.
(Information obtained from Camden News Thursday 4 November 1954.)
The NRCC logo competition winner is now married to Howard Meatchem, they have 5 children, including twins and thirteen grandchildren, including twins, they live on the central coast of NSW.
Leone says that she worked for badge and jewellery makers Denham Neal and Treloar in Pitt St, Sydney in 1954 and her boss Ron Treloar asked her as an individual to enter the competition.The company had received a letter from NRCC asking for entries.
The £25 winning prize was used to buy a Helvetia sewing machine prior to her wedding to Howard on 1st January 1955. The sewing machine was used for making bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses.
Her success was followed by a £30 win in a competition held by Prospect County Council in the late 50's and in 1960 the Blacktown Shire Councils emblem designing contest.
Her childrens rooms were once decorated with her murals of fawns, fairies and pixies, however at one point the children decided to do their own murals- the result was that her husband had to repaint the rooms to cover up their handiwork.
Leone's other design works included a badge given to all school children during the Queens visit in 1954 and being the first Australian woman to win the Diamond International Design Award in 1972.
The following is an extract from a testimonial letter dated 3rd October 1954, was supplied by Reg's daughter Yvonne:
Reg has been employed by NRCC since 1958 and before that by the Campbelltown Municipal Council from 30th October 1950.
For most of the period Reg has been employed as a meter reader, not only routine meter readings but also the necessary action when premises were vacated or occupied or the collection of unpaid accounts.
He has been a diligent and loyal employee in a difficult job, showing understanding and sympathy without neglecting his duty to Council. He has at all times proved to be strictly honest.
This testimonial is issued to Mr. Gale after almost a quarter of a century of service and accompanied by the best of wishes of both Council and staff.
The common seal of NRCC was affixed.
Signed Frank Mackay (Chairman) RC Lindsay (County Clerk)
On 23rd March 1959 I was first employed by NRCC as a junior clerk at Campbelltown to help my great friend Betty McCarthy. By coincidence 23rd March just happens to be the day when Betty passed this year.
We were located in a small shop in Queen St, next to the Commonwealth Bank. This was part of a chemist shop run by Miss Rogers. NRCC employees working in this shop were:
Bill Antaw and Wally Smith-Electrical Engineers.
Betty McCarthy-Officer in charge, clerical
Kay Kyle-nee Mitcherson
Jim Pinkerton-Trainee Electrical Engineer
Mick Beasley, leading hand field work and Bob Eves, leading hand electrical would report to engineers in our office.
We had no cash registers or adding machines, we hand wrote receipts and added the figures in our head for daily takings. That was a good skill to have. Eventually we received an old adding machine from Picton, but one day it added incorrectly so I wouldn't use it again.
In about July of 1960 we moved to new premises in Cordeaux St. We did get a new adding machine and then a cash register.
Betty had suffered with rheumatic fever when she was in her teens. She used to have relapses and in 1960 she was off work for about 5 months and was very sick. I took over and ran the office during that time. In appreciation of that, the County Clerk, Mr Crakanthorp sent me a letter saying how well I had accepted the additional duties and I was given £5, which was a lot of money in those days. I still have the letter, the £5 is long gone.
I worked with NRCC for 11 years. There was no maternity leave in those days, and so had to resign to have my two children, Brad and Tanya. I worked as a casual between 1970-1975 with NRCC . When a new shop front at Glenquarrie Shopping Centre was opened I was re-employed as the manager with one junior to help me.
I was there for 4 years and then transferred back to Campbelltown. Betty went to Picton office in 1982 under Prospect County Council. I was left in charge until her return and the opening of the new Advisory Centre in Lithgow St in 1986.
After Betty's retirement I was in charge of Campbelltown until I was transferred to Liverpool and at one stage looked after Campbelltown, Liverpool and Fairfield. I stayed with NRCC the second time around for 21 years until I retired in 1996 under Integral Energy. In 1997 I built a house south of Wollongong, one street away from the ocean.
Betty used to say one of the strangest things she witnessed was coming into the staff room at Campbelltown and seeing Mick Beasley, a big man with a big voice, helping me with my knitting, saying "have you done 2 plain, 2 pearl" and little Kay saying "yes Mick I've done that".
Wally Smith was always asking me to make "Minto mud" which he called the coffee, I used to tell him it wasn't my fault at it wasn't a good brand of coffee. He used to come in and play with my switchboard, while I was at the counter. It was the old type with leads that had to be plugged into sockets. He was always disconnecting people saying "there's something wrong with that switchboard".
In the car park at the rear of Cordeaux St office a stray cat made its appearance. Betty would feed it even took it to the vet to get desexed. I started to drive out one day, there was a dreadful noise and a squeal of my brakes. I got out and found Bettys cat almost dead. One of the field hands rushed out and put it out of its misery. I didn't know that it had put itself in the wheel cavity to keep warm and was sleeping on top of the wheel when I reversed out and well, you know the rest-scrunch!.
Betty was really upset but Lexie King (now Cochrane) said to her "Bet, stop going off your brain, Kay didn't mean to do it, she didn't know the cat was sleeping on top of the tyre". Betty eventually calmed down, I was forgiven and no more cats.
Picton Head Office- The Builder
Interview with Alfonso Pittolo (pictured) 20 May 2009. Alfonso is brother of Adolpho Pittolo who was the building contractor in 1956
My brother, Adolpho came to Australia in 1950. I followed him in January 1956. I could not speak English when I arrived. We came as contract workers. I paid £250 to come here. Adolpho was a tradesman back in Italy. He had formed a company around Moss Vale with another man, but it did not work out, so he started by himself, one carpenter from Wingello, Cliff Bunker and his father was then employed as a labourer. I then came to join him. He ended up with about 14 people.
Adolpho worked for the architect, Mr Nicholls. He had worked for him before in Mittagong. He had an office in the Caltex building in Sydney and a property at Bringelly. Adolpho did a quote for the construction of the building in Picton in 1956 and was recommended by Mr Nicholls to the Council.
We lived in a tent at the back of the building during the week and usually went home to Moss Vale at the end of the week to wash clothes and things like that as there was no facilities at the campsite. We were well known in Picton. We knocked off at 4 or 5 o'clock and used to go and have a beer at the local hotel. We couldn't speak English but the locals soon taught us some words. We once won 6 bottles of beer playing darts. Jim Baker was one of the players and he said he it was his best day since he broke his leg and didn't have to go to school. We then would go back to cook something to eat and then breakfast in the morning and then back to work.
I was paid £18 per week and lived in a small flat in Moss Vale paying 10s a week.
There was originally 3 bricklayers on the job, then when they were finished 2 carpenters, 2 plumbers and me and another young fellow and Adolpho. The plumbers from Thirlmere went broke and one left leaving the other to finish all the work.
That block of land was a "swamp". We dug round holes about two metres deep all over. The architect designed where they were going to go. I had to go down one morning to get the water out, there was a dog down there and no one else wanted to go down and pick him out.
I couldn't understand what people where saying, I only knew that a wall had to be put up and so we put it up. Adolpho's wife did all the bookwork.
We had a car crash on the way to work one Monday 11 June 1956. Adolpho was driving and I was a passenger. At 5.30am a semi trailer from Marulan with limestone on was stopped with no lights on a bend at Redbank near Picton. It was facing northwards and it was very dark at that time of the morning. I had cuts to the face and was taken to the doctor's place which was only a couple of doors away. He cleaned me up and eventually I went to my local doctor in Moss Vale.
I was 27 in 1956 and Adolpho who was born in 1924 was 32. Adolpho died in 1988. He had 4 kids, 3 boys and a girl. He used to live in Elizabeth Street in Moss Vale for 52 years.
Mr Blake Pelly, our local MP arranged for my wife to come out from Italy in 1958. I was already married but only I came out in 1956 as a contract worker. It was very hard to get her out here. In 1958 I was working for Mr Nicholls, the NRCC building architect, in Bringelly and I told that to Mr Pelly and soon after that I received a letter from immigration department saying that she could come out.
I like to keep things like the newspaper clippings, my brother didn't keep anything like that.
Miss Elizabeth McCarthy 1925-2009 Obituary
Born Elizabeth Rose McCarthy on 13th August 1925, known as Bet or Betty, was the daughter of Albert (Bert) Carrington McCarthy and Annie Mildred McCarthy (nee Frost), was predeceased by her sister Dot (Dorothy Mooney) and brother Reg (Reginald Bert) McCarthy. Betty was always proud of her long association with Campbelltown - her Frost ancestors were original residents of Campbelltown when the township was founded, with a recorded christening of Mary Frost by Rev Thomas Reddall in 1821.
Bet attended Campbelltown Public School and Homebush High (as there was no High School in Campbelltown at that time). Her first employment was to work for a local chemist in Queen Street, only for a short time before obtaining a position with Campbelltown Municipal Council. In July 1958 Betty transferred to the newly formed electricity supplier Nepean River County Council (NRCC) where she became the Office-in-charge, with Kay Kyle as her junior and Bill Antaw as the Electrical Engineer, later replaced by Walter Smith.
While still an employee of NRCC, Bet with friends Betty Campbell and Dot (Dorothy) Penfold and later Kay Kyle, were cashiers for the Automatic Totalisators (later becoming the TAB) working in evenings or weekends at the various racing locations of Warwick Farm, Randwick, Menangle Park and Harold Park.
Betty was also a partner of Zetta Fashions, with Wilga Parkinson and Betty Nesbitt, a very successful local business that operated for many years in the centre of Campbelltown in Queen Street.
Following the amalgamation of the NRCC with Prospect County Council (PCC) in 1980, Betty remained at Campbelltown until February 1982 and was then transferred to the Picton Office to become the Administrative Officer in Charge, administering the workload of approximately 40 people.
It was at this time that PCC took away her council car however Bet took the matter to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal on the grounds of discrimination and not only won the case but won the respect of the Prospect Senior Management as well.
She remained at the Picton Office until it was closed in July 1986, and transferring back to Campbelltown, she was appointed the Manager of the new Prospect County Council Advisory Centre in Lithgow Street, Campbelltown, which opened in September 1986.
Betty retired on Friday 13th October 1989. Betty had a wonderful way with people, no matter what walk of life, place or position Betty would treat everyone with her unique level of respect and courtesy, she lead by example and was loved by all who knew her.
Betty also was a prominent member of the community and supported her local church St Peter's Church of England, and she was a regular helper at the Christmas Day lunch for the poor. Bet was a member of the Scouting movement for most of her lifetime. She never missed a Dawn Service on Anzac Day, her grandfather, father and brother (Reg, like so many young men, put his age up to enlist) all served in the World Wars of their day.
Bet believed in supporting her community and was a member of several associations: as a member of Campbelltown Catholic Club, Bet won a brand new 1967 two-tone Holden sedan.
She was member of the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, and Campbelltown Golf Club - Bet was a very successful golfer, as was her cousin Bub (Daphne) McSwain, winning many cups and trophies playing golf and representing the Club. Betty was always immaculately attired in her twin sets and skirt, often complete with pearls.
Bet was also the Campbelltown entrant for the Miss Australia Quest in 1947 and was a striking dark haired beauty, always maintaining her coiffure and manicure throughout her life.
Bet also won a bravery award from the NSW Police Association, something she was very proud of, for rescuing a young girl in Mawson Park, across the road from the NRCC premises in Cordeaux Street.
Betty left Campbelltown in 2003, to move to Condobolin to be near her nephew Paul. Betty passed away on 23rd March 2009 after a short illness. Bet is survived by her nephew Paul, niece Susan and family members. She will be sadly missed by her family, her many friends and colleagues, especially from NRCC - she will always be remembered with fond memories as a true lady, in every sense of the word, for her compassion, empathy and understanding.
Bet never married and her story is all the more remarkable because she achieved her successful career as a single woman, long before the feminist movement came into vogue. With all the negative news that surrounds us, her story holds merit and she was the type of female role model that is sadly missing from our society today.
A memorial service was held for Bet at St Peter's Church of England on Friday 24th April 2009 with well over one hundred people in attendance. It was remarked "it has been a long time, since so many of Campbelltown's prominent seniors citizens have been together", a fitting tribute for a fine lady.
I arrived in Picton in 1948 from Murwillumbah on the North Coast, although my father grew up in this area. After jobs as a taxi driver and carrier driver for Hanrahan/Turner, I started with the Wollondilly Shire Electrical Department in January1952. I started as a plant operator with the pole crew. I later did an overhead linesman course by correspondence with success.
In 1954 we were transferred to Nepean River County Council. They wanted linesmen and I went on the line crew and eventually worked my way up and got a pole inspectors job going around creosoting the poles. Eventually I got my own crew, mainly pole dressing. There were 7-8 in the crew. I was then made a foreman in about 1978. I had that job up to until I retired in 1988.
After we married, Helen and I rented a house from the council which they had built in Margaret Street. I originally wanted a loan and I asked Jim Fraser for a loan to build a house on a block of land in Maidstone Street but Jim said no and that the Council would build one for us in Margaret St. We paid £2 per week. It later increased to £6. We lived there for eighteen happy years before building our own place in Hill Street. About two years after that the Council houses in Margaret and Colden Streets were moved to make room for Council trucks. Later the whole area was sold making room for the present Coles Supermarket which in now on the site.
The men that I worked with and their families often celebrated Christmas as one big family, with a Christmas dinner and picnic for the children with Santa and presents.
In 1983 I was off work for 3 months undergoing open heart surgery. I retired in 1988 after 37 years working for Wollondilly Shire Council, NRCC and Prospect County Council.
(Photograph of the inscribed silver tray presented to Joe Hanger for 25 years service to NRCC.)
On November 12 1969 the Maldon Zone Substation was bombed. They sure wrecked it when they blew it up.
I'd just come off call. There was three of us in Picton and we changed each week. There was Bill Porteus, who lived next door and Eric Clissold. It was getting dark and I was in the bath when I got the call from John Watt-Bright (District Engineer-Southern). He said "with all that noise and row there's something wrong, you'd better get out there".
Bill Porteous came along and said to John " She's blew up".
George Johnson (mains supervisor) commented to John "there will be no power come out of this substation tonight-she just does not exist".
There was nothing left of Maldon apart from a small section that wasn't damaged. The 33kva line was started up over to the cement works to get them going. The substation was then isolated and then we systematically started to bring the power in from Camden, Oakdale, Campbelltown -Appin. Unnecessary power like street lights were switched off. Sydney County Council brought up a big generator and hooked up at Bargo and supplied that area.
Picton area was restored first for power to get our radios working. John was organising everything, you have to give him credit, when he found out what the problem was he new what to do. The operators at the various substations had to lift the amp rate on the circuit breakers. By doing that gradually everything was eventually restored although it was a bit dim in places.
There was a lot of rain in Picton and Camden at that time. The next day a big transformer was pulled out from Minto and just made it across the old Camden bridge on a low loader before the bridge was closed due to flooding. That was when the highway went through Camden and over Razorback to Picton.
The story goes that the bombers wanted to rob the CBC bank in Picton, it had only 3 employees including the manger. They did a trial with explosives on the ABC tower at Liverpool. They needed two keys to open the safe, the manager had one and the teller the other. It didn't work because everyone came out onto the main street when the explosion happened. They put in three lots of explosives, one in where the circuit breakers were and one was put under the big transformers in the yard. Two went off together and one was slightly delayed. They were caught eventually.
In July 1974 I fell from a 40ft pole while doing work near The Oaks. We had to check out why a back feed to The Oaks was loosing voltage. We were looking for crook joints. The pole is still out there, near a bend just before the straight road into The Oaks. We had opened the air break switch behind us and the airbreak switch ahead, we forgot that the transformer was on the other side of the open point.
I checked the pole and Neville Brown had gone along to the next pole to open the next section. I was standing on the low voltage cross arm and grabbed one of the wires and was struck by the electricity. Luckily my weight caused me to fall away. I ended up falling about 25 feet and just another pole lying on the ground. If I had the belt on it may have been a different matter. I had a broken leg, broken rib and a great big black eye. I was very lucky.
Some of the people I worked with were:
Bill Barnes, Pat Mahady, Cliff Lipscombe, Jack Chalker, George Williams, Eric Clissold, Cliff Harvey, Ken Green, Frank Harris, Dick Childs, Malcolm Bernie, Frank Penfold, Bill Maltravers, Jack Hair, Ron and Ken Meuleman, George Rogers, Robert Smith, Bill Badcock, Keith Dent, Phillip Causer, Bruce Gurnett, Frank Armstrong, Aub and Lionel Jenkins
Joyce Gosper, Pat Wrightson, Betty Morrow, Judith Dunsmore, Valerie Malcolm, Margaret King.
I joined NRCC in 1959 as a linesman's assistant to Mick Beasley. We worked in a shared depot with Campbelltown Council. It was at the rear of the old Campbelltown Town Hall in Queen St, where Campbelltown Mall is now. The depot consisted of a large shed, which was the store and a small amenities block.
The blacksmith from the general council sharpened crowbars, jumper bars etc.
The crew I worked with was
Fred Darling; Leading hand
Harry Kaines; Plant operator
Ted Medcalf; Linesman
Reg Gale; Assistant
Ron Benjamin; Leading hand
Bill Tarlington; Linesman
Jim Shaw; Linesman
Mick Beasley; Foreman
Storeman; Reg Benjamin- (Rons father)
Electrical Fitters; Bob Eves, Geoff Vernon
As I was in the pole crew, I had to unload the poles which came by rail. The railway was about 200 metres away from the depot. The old railway hand crane was used, that was really hard work.There were not any of the modern tools back then. The holes for the poles had to be dug with a power take off at the rear of the old still leg crane. When the poles were stood up they were held with wooden spikes. Rock holes were put down with a jumper bar by hand, then they were blown with explosives.
I left NRCC in 1960 to start at Prospect County Council as a third year linesman at the Fairfield depot.
I returned to NRCC in 1970 to the Camden depot which was located at the end of Ironbark Avenue, next to Higletts bus depot. There were two council owned houses in the front. These were occupied by leading hand Frank Armstrong and electrical fitter Wayne Mansfield. Apart from myself as a linesman, at the depot there was:
Frank Armstrong; Leading hand
Dennis Stack; Linesman
George Wilkinson; Linesman's assistant
Over a period of time there was:
Jim Davis, Dave Roberts, Bill Hegarty, John McCole, Dennis Miller. It was a small depot and it was just like a family.
The depot was eventually closed and I accepted a redundancy package in 1993 after service with NRCC and Prospect between 1959-1993. I am now enjoying a wonderful retirement on the south coast.
Betty Andrews, Picton, 1969-1979
When I started at NRCC in Picton we were still in the old building and I was lucky enough to be there when we made the big move to the new offices....how nice was that new building.
My years with NRCC hold some of my best memories. Playing cards in the old building with Jim Pinkerton, Alan Feekings, Bob Barrett....I only just found out recently when speaking with Jim that he and Bob cheated with hand signals - no wonder they always won!
And who could forget Wal Smith, Bob Smith and Jack Hair! I remember Bob going through the clean rags and bringing up pieces of undies and singlets and giving them to Kathy Chiddy, what a character he was. And Wal Smith trying to sneak past Mrs Gosper and never quite making it! And those Christmas parties with the great music from John Hair and Bob Smith, I remember on the small harmonica and playing the spoons and I am not sure who on the old tea chest. Ray Butchart and the way the colour of his eyes seemed to get so much lighter as his face got redder.
So many fond memories: And Mr McIndoe - you knew you had done something wrong when he wanted a word in your 'shell pink'. And with the beginning of modern technology, when the Council sent me into Sydney for a course to learn the word processor!
NRCC was a place where I loved to go to work. One not so nice memory was the toilet in the old building which was very unpleasant after a lot of rain!
My life has had a lot of ups and downs and I have had to learn to roll with the punches (my dad's favourite saying). Our family printing business of 15 years had a massive downturn when computers started to take over. I have had 4 beautiful children, 3 boys and 1 girl and then in 2004 Ross and I went our separate ways and then the unthinkable happened and one of my beautiful boys was killed in a car accident on Razorback. I now have 5 grandchildren (4 boys and 1 girl) and Deirdre is due again in September and after having 3 boys is having a little girl. I am still in the same house in Bargo and at 54 had to take out a mortgage, not fun! Luckily I am working in a ticketing office in Mittagong, which I love.
Thanks to Graham and Sharon for starting this website and I hope there is a lot more input. Any get-togethers I would love to hear about. Unfortunately I don't have any photos but I have many great memories.
In 1974 the local "Picton Post" newspaper began having "Thursday Girls" to coincide with the weekly publication of the newspaper. Featured were a photo, occupation, hobbies and leisure activities of local young ladies.
There were 8 NRCC "Thursday Girls":
Pam Dymond - 24 January
Barbara Curr- 10 April
Linda Clarke-16 May
Nareda Smith- 6 June
Betty Smith- 13 June
Rhonda Cord-27 June
Kathy Glover-23 August
Jocelyn Esen-5 September
I started at Nepean in 1957. I did my Linesman's course. Stayed there a few years and then left for personal reasons. And went back in 1968. I became a Leading Hand, and eventually became a Supervisor, taking redundancy in 1995.
The people I worked with were Pat Mahady, Foreman of the stringing crew, Cliff Lipscome, foreman Pole Crew, Eric Clissold, Leading Hand, Maintenance Crew. Ken Green, Linesman, Bernie Walters Pole Treatment, Malcolm Bernie, Linesman, Dick Childs, Pole Dressing Crew, Ross Smith Linesman, Jack Chalker. Jack was a champion axeman and when I was in that crew we used to have wood chopping contests in our lunch hour.
Dennis Young, labourer, Mal Travers, depot Yardman. After him came Vic Jarret, Jim Haines. Don Halls, Linesman, Frank Harris, Linesman, Roley Dredge, Labourer, Peter Carroll, labourer, Greg Budden, Storeman, Bruce Fogarty, Storeman ? Murphy, Surveyor, Norm Keable, Office, later his son Warwick. Herb Scott, Meter Reader, Alan McLachlan, Meter Reader, Dorothy Wales, Office, Jacqueline Wales, nee Farrell, Jack Hair, Depot Superintendent, later his son John, Ditto, Betty McCarthy Office, Jim Pinkerton Office, Jim McEndoe, Engineer, Don Halls, Linesman, Wal Smith Office, Frank Mckay, Councilor, George Rogers Depot Clerk, Noel Riordan, Engineer Harry Crakanthorpe Engineer, Bob Lindsay, Engineer, Eric mills, Office, Eric Carter, Labourer.
I remember the strike, which lasted several weeks, and which caused a lot of distress. Also the day when the temperature was 11 degrees below freezing, and the trucks only got about a mile up the road when they all overheated. Even the causeway at Douglas Park froze over. We used to ride on the back of trucks which was not a pleasant experience, especially when the detonators and gelignite were carried there as well. Mal Travers used to light a fire in a 44 gallon drum for us in winter, which was a comfort.
I remember one Christmas party we had when one of the chaps had something nasty to say to Frank Mckay, which caused a commotion. The next morning when we arrived at work we found the same chap asleep sitting down in the shower naked with clothes strewn everywhere, and the shower going full bore.
There were also two Electricity Commission fellows there in the early days. They lived two houses along side Joe Hanger where Coles store is now. I remember amalgamating with Campbelltown; it was a very small depot then.
There was no labour saving devices in those days. When we built the landline between Picton we had to dig all the holes by hand, and also stand the poles by hand. The heat on the western side of razorback was terrible, and the only water we had to drink was in a 10 gallon milk can and it was near boiling.
Jim Frazer, Engineer, Ron Meuleman, Foreman Garage, Bob Tindall, Draughtsman, Harold Pollard, George Johnson, Depot Supervisor, In the office - Bob Moore, Cliff Hitchenson, Ron McDonald, Michael Wales and Keith Dent Mechanic Carl Holland, Mechanic.
Interview With Frank Harris by Graham Campbell
Also present Frank's wife Kay Harris
Friday 11 March 2011
I started in April 1959 as a linesman assistant. I did a linesman's course. After 7 years I was made a leading hand linesman. When I first started we had to dig all pole holes and stay holes by hand. We fell trees with axe's and cross cut saws. After being fresh out of the Navy , I wasn't in very good condition. I had quiet a few blisters.
I worked with: Joe Hanger, Pat Mahady, Cliff Harvey, Cliff Lipscombe, Beaver Burnie, Ken Green, Jack Brooks, Dick Childs, Dave Rosberg, Ken Smith, Jack Chalker, Ken Farrell, Bill Maltravers, Rowley Dredge.
I worked out of Picton Depot mainly on 240 volt, 11kv 33kv. We used turver's and chain pullers to tension lines Cables were tied off, performed dead ends and splices came in later on.
I started in 1959 the same as Cliff Harvey and we finished up on the same day in 1993. Roughly 32 years. I had 12 months over in Tom Price in Western Australia in the middle-(about 1974). It made a difference in my final payout $70,000.I had to leave as I had a heart attack.
I did a correspondence course of 36 papers for a linesmans course. I did 12 and then an exam, another 12 and an exam and then the last 12 and an exam. The exam was sent out and I had to sit it with a JP.
We had three moves in two years.
I was at NRCC when the substation blew up at Maldon. They tried to rob the bank. The robbers thought the'd rob the bank, and when they blew up the substation they though all the town would be open as all the cops would be out at Maldon.
Initially in 1959 we had to do everything by hand for the first 12 months I was there. We then got a digger. The first chain saw we got was a two man Denham saw. Cliff Lipscombe used to Hargen saw with Jack Chalker when they went out to cut the poles. We used to dig all the stay holes.
Bill Maltravers was at Gallipoli was in the crew. "Beaver" Birnie was there. He was called "Beaver" because he used to cut the trees down like a beaver. Mal Birnie was his name.
The depot in Picton was behind the old Wollondilly Shire. We used to do all the pole top rescue practice in the depot. We didn't have a dummy so we had to lower the blokes down. It was a bit hairy.
In 1969 I got made up to Leading Hand.
When I started there were about 3 crews. I went with Eric Clissold, we did the scrub bashing. We rode in the back of the truck with about 7 in the crew. There were about 30-40 men all up. There was a separate depot in Camden.
There was no uniforms then, we had to supply our own. Eventually we got overalls. There was a fellow who used to live in Tahmoor, he'd buy a pair of trousers today and still be wearing the same trousers in 12 months time, unwashed. I think his name was Billy Boyd. We used to call him Billy Ducks. He brought property at Minto and we always took the mickey out on him as why would you but a property there. He's probably a millionaire now.
We had a post hole digger that was too light and someone had to get up on top of it for extra weight.
I got stood down as a leading hand for two years as one of my linesman's did the wrong thing. He electrified the water tank at Menangle.When I came back from WA I said I didn't want that job again as I was the bunny.
We mainly had Bedford trucks with canopies on the back. The trucks weren't very tidy as they had 4 gallon drums with bolts , taps and insulators all in the back of the truck and we used to ride in the back as well. It was rough. The trucks were the colour they came out as. Then later on they were painted beige like colour.
When I joined Campbelltown Depot was at the back of the pub, near where Campbelltown Mall is now.
Gwen Wilton (Davies/Shepherd)
I began work at NRCC in 1963 as a receptionist/stenographer/switchboard operator, replacing Isobel McKenzie. My duties included manning the switchboard and the radio as well as typing, doing the manual calculations on the meter reading books in preparation for the accounts department, sometimes filing and assisting with the mail as well as answering inquiries.
The telephone switchboard was located in a small room in the front office with a sliding window to the public area.
In the main office were Joyce Gosper, Beth Morrow and Joyce Pendergast(Bruckard). Bob Lindsay was County Clerk, with Eric Mills as his Deputy. Jim McIndoe was Chief Electrical Engineer with Noel Riordan as his Deputy.
Michael Wales and Fred Crane headed the accounts department with Jean Wallace and Anne Woods (McInnes) as machinists. I remember Harold Pollard, Jim Pinkerton and John Hair as well.
I resigned in January 1965 and remained out of the workplace for about eight years raising my family.
In 1973 after the death of my husband, I was employed by NRCC's auditor Leo McDonald of Casino and conducted ongoing audit of NRCC books and also worked at NRCC as a casual typist/clerk in the front office in the late 70's.
From 1974-1977 I also worked part-time in a medical practice as a receptionist/typist. From1977 until my retirement in 2010, I worked in medical practices in Campbelltown/Liverpool area in various roles including Practice Manager for an O & G practice in Campbelltown and medical typist for a cardiology practice in Liverpool.
I am now enjoying my retirement, spending time with my family and friends. I am happily involved with Picton VIEW Club, which supports the Smith Family, allowing disadvantaged children to achieve their potential through education.
NRCC 1974-1980 - Graydon Findlay
I was 17 when I started as a junior clerk at the Picton office in March 1974. I moved on in June 1980 shortly after the amalgamation with Prospect CC. The enduring memory for me is the regard that the staff had for each other. There was a genuine warmth and friendliness which I have not experienced in any other workplace.
Memorable events during this period included the arrival of a computer, the move to the new building, and finally the dreaded amalgamation with Prospect County Council.
What follows are random memories from that period.
If you entered the old Picton building via the back door In March 1974, the first door on the right was the pay office, occupied by Russell Gercken, Richard Gibbs, Linda Clarke, and myself. This room later housed the NRCC's computer.
Across the corridor Mrs Gosper brooded over her clutch of typists which included Betty Andrews, Rhonda Cord and Barbara Curr.
The office of the Deputy County Clerk, Mr Mills, was next along the corridor on the right.
Straight ahead was the machine room. Mrs King, Kay Halls & Pam Dymond seemed to continuously feed large cards into the accounting machines. These in turn somehow produced a never ending stream of electricity accounts, and other assorted documents. Industrial deafness was no doubt an occupational hazard.
A glass enclosed office next door was occupied by Mr Keable, the accountant. From this strategic position he had a view of the machine room, the strongroom, and the large front office where Mrs Wales, David Ruddiman, Barry Watts, Graham Campbell and Jocelyn Esen manned the barricades, otherwise known as the front counter. Judith Kelsall operated a switchboard in a small booth in the corner. It was in Mr Keable's office one day that I first heard about the young bull and the old bull.
In 1975 the computer arrived, a not so sleek NCR Century 101. The various components filled the old pay office, and required dedicated air conditioning and power supply. It was the latest technology at the time, but its capacity and processing power was negligible compared to any modern electronic device. Instructions were fed into it using a panel of dials and switches, and punched cards. A keyboard and screen would come later. Online terminals would come much later.
Management consultants were heavily involved in the computerisation process. All work patterns throughout the organisation were reviewed and in most cases overhauled. The resulting organised chaos eventually settled down. I was fortunate to have been involved in this brave new world, which was ushered in under the steady hand of Russell Gercken.
Not everything went smoothly though. Many a long night was spent attempting to resolve unexpected computer problems. The aftermath of these sessions was not pretty, with most available surfaces in the computer room covered by half eaten pizzas and other detritus.
The move to the new building further up Menangle Street was memorable. It was a beautiful building to work in, very light and open and airy, and everything was colour coordinated in accordance with architect's vision. The meeting area upstairs was very well appointed and was not only utilised for council meetings. More about that later…
Negotiating the narrow laneway leading to the car-park behind the new building presented a daily challenge. Shortly after the move, a vehicle clipped the corner of the building and damaged the rendered surface. A sturdy steel post was soon installed to prevent any repeat of the damage. At the time I heard the post referred to as the "Eric Mills Memorial Post", though I have no idea why?
Every quarter, most localities within the NRCC area were served by a mobile collection centre. Residents in areas from Yerrinbool in the south, Warragamba in the west, Glenfield in the north and many places in between could pay their electricity bills without the need to travel to an NRCC office.
Two intrepid NRCC operatives, one driving & the other 'riding shotgun', would set out from Picton in the specially adapted Kombi Van. The time spent at each location varied from one to several hours, depending on the volume of customers. Power to the van was provided by running an extension lead from the van to an outlet half way up a particular telegraph pole at each location.
At some locations considerate local ladies took pity on the besieged (and depending on the time of year, freezing or heat-struck) cashiers. An elegantly arranged morning tea tray would be gratefully received by the two unfortunates huddled together in the back of the Kombi.
On the way back to Picton from 'northern' collection centres we would stop off at Campbelltown office to count and attempt to balance the day's takings, which on some days consisted of not insignificant amounts of cash. Miss McCarthy, Lexie Cochrane, Eleanor Seidel and Les Papworth always made us feel welcome. On one such visit, while Graham Campbell and I were enjoying lunch at a nearby establishment, the Lacks' Hotel I believe, I saw the cricket on colour television for the first time.
The Most Important Day of the Week
Wages were paid in cash.
BC (before computer), Mrs King would key all the timesheet data onto a device which recorded onto a reel of magnetic tape. The data on the tape was then transmitted by telephone line to the Illawarra County Council in Wollongong, where a computer would generate the small mountain of paper required to enable the weekly wages to be properly paid. Occasionally I was given the plum job of driving down to Wollongong to collect the precious payroll papers.
Paydays required a substantial trip to be undertaken from Picton via Camden office, Minto depot, Glenquarie, Campbelltown office and return. This allowed me to catch up with Sharon and Joanne at Camden and Kay Kyle at Macquarie Fields. In those innocent days, it was nothing for a junior employee to drive the council Falcon from Picton to Macquarie Fields and back every Thursday afternoon with the bulk of the payroll sitting in a box on the back seat. I wouldn't want to try it today.
I would regularly hand out the pays at Picton depot. The men would line up at Bob Smith's window at the store and after announcing their name and pay number would receive their pay packet. One long-time employee, Cliff Lipscombe I think it was, would invariably greet me with the words "Here I am again, ready to be insulted", before collecting his pay packet and walking off with a grim smile.
Sports were keenly contested, whether 'indoor' vs 'outdoor' or 'southern' vs 'northern'.
Cricket matches at the picturesque private oval in the grounds of Elizabeth Farm at Camden come to mind. The first was between the indoor & outdoor staff. The second, not long after the amalgamation with Prospect, pitted ex NRCC staff against Prospect CC. I recall Mr Lindsay thoroughly enjoying himself fielding in the covers during one of these matches.
Rugby league also featured. One freezing night the 'inside' played the 'outdoor' on a recently top-dressed Victoria Park at Picton. I don't remember who won the game, but no prisoners were taken. The most common injury was extreme 'ringbarking' from the rock hard & mostly bare playing surface.
The courts near the bowling club were the scene of the weekly basketball match involving both male and female staff.
Golf days were held at least yearly, at courses such as the then fairly new Campbelltown GC, Antill Park, Studley Park and the Rugby League Country Club (as it then was) at Narellan.
The mighty "Livewires" contested the local touch footy comp with mixed results. The talent situation in the NRCC office at the time necessitated the use of the odd "ring in". Even so, success remained elusive.
The Social Scene
The NRCC social functions were the stuff of legend. In order to protect the innocent I won't go into detail, but generally a good time was had by all.
During one memorable Christmas party in the old building, well into proceedings, a recently commenced employee found himself questioning the authenticity or otherwise of the shiny fountain pen in Chairman Frank McKay's top pocket. With surprising dexterity under the circumstances, our hero removed said pen from the Chairman's pocket, completely dismantled it, and loudly proclaimed "That's not a [expletive deleted] Parker!!". This became a catch-cry for many years afterward. I doubt the fountain pen was ever restored to its original condition.
Following a later function in the luxurious upstairs area of the new building, some rumours, entirely without foundation I might add, were circulated regarding unauthorised access to the Chairman's well stocked liquor cabinet.
Where are they now?
Other admin employees I remember from that period include Mr Lindsay & Mr Mills, Greg Wylie, Greg Sutton, Lyn Ayres, Malcolm Kerslake, Mary Baxter, Steve Maguire, Heather Dixon, Barry Atkins (possibly already mentioned), Vicky Riley, Ros Ryder, Nerida Smith, Beverly Briggs, Julie McIntosh, Beryl Turner, Kerry Anne McAlister, John Churchill, Wendy Francis, Wendy Gildon, Barbara Canavan, Carol Mylechrane, Geoff McDonald and Carmel Bollard.
Technical staff from that time included Mr McIndoe & Mr Riordan, Jim Pinkerton, John Hair, Noel Tarbotton, Bob Barrett, Harold Pollard, Gordon Hay, Tom Ruddiman, Ray Butchart, Angela Cook, Alan Cook, Max Ward, Donna Brennan, Gordon Wright, Barbara Gurnett, Glenys Hawkins, Bruce Butler, John Bicknell, Paul Collimore, Dick Milburn and Robyn Halls.
At the depot I would regularly encounter the wonderful storeman Bob Smith, George Rogers the depot clerk, the ship's carpenter Denis Young, Carl 'Dutchy' Holland, Greg Budden and many other colourful characters.
I have no doubt omitted many names which I should have remembered. I would like to extend my kindest regards to everyone I worked with at NRCC, whether or not their names appear above, and I look forward to reading their stories.
These days (May 2011) I live on the Central Coast and work as a judge's associate in Sydney. My wife Therese and I are proud parents of a son Stephen, 21 and daughter Leah 20. I am happy and relieved to report that both are more sensible and better behaved than their father was at that age.
Barrie Atkins speaking at presentation by Campbelltown Historical Society
"Lighting up Campbelltown" 20 August 2011.
I'm very pleased to have been given this opportunity to talk about my experiences at NRCC and to mention some folk that I had worked with during the ten years between 1975-1985.
I actually saw the light when I came to Picton as an employee of the Department of Main Roads in Colden Street, Picton. After 4 years there a job came up as the Manager of the Accounts Payable Department, I applied for it and was successful in getting the position. I am very glad to have done so because in my 10 years I met some fantastic people.
The staff at Nepean River County Council were truly amazing and I only wish that the camaraderie and the friendship and the genuine desire to know each other could be replicated in our business houses now. It became obvious to me it was a very very special place to work.
In January next year I will have been in the workforce 50 years. 10 of those were at NRCC. I can assure you those 10 years without doubt were the best, most enjoyable 10 years. There was a real sense of a desire to genuinely serve the public in the Campbellown-Macarthur District.
I had the pleasure in seeing some very great people in my 10 years heading up NRCC. There was Bob Lindsay, the County Clerk who I admired greatly, who I believe cant be with us today as he is not well. Eric Mills his deputy, who has passed away, was a fantastic gentleman and an able assistant to Bob Lindsay. Jim McIndoe, Noel Riordan, Norm Keable- my direct boss for those 10 years, and of course Jimmy Pinkerton. It was truly and exciting and rewarding place to work.
Betty McCarthy is someone that I will spend a little bit of time talking about because I believe nearly everybody in this room would have known Betty at some stage. She was truly an amazing woman. I didn't know Betty all that well until she came to Picton (from Campbelltown in 1982). It was then that I was working with her every day of the week. She was a lady's lady. Immaculately presented in the way she dressed and groomed herself and spoke even better than the way she presented herself when she was dealing with the staff and even more so with the public.
Betty originally worked at Campbelltown City Council and in mid 1958 she started with Nepean River County Council as the officer in charge of Campbelltown Office. She also had an interest in Zetta Fashions in Queen Street and was a co-owner of that dress shop for many many years and I often heard women say that if you really wanted something that was worthwhile wearing you go to Zetta Fashions. I'll take their word for that, I didn't actually buy anything from their myself. It was in 1982 that Betty came down to Picton and that's when I really got to know her, far better than when she was at Campbelltown and I was at Picton. She was employed at Picton as the Administrative Officer in charge of 30-40 staff at the time.
Nepean River County Council had their own credit union, which was a properly structured credit union in accordance with the then government regulations and was directed by employees of the County Council. George Johnson was the Chairman of the board for a number of years and I was working as Secretary/Treasurer of the credit union . What lured me away from the County Council in 1985 was certain not only the demise of the organisation in terms of it being taken over by Prospect County Council but more so the fact that I was enjoying my voluntary work as managing the credit union more than my paid work. I left NRCC and went to Ford Credit Union and 26 years later I am still working their managing an office of the credit union.
Betty McCarthy didn't take any garbage, she was the type of woman that stood up for rights, not only the rights of the staff she was in charge of, but also her own rights. There was one occasion under Prospect County Council there was an attempt made to take away the vehicle that she had been provided with. Betty went to an equal opportunity tribunal complaining bitterly that she was entitled to this vehicle.
I recall that at the time there was a lot of respect shown by the staff at the time but also the management. They saw in this woman someone who was to be admired for standing up for her rights and they continued to support Betty for the rest of her working life.
Betty went to Condobolin to continue her retirement and sadly passed away in 2009.
I sense that she may well be looking down on us from up above, smiling and enjoying the fact that people still wanted to talk about her. We could well do with a lot more Betty McCarthy's in our lives.
Sharon Greene has been unwell and has asked me to read a transcript of some of her memoirs from her time at Nepean River County Council and what she and Graham Campbell are researching and their quest for information and the production of a book on Nepean River County Council.
Graham and Sharon would like to thank everyone for attending today and showing their interest on the lecture in "Lighting up Campbelltown", the story of electricity in our region, a commodity which knowadays we cant do without. Graham and Sharon would like to give special thanks to Stella Vernon and to Jim Pinkerton without whom today's lecture would not have been possible.
After attending a Nepean River County Council reunion Sharon recalls that they were all reminded of the feeling of family and friendship that remained and these came flooding back to Graham and to Sharon as they met familiar faces. Some a bit more wrinkled, some with more grey hair and in some cases no hair at all. Graydon Findlay who worked with us put into words what was expressed by many. Graydon said that the enduring memory for him was the regard that the staff had for one another.
"There is a genuine warmth and friendliness that I have not experienced in any other workplace" I can certainly attest with that and agree 100%.
Graham and Sharon have been friends since the mid 1970's when they worked in the accounts section at Picton. Each was responsible for a section with Malcolm Kerslake as their supervisor. Over the ensuing years they've kept in touch and as they are both keen about family history they decided that would like to produce a book about the "family", the staff of NRCC.
During Graham's research he has found other publications about Sydney County Council and Prospect County Council, somewhat dry and rather fact filled. They have decided to commit a chapter about the people of Nepean River County Council.
Sharon started to work with Betty McCarthy in Campbelltown in 1970 when she was all of 15 and can proudly say she was one of "Betty's girls". She was always quoting Betty, "Betty said this and Betty said that". Betty developed in Sharon an excellent work ethic that has stood by her for many years when working with the public. No matter how well or how poorly dressed, how educated or illiterate, you should treat everyone the same, with the same level of courtesy and respect. And if Mrs Brown is Mrs Smith this week then that is none of your business.
Sharon currently works for Campbelltown City Library. She firmly believes that Betty's attitude to all levels of staff was behind the "family" theme. She was the mother figure of many of us. With this in mind it is our intention to dedicate the book to Betty and to all other staff members that have passed away as their way of showing respect to them. Graham and Sharon hope to publish the book within the next couple of years depending on funding grants.
I would just like to close by saying in reflecting on Nepean River County Council and my 10 years of service, NRCC was a wonderful service industry to the public in the Macarthur region. NRCC took great pride in maintaining supply and dealing with members of the public in the critical industry in the supply of energy. The staff and the management always acted with great passion and great pride and it is to be hoped that we can all continue to see this passion and pride in the governments which serve our community.
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