Enid stayed at her post

Enid Paris was Port Dou­glas’s long­est serv­ing Post­mistress be­fore she re­tired in 2015, writes Pam Wil­lis Bur­den.

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Enid ar­rived in Port in 1982 with her hus­band Colin and youngest daugh­ter Chris­tine, hav­ing moved from a post of­fice in Cen­tral Queens­land.

Post­mas­ter Bob Cum­mings had been run­ning Port’s tiny post of­fice next to the old hard­ware shop on the cor­ner of Macrossan and Wharf Streets since about 1946, but he wasn’t there to greet her. In­stead, another man and an of­fi­cial from Cairns spent just a cou­ple of hours with her and then the man ducked out, say­ing he’d be back soon. Enid thinks he went to the pub, and never re­turned. The of­fi­cial went back to Cairns.

But Enid was no stranger to the post of­fice rou­tine. Her mother ran a post of­fice and phone ex­change in their home in Cen­tral Queens­land and all the fam­ily helped.

Enid re­mem­bers “party lines” where five or six phone sub­scribers were iden­ti­fied by their “in­di­vid­ual rings”.

Af­ter leav­ing high school in Toowoomba, Enid went to col­lege in Bris­bane and be­came a Home Sci­ence teacher.

Her hus­band’s mother be­came ill, so with three young chil­dren who came quickly, “pop pop pop”, she said, they went to live near her in Comet, west of Rock­hamp­ton. The lo­cal post­mistress was de­lighted to find some­body ex­pe­ri­enced who could re­lieve her for a day or two a week.

Then Enid ran a post of­fice and a 24 hour ex­change from her home in nearby Rolle­ston. “It was reg­u­lar pay and it was good to be at home with the kids.” she says. “If the phone rang at night, I strug­gled out in my nightie and at­tended to it.”

When Enid saw an ad for a job Port Dou­glas, she ap­plied and was ap­pointed. It had been Bob Cum­mings’ job for nearly 40 years

She said “I’ve al­ways loved North Queens­land. My mother was born in the Tully area.”

Bob’s tiny post of­fice was only about 5m by 2m with a wooden counter and at first Bob op­er­ated the tele­phone ex­change from there un­til it went au­to­matic when Sub­scriber Trunk Di­alling ar­rived in Port Dou­glas about 1972.

But in 1982 Enid be­gan work in a new post of­fice in front of the ar­cade that Sue Rae had built between the Cen­tral and Court House ho­tels. The shops later be­came the Iron Bar.

They had 99 post boxes, meant to serve the town for ‘a quar­ter of a cen­tury’ and there were two phone boxes out­side. This was “the post of­fice that was go­ing to last for­ever”.

She had an agency for the Com­mon­wealth Bank and ac­cepted phone and elec­tric­ity bills. They re­ceived tele­grams that were phoned through from the Cairns of­fice, and Enid wrote them out on a spe­cial form to be sent out with the mail. Some­times she phoned them through to the re­cip­i­ent.

The post of­fice was robbed once. “The front door was bro­ken and they took the safe which they threw out of the car on the high­way. It wasn’t a very modern safe and wasn’t bolted down. But they got the money. Af­ter that we got a heavy safe and bolted it down.”

The post of­fice moved again in 1989 to its present lo­ca­tion on the hill in Owen Street.

“We didn’t have a choice about mov­ing. Aus­tralia Post said there was no room for more post boxes.”

A new build­ing with a pur­pose-built post of­fice was es­tab­lished by Sue Rae, who opened her real es­tate of­fice below, on the cor­ner where the Ray White of­fice is now.

Enid says “No­body liked go­ing up the hill. There was nearly a riot when they put the post of­fice up there.”

There were more than 100 post boxes and pro­vi­sion for many more. Now there are more than 1000.

“The Sher­a­ton made one hell of a dif­fer­ence to Port when it opened in 1987 with the vol­ume of mail, and the old of­fice just wasn’t big enough. Aus­tralia Post pro­vided the new coun­ters and fit-out and so it only took 2 hours on the back of a ute to move.”

Enid never met Christo­pher Skase. She says “He was not en­thralled with lo­cal work­ing peo­ple.”

In th­ese days be­fore email, the ho­tels’ porters came to the post of­fice for the mail, and there were res­i­den­tial de­liv­er­ies on a mo­tor­bike. Enid re­mem­bers the Sher­a­ton’s box num­ber was 172. Once the re­sort opened, there were many more post­cards to deal with.

Enid worked from 7am till some­times 6.30pm Monday to Fri­day and on Satur­days un­til lunchtime, and never went to the beach be­cause she didn’t have time. She didn’t sit down all day “so I have crook knees now.”

Port Dou­glas was a non-of­fi­cial post of­fice and Enid be­came the li­cencee in 1992.

She kept a metic­u­lous hand-writ­ten daily log of rain­fall for the Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, who phoned for read­ings from her barom­e­ter if there were any Trop­i­cal Lows in the area. When the fam­ily moved to Four Mile in 1986 she was given a plu­vio­graph to read the rain­fall there.

For the fu­ture, Enid thinks that Ghas­san Aboud “is nearly equiv­a­lent to Skase with the new ma­rina devel­op­ment. I sup­pose it de­pends whether he’s got great ideas. I hope he doesn’t do some­thing too hor­ri­ble. It’s nice as it is.”

Of Enid’s chil­dren, Chris­tine and Joanne live near Port Dou­glas, Glenn was here for a while but is now in Mel­bourne and Michelle is in Bris­bane.

What ded­i­cated ser­vice Enid gave Port for so long.

The door was bro­ken and they took the safe which they threw out of the car on the high­way. It wasn’t a modern safe and wasn’t bolted down. They got the money. Af­ter that we got a heavy safe and bolted it down

Pic­ture: PAM WIL­LIS BUR­DEN

Long-serv­ing post­mistress Enid Paris to­day. Inset: Clip­ping from the Gazette story when she re­tired in 2015

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