Enid stayed at her post
Enid Paris was Port Douglas’s longest serving Postmistress before she retired in 2015, writes Pam Willis Burden.
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
Long-serving postmistress Enid Paris today. Inset: Clipping from the Gazette story when she retired in 2015