There were two essential services, often working in tandem, that a brand new, early twentieth century, country town needed. Can you guess?
1. Communications services, which in those days were mail, telegraph and telephone, managed by the Postmaster General’s Department (the PMG). 2. Rail transport, managed by the Chief Commissioner for Railways and Tramways. Remember, almost no one in the country had a car at that time.
You won’t be surprised to learn that James Angus, chairman of the cement company, former railway builder, and former chief engineer in the railways department, organised both. A month before the NSW Cement, Lime and Coal Company Limited was even registered (22 May 1913), a draftsman in the railway department had prepared a plan for a waiting shed for a proposed station. The shed, together with Candos railway platform, came into use in early January 1915, with the mail train dropping off and picking up mail and passengers, from that time. The cement company also organised the first telephone, operating off the railway and connected to the underdeveloped cement works in July 1914. The first auction of town land wouldn’t be held for another year.
But let’s face it, you can’t have postal facilities or a railway station without a town name. While the cement company came up with a name for the town, the Postmaster General had to approve it. He said no to Candos with a C but yes to Kandos with a K and on 18 May 1915 he also approved the appointment of local storekeeper J C Strong as “non-official” postmaster at Kandos. It was a fairly basic service. Locals posted and picked up mail from Mr Strong’s store, bought stamps and purchased or cashed money orders. Strong resigned after less than 9 months and Mrs E M Fletcher was installed as postmistress in February 1916. Kandos had still hardly begun; the first land sale took place a few months before, but there were only one or two permanent buildings in town.
The internet rules our lives today but just a century ago the latest technology was the telephone. Kandos, a new town with high expectations, was keen to be at the forefront. It got a public telephone at the unofficial post office in May 1916. A year later Kandos was connected to the Wallerawang – Mudgee trunk line, and had its own telephone exchange. Two businesses paid to subscribe: Walsh W H & Co, Butchers and Bakers, Number 1; Hansen, C P, Hotel Kandos Number 2. Six months later three other subscribers signed up in Kandos.
You can’t help but be impressed by their confidence. How many telephone calls did they make or receive in that first year? Not many I suspect. What we know now is that technology moved much more slowly than it does today. For example, it would be another half century before most Australian households had a telephone.
An “official” post office gave a town status and that’s what the locals clamoured for. It turns out Mrs Fletcher was the catalyst, because she wasn’t reaching the high ideals of the PMG. Complaints included delayed letters and telegrams, dubious payment of pensions, money orders paid to the wrong persons and loss of telegrams. Mrs Fletcher resigned due to ill-health but there was on-going conflict between her solicitors McPherson and Bawden and the Department of Commonwealth Crown Solicitor over a matter of £14.16.0. Withholding salary is “legally justified” the PMG re-emphasised.
In the meantime, Inspector Nash from Bathurst stepped in (early 1919), recommending that Kandos become an official post office. Reg Adams’ store, two lots up from the Kandos Hotel, was leased as temporary premises for the Kandos Post and Telegraph Office, with attached dwelling quarters for the first official postmaster Mr Anlezark*.
Other post office facilities were introduced randomly, usually after a number of requests or deputations. Telephone hours were extended in December 1920, to 7am-9pm (it was switchboard connection, not automatic in those days). Letter delivery within a half-mile radius of the post office was approved in April 1921, though delayed because the bicycle didn’t arrive on time. Royal Mail letter receivers (ie mailboxes) were erected around the town, which saved locals having to go to the post office just to post a letter – the end of Buchanan Street, corner of Noyes and Dunn, Ilford Road between Margaret and Lloyd Streets, corner of Angus Ave and Dabee Road and corner of Dabee and Russell Roads. Red telephone boxes also appeared around the town.
While Kandos had an official post office, it did not have an official post office building. In November 1923 the Surveyor-General advertised in the Mudgee Guardian to buy land suitable for a post office. It was eighteen months before land was purchased, lots 1 and 2 on the corner of Angus and Jaques, an area 132 feet wide and 165 feet deep. Tenders were called and a contract awarded to William Feller from Dubbo, to erect Kandos Post Office at a cost of £1989, with a completion date of 2ndJuly 1926. There were delays of course and on 30 August 1926 Inspector Roland Nash welcomed the general public to inspect the interior of the new post office – the telephone system, telegraph office, sorting room, pigeon holes, strong room, extra wide counters (a safety feature) constructed of Queensland Maple, writing desks, sanitary system and private letter boxes.
Kandos Post Office was a building that through its up-to-date facilities, brick construction, Greek columns and formal entry, spoke of strength, stability and permanence. And that is exactly what the people of Kandos expected of their town.
* Other postmaster appointments included:
J McCallum 1924
M N Payne 13 January 1938
G B O’Brien 5 February 1942
M B D Mackey 29 January 1946
A E Tabell 9 August 1951
T W Alexander 22 October 1953
A R Flanagan 9 November 1961