the postmaster’s granddaughter
As you may have read here before, my beloved old Grandad was a Postmaster with Australia Post. He began his career as a teenage telegram boy who, whilst wearing a blue woollen suit, buttoned to the neck with brass buttons in hot, steamy Brisbane, would ride his bicycle up and down Brisbane’s narrow, hilly streets delivering telegrams. The post office, in those days, encouraged its workers to “improve themselves”, so Grandad completed every course they offered and began climbing the corporate ladder, moving from one small country town post office to the next, each time a little higher up, until he was the Postmaster.
My earliest memories of his role are from when he was the Postmaster in Holland Park and Nanny and I would drive down to the Post Office each day to fetch him home for lunch. We used to sing a silly ditty along the way, based on his nickname – “the old baldy-bee, the old baldy-bee, hi-ho the dairy-oh, the old baldy-bee”. I thought it was hysterically funny – and loved my old baldy grandad. From there they moved to Leeton – where they lived in a lovely old Postmaster’s residence – my only memories of which revolve around peach orchards and flies, and hot buttered rock cakes under the cutting out table in Nanny’s curtain and haberdashery shop. Then onto Kempsey – it was the best!
(this is the Goulburn Post Office Grandad – it was so big, I couldn’t fit it all in the photo – so I chose the clock tower because it was the prettiest bit! )
As a child, I thought the Kempsey post office was a castle! We would go in to visit Grandad and he would sit us up at the huge old wooden counter with a booklet he would make out of sheets of brown paper stapled together. We would fiercely whack the rubber stamps (just like the real post office clerks), that were stored on the big, spinning metal mushrooms which sat on the counter, all over our brown paper booklets. Sometimes we would sneak other things – like airmail stickers and parcel labels which all had to be moistened on damp sponges that sat snugly in little glass bowls, before sticking them in too. If we were really lucky, Australia Post would have colouring sheets – in they went too, along with brochures on how to pack parcels and instructions on what you must never send through the mail. Then we would use every marker in the drawer to decorate the page edges. Good stuff!
Then Grandad bought a retired red Postie motorbike. Oh my goodness – we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We would take turns sitting on the back, clutching Grandad’s waist, as he zoomed (pottered and bumped really), along the fence line of their back paddock, down past the chooks and ducks across the bottom of their property, then back up the other side, past the wood pile. Round and round we’d go. One grandchild on the back holding on tight, the other grandchildren impatiently awaiting their turn, the rest of the family cheering from the porch! It was one cute motorbike. And Grandad was the coolest postie!
All these lovely memories have given me such a soft spot for Post Offices and a love of stamps. So when I saw this glorious stamp fabric at Spotlight last year, I was utterly smitten. All those wee stamps! The radiant colours! It was just meant to be mine. However, goodness knows why, I didn’t buy any straight away. Which was a big mistake, because within less than a fortnight they had sold out. Bummer.
Then, when I was in Brisbane last month, helping to look after old Grandad and Nanny, we called into their local Spotlight during a dreadful rain storm – we almost didn’t stop but were both desperate for a circular knitting needle – and there was the stamp fabric – wrapped around the end of the fabric cutting table. I asked the lovely girl serving us whether they had any left. No, she said, it was an incredibly popular fabric and that was their last piece – display only.
Oh! I proceeded to tell her about Grandad the Postmaster and how we were here looking after him, how much I loved stamps and post offices, and how much I loved that fabric – I had wanted some because it would always remind me of our lovely times with Grandad when we were little. She was such a sweetie – and without another word, unfastened the safety pins that were holding the fabric taut, unwrapped it from the end of the table, measured it, folded it neatly and sold it to me – at a discount. I was soooooo thrilled :-) Honestly, I regularly have the loveliest experiences with the staff at Spotlight – no matter which store I visit, they are always so helpful and friendly.
Grandad thought it was very cool …
… and what have I done with it? Why made my very own Postmaster’s Granddaughter’s Dress :-)
My favourite dropped waist style. The bodice is made from a Butterick Blouse pattern – I especially wanted the lovely peter pan collar – my first attempt at such a thing – and I’m happy to report that whilst it was a bit fiddly and took almost two hours of careful stitching and pressing, it was such fun to make and I shall certainly make more. I bought the orange fabric – called Full Moon Lagoon – from Darn Cheap Fabric up the road. The skirt – in my glorious stamp fabric – is simply gathered on. And I found a fabulously fat turquoise ric-rac at Darn Cheap to trim the hem.
The original blouse pattern called for a zipper in the back. That seemed both too much effort and too fussy. So I made the back opening much shorter, added a lovely vintage button from the button jar and crocheted a little chain stitch loop to fasten it. Works a treat.
I just love it! I know – being the funny old thing I am – that I will wear it and wear it and wear it for many years. In summer with my sandals. In winter with tights and buckle ups and a cardie. It will always be a favourite.
And every time I pull it over my head, smooth it down, wash it, peg it out on the line, carefully iron it …
I will think of my dearly loved old Grandad (pictured above with Mum on the right and Auntie Anne on the left), the intrepid Postmaster, the beautiful childhood he helped create for me, and all that love he has shared with me for 44 years.
Oh how I love you, you old baldy-bee!