Either late 1954 or early 1955 for reasons best know to themselves management at the Royal decided to transfer me from the “Accounts Department” to the “Claims Department”. Up until that moment my entire insurance career there had been a couple of months in what was called the “Country Dept” what I did there I don’t know: I think I was a glorified office boy.
After the “Country Dept” I had a brief stint in the “Accident Dept” followed by an equally brief stint in the “Motor Dept”; I was not given a stint in either the “Fire” or “Marine Dept’s” don’t ask me why!
For the record and for no other reason than to take up space and show off, the following useless information is provided: The “Accountant” was a Mr Carl Otto McKernan; the “Accident Manager” Mr Marquard & Mr Bob Mitchell was the “Motor Dept” manager, who went on to replace Mr Bob Mann as the “Claims Manager” when Mr Bob Mann became Mr Robert Mann, Assistant Manager for Victoria. The head man for the “Marine Dept” was one William Shakespeare Coombes.
Now how’s that for a load of useless codswallop? And to further exacerbate this lot the telephone number for the Royal was MU 7755 to MU 7769, I’d give you the telephone number for the company I worked for in England but it would be even less relevant than this rubbish and who knows maybe I’ll write about my time there at some point.
The “Claims Dept” was split up into various sections; Workers Comp. Motor Vehicle Accident, M.V. Third Party (separate), and Fire. Marine claims were handled in Bill Combes department as they were specialized. And last but not least were “General Claims” and it was to this section that I was assigned. Trouble was there was nobody else in that section but me; I was it! My job it turned out was to handle every other claim not handled by the other sections, eg: All Risks, PA & AS, Fidelity Guarantee, Public Liability and whatever else you could think of in the way of insurance.
At this time the Royal was the worlds largest tariff insurance company , Lloyd’s were the biggest in the world but they were and are non-tariff.
Also at this time I’d had little experience but they seemed to think that I could handle all the general claims. There was a bloke called John Buzolich there to give me advice on how to handle claims if I needed it, which I did for the first few days.
Something new happened; I had to write letters, to clients, assessors, solicitors trades people you name them I wrote them at some stage. Too I had to learn to use the phone, when I was in the accounts I never did much if any of either. I started to enjoy what I was doing and I was good at it which was surprising; well to me at least, seems like management thought this would be my little niche.
And this is where Carmel Burke comes in; on the other side of the open corridor was the claims managers office and the typing pool, Carmel was a typist, and she was assigned to me to be my typist.
The “Pool” was closed in with full width glass windows and door and was pretty well soundproof; all sound was kept inside.
Now Carmel’s desk was in the bottom right hand corner of the room when you came in, she was still rather junior so she was stuck in the back; so each time I had to take something in to her I’d run the gauntlet of young giggling girls and mature matrons.
Carmel was a very sweet,very pretty, (I can still visualize her face at times) very demure young lady of about 16 or 17; (I doubt you’d find this type of 17 year old these days) and naturally I would spend quite a bit of each day in the typing pool chatting to her. This might all sound very natural to you but in my case it wasn’t; I’d never had a girlfriend and was not only shy but scared by them. This is what happens when brought up in a matriarchy I suppose. I think the other typists saw a romance blossoming, Carmel used to blush when I went into the room. I really did like her, she was a sweet and gentle girl.
The only time I ever went out with a girl was in a group. Up until then the only girl I’d really had anything to do with was “Bluey” Naughton, her real name was Bernece (actually spelt that way and not with an ‘i’), Bluey was 9 years older than I, stood about 4’6″ and was a bundle of energy, with the brightest red/ginger hair you’d ever see, hence she was called Blue or Bluey.
She worked in the accounts department and I used to take her to the annual Insurance Institute Ball. She was a good dancer almost as good as me, I really was good back then, I’d been ballroom dancing for years and I really loved it, loved showing off on the floor too!
Here we go again, drifting from the subject. It must have been around late May or early June 1955 and I was in the “Pool” chatting to Carmel and other girls and I looked up and there walking past the windows was the most beautiful looking girl/woman that I had ever seen. I was stunned, my mouth dropped open and I asked if anyone knew who she was, and somebody piped up and said yes her name is Joan Hunter and she was Mr So & Sos new secretary, Mr So & So was the manager for the British & Foreign Marine Insurance Co.Ltd and they had their offices on the first floor of the Royal Insurance Co’s building at 414-416-418 Collins Street Melbourne C.1.
Why I blurted out after being told who she was that I was going to marry her I don’t know. I was completely and utterly bewitched.
I don’t ever remember seeing Carmel again. I know she was there in the office, I don’t know if I’d hurt her or if she’d had any expectations of me , I think the rest of the typing pool did, from that second my life changed completely.
(This marriage did not last. This lady is not to be confused with my wife of many years who is normally referred to as the War Office)