You might recall, then again you probably won’t, back in the middle of May, when I wound up the saga of ‘The Rechabite’, that I turned my back on an Insurance Company position paying £3600. per annum, and took a job, with an airline for the princely salary of £19/5/5d per week, which if my calculations are correct, came to £942/1/8d. Not even a thousand quid a year. Still I was told that with all the penalties I’d be getting around the £27 -£28, which wasn’t too bad for 1960 I suppose.
In the early 60’s the Ansett ANA terminal at Essendon was pretty small, TAA ( Trans Australia Airline); the government run airline was over on the East/West runway side of the airport, and we were stuck over on the North/South runway. Guess which was the main runway; and which airline had the easy access.
Things improved late 1962, but prior to that, the terminals at Essendon were not much bigger than large church halls. One door leading to the tarmac area, where the aircraft sat waiting patiently. Two doors, one marked “Ladies”, the other “Gents”, a newsagent/bookstore, sort of; and a tea and coffee bar. No liquor, just coffee or tea and soft drinks and sandwiches. All very civilized.
The photograph as you can see was taken around 1963 and is basically of the new terminal with the two arms.
The bottom left hand side of the picture, you’ll notice a large blackened surface, this was the tarmac area for Ansett ANA, the taller of the group of buildings to the right was the terminal, as I said not very big.
Not having the foggiest idea what I’d let myself in for, I duly presented myself at the “Traffic Office” at Essendon Airport, at 08.00 hours as instructed; but I have no idea what the day or date was.
It really didn’t matter. I’d no longer be working a 9 to 5 job – not that I ever managed to stick to those hours – I’d now be working a seven day roster, the earliest start 0600, the latest start 1500 hours, the latest finish? Whenever the last scheduled plane arrived and the terminal cleared.
On arrival, I presented myself to Mr Butler at his office, and he took me out to meet my first “S.T.O”. Senior Traffic Officer, the blokes, and it was an all man affair, that kept the airline running, forget the flight crews, they only had to fly the aircraft, it was the ‘Traffic Office and the blokes that worked there, that kept the airlines running smoothly; most times. It didn’t take me long to figure this out!
My first “S.T.O”. was one Don Ryan, and what a top bloke he was, ex R.A.A.F, WWII, he was a photographer with them during that conflict. The steadiest man I ever came across, never panicked, I doubt he knew how to spell the word, never rushed always in control. A good bloke.
Don performed my introduction to all the T.O’s, on duty, (there wasn’t that many, half a dozen, no more), which I had now become, except they were all smartly dressed in uniforms, complete with a bit of gold braid, and epaulettes likewise adorned; explained the basics of what I’d be doing for the first couple of days/weeks depending on how quickly I grasped the duties of a very junior “T.O.” and handed me over to another Pom, Jerry, who would guide me through the first day.
It was all pretty simple stuff really, didn’t take more than an hour or so to have it off pat; and the time past quickly and for me excitingly.
That day was the beginning of the next 6, most turbulent years, of my life. Now all I have to do is decide whether or not to rave on, what to write and not to write. Probably more of the what not, than the what; what!