For 100 years now, Bilpin Post Office has been an integral part of the Bilpin district, providing an essential service to what was, for much of that time, a small and isolated community.
Australia Post historical records show that from 1899 an unofficial office for the “receiving of mail” was run from his home by Gillman Norwood and the postal address for the area was in fact “Norwood” , but in 1914 an official office was opened and the name changed to Bilpin, to avoid confusion with Norwood in South Australia.
John Siebenthal was the district’s first postmaster, but as he was also the district’s first water carrier, by and large the running of the post office was carried out by his wife.
Mail was received and distributed three times a week, providing a vital link for the locals with family members fighting overseas during the Great War.
In 1918, George Gunn was appointed postmaster, with an annual allowance of 13 pounds.
Gunn was remembered throughout the district as a gentleman in a grey suit, who drove a pair of bay horses.
Nicknamed “the Walrus” because of his heavy, dark moustache, Alfred Slingsby Jnr took over the Post Office from 1922 to 1927 and it was during his time that the telephone exchange was installed.
This service provided a vital link with the outside world for the community, who clubbed together to maintain the line which was strung from tree to tree using bottles as insulators.
The mail contractor delivered the mail three times a week and checked the phone lines at the same time.
From an initial three subscribers, by 1929 the number of residents connected to the phone had grown to seven and the names of these early subscribers are still familiar names in the Bilpin district today.
From 1927 to 1937 the post office was run by John Morris.
Like his predecessors, he had another job – several, in fact; he worked in Sydney as a printer, ran his orchard in Bilpin and also had a sawmill on his property, powered by a steam engine using the water from the creek on his land.
Needless to say, Mrs Morris ran the post office.
Between 1937 and March 1942, three people are recorded briefly as postmaster – John Hackett, Stephen Smith and Frederick King – then the business was taken over by John Hanlon who moved it into the building he had erected next to the family’s hardware store on Bells Line of Road.
Ken Davy became postmaster in 1959 and remained in the position until his death in 1967.
Pauline Pakulski and Stella Hawkins kept the business going after his death and in July 1968, Irene Hadden was appointed as postmistress and the post office moved to her premises at “Waratah” on School Road, where it remained until 1982, when Lei Timmerman became postmistress and the post office returned to its former – and present – home next door to Hanlon’s hardware.
In 1987, Yvonne Lewis took on the job and still presides over the business today – the district’s longest serving postal officer.
While for many years the public service did not employ married women in permanent positions, on the whole the day to day running of the post office for much of the last century was done by the women of Bilpin.
Today the post office remains the communication hub of the area, doing everything the internet does, but with a more personal touch.
It provides banking and bill-paying services for essential utilities, delivers the mail daily and copes with an ever-increasing parcel distribution business.
Although it no longer operates a telephone exchange it is still the district’s ultimate “information exchange”, the best place to find out what’s happening — and where and when.