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DW The siting of the town’s first post office near the coast was dictated by the fact that transport by sea was faster than on the primitive roads and difficult tracks.
As well as serving as the first postmaster, William Armstrong the teacher at Mornington Grammar School was also the town’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages He opened a room in his house at lunchtime to attend to his postal duties. It was probably Armstrong who penned the letter ad- dressed to Mr. Foskett that you can see on the plaque.
By 1861, a telegraph building was situated on this corner of the Esplanade and Main Street. It was replaced when the current building was erected in 1863/4. It served as the Post Office for 100 years until relocation towards the centre of town and nearer the railway in 1963.
The telegraph station was an important link in the telegraph system which came from Tasmania via Flinders, Cape Schanck and Dromana through Mornington to Frankston and onwards to Melbourne and eventually to London via Singapore. It also serviced the people and businesses of Mornington long before the telephone came. How could Alexander Balcombe ever find the key to the cellar had he not been able to sent a message to his wife who had gone to Melbourne to stay
with a friend? [KW Where is the key of the barn and the cellar?]. Or, what would have been the Christ- mas fare at Beleura, perhaps beef from the local butcher, if James Butchart could not have ordered the turkey? [ KW Send down turkey by steamer. Give to steward tomorrow December 22]
When the newly-formed Historical Society was granted use of the building to establish a Museum in the 1960s several of the very first telegrams were found stored in the roof cavity. How far sighted those early postal officers were!
The original building had an entrance facing Main Street which was subsequently replaced with the enclosed porch seen on the plaque showing local lads leaning on the picket fence. There were seats around the inside of the porch so people could wait for the mail to be sorted, out of the heat of sum- mer and the cold and windy days of winter.
Quite possibly because they were cheaper to employ than men, or maybe because they were more sympathetic to the task, a succession of postmistresses occupied the top position.
When the telephone service came, the telephonists worked in the back room connecting calls. It be- came very busy when the boys from the Balcombe Army Camp came to town to make their calls.
If you now turn left down the Esplanade and have a look at the next interesting building…. at 787
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