Monday, April 25, 2016

LEST WE FORGET

Monday, April 18, 2016

Frogs Hollow, Brisbane CBD

If you walk down Edward St towards the Brisbane River you will come to a building that we have looked at previously - the Port Office Hotel, named after the old Port Office building (now the Stamford Plaza Hotel) situated on the other side of the street near the northern entrance to the Botanical Gardens.

On the Edward St wall of the Port Office Hotel is the sculpture named "Frogs Hollow" shown in the photograph below.
(Photo: © 2016 the foto fanatic)

The piece was created by Christopher Trotter as part of his "Nature" series, several of which are dotted around the CBD, and it is a physical representation of the name that was given to this area in days gone by. If you look at the work you can pick out the frogs, toadstools and reeds that used to be present in this low-lying part of Brisbane.

Frogs Hollow was a marshy and unpleasant area bounded by Edward, Alice, Albert and Charlotte Streets that became waterlogged when it rained. In really heavy rain, the area used to become flood-bound, as can be seen in the following image taken during the 1864 floods, looking down Charlotte St from George St towards Edward St.  
(Photo: SLQ 22130)

Frogs Hollow became notorious for other reasons too. The noxious nature of the terrain seemed to attract the seamier side of Brisbane's inhabitants and businesses. The susceptibility to flooding meant that rents for buildings constructed there were relatively cheap, thereby attracting the poor and the disadvantaged and making Frogs Hollow a part of the town where criminal activity flourished. Brisbane historian Rod Fisher described it as being home to many of the city’s public houses, hostels, gambling joints, brothels and opium dens. He described it as a:
"rare clustering of drunkards, prostitutes, larrikins, thieves and assailants who, in one way or other, lived off the visitors, mariners, and new arrivals at the many boarding-houses, lodgings and hotels" 
One estimate in the late 1880's indicated that as many as 50 percent of cases that came before the Police Court originated in Frogs Hollow.
 
The cheaper dwellings and the moist conditions also attracted another group - the Chinese. Some were market gardeners but many more were involved in illegal gambling and drugs. Sometimes attempts were made to close down the illegal establishments and on occasions this resulted in full-scale riots.    

Gradually though, Brisbane expanded and Frogs Hollow was drained and cleaned up as businesses moved there. The construction of buildings such as Watson Bros and HB Sales brought people to the area, gradually forcing out the opium dens and brothels.

Click here for a Google Map.

tff 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Delivering the mail

Australia Post is not my favourite at the moment. The other day I waited at home for a parcel that the Australia Post internet tracker told me would be delivered on that day. It never came. Then in the late afternoon I received a text message saying that I could pick it up at the local post office. No postie had knocked at my door and no "not at home" card was in my letter box. So the postie must have decided that he couldn't be bothered delivering to my place on that day - he just made a unilateral decision that he would leave it at the post office. I wonder how many others had the same experience that day.
(Photo: brisbanetimes.com.au)

It raises a host of issues. I had paid for express delivery to my residence and was clearly short-changed.  I had to catch a bus to the post office to collect the parcel, and catch another bus back home carrying the parcel. Damned inconvenient at the time for me, but what if I was someone with a disability or no means to get to the post office? What if it was urgently needed medication? What use is an internet tracking service that advises you to stay at home to collect a delivery when that delivery never occurs? How many lost hours and how much lost productivity results?

I might point out that this has occurred before - several times over the last few years, in fact - so it is definitely not a one-off. The postie has actually delivered successfully at other times, so there is no physical problem that prevents delivery. Phone calls to Australia Post raise barely a flicker of interest at the other end. They tell me that the postie should make an attempt to deliver at the address, they promise to check, but still it occurs.

It is well documented that Australia Post's letter delivery service is losing money hand over fist. The increasing use of text messages, email services and social media where messages, photos, music etc can be sent electronically and received almost immediately anywhere in the world is obviously decimating "snail mail" as it has become known.

Australia Post has indicated that it wants to focus on its parcel delivery service to replace the revenue being lost in the letter division. Well, good luck with that, because if service standards are not better than what I have experienced the competition (and there is plenty of that) will chew up Australia Post and spit out the bits. 

Posting a letter to an address in Australia now costs the sender $1.00! One dollar for a standard letter. I'm flabbergasted, particularly seeing that the mail transit times are increasing rather than decreasing. Increasing the unit cost is hardly likely to bring in extra customers - $1.00 for a letter vs a few cents for an SMS or email is a no-brainer, after all.

Of course we all send emails today. From little tackers to great-grannies, people are emailing and texting in ever-increasing numbers. Even Clive Palmer's five year-old can send a text, apparently!

It did make me think about the changes to the mail service over the years.

The Australia Post web site tells me that way back in 1809 a man named Isaac Nichols was appointed to attend to all mail received in the colony of New South Wales, thus creating the first formal postal service in Australia. He was a man before his time as he operated from his home. He listed the names of those who received mail in the colony's newspaper and they came and collected their mail.

Over time, mail collection became mail delivery.
(Photo: SLQ 42743)

The photo above shows mail delivery on horseback in Brisbane in 1913. The postie depicted delivered mail in the Newmarket, Wilston, Grange, Enoggera and Ashgrove areas.

And I bet that it was a tad more reliable than today's service.

tff 
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