Communications

The Telephone

In the days before the telephone getting supplies for the tearooms meant Mr Pooley left on Sunday night with the order which was delivered on the Monday.

For urgent messages Susan Yoffe in her thesis tells the story;-

As children we used to get great delight when people were left behind at night and the launch had gone. Of course people were left behind had to contact their relatives to let them know if they were safe. No telephone on the island. We relied on Pooley to signal North Head. He had a Morse lamp 14"x 14" by about 6" wide and it had a battery light and a button on top and something like a venetian blind in the front of it he used to press this and send Morse to North Head from the end of the wharf. Us kids used to watch. It was great. He used to wear a little pill box hat like sea captain with a peak and gold braid on it.

Angela Woolnough in her book 'Rangitoto retells a similar story from Reg Noble when he was the Ranger:-

He told me the story about four woman stranded on Rangitoto. They could not return to Auckland in their boat as the weather had changed. High seas were running and a gale force wind was blowing. Wet and dispirited the women knocked on Reg's door asking if they may use the telephone. They were dismayed to be told there was no link to Auckland. How would they let their relatives know that they were safe, or let them know that they would be returning home the next day? Reg, recalling a previous time when he had signalled from the summit in Morse code, decided it was worth trying again. Buffeted by the wind and rain Reg struggled to the top of Rangitoto and wedged himself in the 'trig' station with his aldis lamp. As he stood gazing at the thousands of blazing lights in Auckland, Reg felt sure there was no hope of his small light being seen. Yet immediately, after signalling Morse code, a bright light answered from the Kings Wharf area, five miles away. He had made contact! After giving his message, tired and cold, Reg made his way down the windswept track to the kiosk. He entered the warmth of the kitchen just in time to hear the old wireless reporting, "a message has been received from Rangitoto Island….!

In 1937 the Army authorities took over the adjoining island of Motutapu and laid a telephone cable to Islington Bay. Reg asked the post office if they would extend the telephone line to Rangitoto Wharf to overcome the isolation of the Bach owners living there, and provide a means for him to order supplies. After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain post office agreement to allow a line, he finally proposed to them that he lay the line himself at a cost of £50 for labour and materials. The post office eventually agreed to this idea, and Reg set about the back-breaking task of laying telephone cable across some of the roughest wildest country in the Auckland province. Reg used existing pohutukawa trees as poles and because of the high cost of copper wire decided instead to use ordinary NO. 8 galvanised fencing wire (now that's real kiwi ingenuity). The idea of dispensing with telegraph poles and using trees instead had its drawbacks as Reg was to realise about a year later after the cable had been positioned. Due to rapid growth of the trees, the branches soon interfered with the cable, causing static, and thus began a long annual routine of branch trimming. However, the telephone link was greatly appreciated by the Bach owners

Many years later the Bach Owners Association helped install a public telephone line between Rangitoto Wharf and Islington Bay. This time the telephone poles supplied by the post office were used. However, the residents still had the back-braking job of using shovels to dig holes in the scoria, and spent the whole of Easter erecting sixty poles. Their voluntary labour meant that the line could be installed for £230, compared with the original estimate of £1000.

The red telephone appears to have moved several times (look at the photos) before being demolished to make way for the new information centre built in 1983/84. The phone is on the wall to be used in emergencies but I have heard that it didn't always have a toll bar on it! In this modern age of cellphones you would think that you could call anywhere from Rangitoto but that is not the case there are numerous blank spots in the coverage area and then you always run out of battery at the critical moment.

Telephone booth at Rangitoto Wharf

Telephone booth at Rangitoto Wharf.

Telephone booth at Rangitoto Island

Telephone booth at Rangitoto Island.

The Post Office

I haven't been able to find any information on when the post office was established on Rangitoto, but the Trust does have copies of first day covers sent from Rangitoto Island with its own stamp. The earliest one I have seen is April 23rd 1968 and the stamp just says Rangitoto. Note the one pictured here says Rangitoto Wharf. I remember seeing a photo of the Islington Bay shop with its postbox sitting on the veranda - did Islington Bay have its own stamp?

In reply to the questions above Mr Trevor Bevan writes:

There were TWO post offices on Rangitoto, one at Islington Bay and the other at the Wharf. In fact Rangitoto Wharf started as a radiotelephone office in the island caretakers store with Reg Noble as the operator, when the cable was laid from Motutapu in 1937. This office closed on August 27 1939. Two date stamps were issued so it may have served as a post office as well. No documents or envelopes exist showing the first date stamp but the second is recorded on 25th November 1938 and is "Telephone Office Rangitoto". On December 7th 1938 a post office opened at Islington Bay. It could not be called Islington Bay because that name was used in Christchurch so it was also named Rangitoto but the 2 added. It remained open until permanently closed on 21st August 1985. There were 4 date stamps issued with the earliest use known 29th February 1948 and the last 29th August 1982. There are no details about who ran the office.

The Rangitoto Wharf Post Office re-opened on 5th November 1952 and closed permanently on 19th May 1982 after the building was demolished. There were three date stamps issued with earliest found 26th April 1953 and the last 6th February 1980. There is a list of Postmaster appointments from late 1970 to closure but none before that time.

The End of an Era.

With the change in management to the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Parks Board, came the demise of many things on Rangitoto. One of the most sorely missed was the tearooms and shop and therefore the post office and telephone box. Both Vi Leech and Dormae Burton captured poignant images of the demolition process.

First Day Cover - Rangitoto Wharf

First Day Cover - Rangitoto Wharf.

Kiosk at Rangitoto Wharf

Kiosk at Rangitoto Wharf.

Destruction of kiosk

Destruction of kiosk.

Destruction of kiosk

Destruction of kiosk.

Destruction of kiosk

Destruction of kiosk.