From “stamp licker” to “linesman” to “communications officer”, Coonabarabran larrikin, Peter Hardy, has spent half a century working for the same company.
The long-time Telstra employee is a familiar face around the region, with his trademark Akubra hat and cheeky grin.
True to form, Pete said the milestone made him feel old.
“I think it’s an accomplishment - I’ve been retreaded again and again - I’ve had a go at everything, so 50 years at the one gig is not too bad,” Pete said.
to go to the outside stuff until I was 17 and a half. So I was licking stamps in the Post Office until then.”
Pete relocated to Greta and then Sydney to undertake his linesmen trade.
“I worked around the city for a while before I was posted out to Cobar, where I was for seven years.
“Then I came back home, but we were fairly mobile all the time.
“My address was here, but we worked all over the place, even now - this year I’ve been out at Broken Hill and Euchuca, down in Victoria.”
In 1975, the PMG was disaggregated to form two entities - Australia Post and Telecom Australia, the latter of which became Telstra in 1995.
Pete has experienced these massive organisational shifts from the inside.
“I was lucky. A lot of people got redundancy, but I’ve been lucky enough to stick with it all the way through.
“I’d have a go at anything, so I was employable that way.”
In addition to this, Pete has also witnessed the development of the telecommunications industry.
“When I started it was still all manual exchanges, where the girls did all the switches.
“When you were a young fulla that was a plus, hanging around the exchange annoying the girls!
“But it was all manual, then it was all old aerial stuff, and we pulled it down and then it has gone all optical.”
With technology advancing at such a rapid rate, Pete said it had been difficult to keep up.
“It’s a game for the young fullas now. I’m getting too old.
“I started off digging holes and I’m back doing it now!
“The younger blokes are more highly trained in the technology and we are still doing the basic stuff we used to do.
“It has changed and is changing very quickly now, with all the NBN (National Broadband Network) work, it’s just going to keep going.”
Over the years, Pete has seen it all in the line of duty and has a yarn for every occasion.
He was once even recognised for saving a woman’s life by administering CPR.
Yet, he lists his work in the aftermath of 2009 bushfire at Marysville, Victoria, as his most important posting.
“There were no communications at all when we arrived. They were still doing body searches when we went there, so there were hundreds of coppers.
“We helped restore some sense of normality for them there.
“There were still a lot of people who had nowhere to go, so established a centre from where they could ring people and have internet access, like an internet cafe.
“There was nothing left in Marysville, so we felt we were doing good for people that needed it.”
All in all, Pete said he enjoyed his role, especially the variety of work and the places it had taken him to.
However, there’s one thing that has him hot under the collar, literally.
“Being out these last couple of months hasn’t been enjoyable because it’s been so bloody hot! One of the hottest summers I’ve worked through.
“It didn’t seem to worry me much when I was young, but it does the older you get.
“In Broken Hill it was 46-47 degrees. You couldn’t get a cold shower because all the pipes are above the ground, so you didn’t need any hot water - you were hanging out for a cold shower and couldn’t get one.”
After 50 years on the job, Pete shows no indication of slowing down anytime soon.
“No, for the record, I’m not retiring any time soon...they are still paying me!”
Peter Hardy recently celebrated his golden anniversary with Telstra (formerly Telecom Australia and before that, PNG).