Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Conductress

They were called tram conductresses and employed by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board during WWII when men went overseas to fight another country's war and were killed in their thousands. What a smart uniform she wore. One does like a split skirt.



The conductress is lowering the pole that connects the tram to the overhead electric wires and with the driver seated and ready to go, with the rear pole presumably raised to the overhead wire by the driver. It looks awfully like a propaganda photo. Note the covering over the headlight, so that the tram would not be a illuminated target for German or Japanese strafing or bombing during the 'brownout' war years. In my memory, when the trams of years ago stopped at the terminus, driver and conductor both jumped out at more or less the same time to change the poles. The driver would not be seated and ready to go as the conductor lowered the pole. Also note the mass of telephone wires, something which is all now underground, and the side destination on the tram, which is not in my memory, although that model of tram is.

Route 27 has long passed into history, but I remember seeing route 27 trams. There is a metal plate hanging in the window to the left of driver. The H on the plate denoted that the tram was operated by Hawthorn Tram Depot, and guess what the depot is now? Yep, smart apartments, but with a small tram museum still there. 

It wasn't until the mid 1970s that women were allowed to drive trams, and R knew the first female driver, who was not of a marrying or child rearing kind, and she certainly wore very sensible shoes. To quote the first female Melbourne tram driver, I don't need a penis to drive a tram, and given the number of female tram drivers Melbourne now has, she was quite right. 

33 comments:

  1. How things have changed in our life time. We don't think twice now about seeing a female bus driver.

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    1. Marie, female train drivers are less common, but they are around too.

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  2. Such silly delineations in gender roles. Some of them cultural and some of them economic I suppose.

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    1. Victor, I try to avoid gender specific job titles when it is irrelevant and I would now say conductor to cover both sexes, not that I get to opportunity often, but our country trains still have them.

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  3. I do miss the conductress or conductors now we just click our opal card against a machine not the same as a cheery hello and how are you today well some were like that others not so friendly.
    Merle...........

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    1. Merle, yes they were not all so friendly. I can't remember them on buses for my first Sydney visit, about 1982, but they were still selling on street corners, one of the many jobs R did when he lived in Coogee.

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  4. I miss the conductors as well. If anyone was carrying small children, had a walking stick or was a bit blind, the conductor would help them on or off the tram, and ensure they found a seat. Tickets were important, but not as important as customer service.

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    1. Hels, like Merle said, their helpfulness was variable, but good ones were to be treasured.

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  5. When Mum was a little girl and asked what she wanted to be when she grew up she would ALWAYS say 'a tram conductress'. She loved those little leather cases with the tickets in them. She reckons she can still see them. The tickets were different colours for the different prices. Very weird, aye???

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    1. Charlie, that's funny. Yes, I can remember our version of the tickets in the leather folder and the bag with the money in it. They probably be robbed now.

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  6. Certainly does look good in that uniform.
    Remember well riding on a Melbourne tram when I went with my 2nd cousin and her two sons to Melbourne - unfortunately no photos of that time.

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    1. Margaret, pre digital I suppose. Just noticed something. It is funny how we ride on a tram but in a bus.

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    2. yes well before digital, years! just noticed that about the tram verses bus..

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  7. You'd wear a split skirt..with your legs. Bwahahahaha.

    I liked a conductor because they made sure to get you to the door when trapped in the middle of a crowded tram unable to get to the bell.

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    1. Jah Teh, slim legs I have but they are not chicken legs and I am outrageously offended by your comment.

      Did you ever think to get near to the door of the tram before you wanted to get off?

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  8. I notice the "split" skirt is one with fabric behind the split, essentially a pleat rather than an open split which seems more common these days, especially on pencil skirts for ease of movement and I just don't like them. I much prefer a pleat. Not that I've ever worn one. I never liked tight skirts.
    I vaguely remember conductors on public transport.

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    1. River, before I fell to sleep last night, I realised it was not a split skirt but one with a rear pleat. I thought I would get up early and correct the mistake, but that did not happen. I thought I got away with it, but no, you just had to remark about my error. Had you not girlfriend, I would have been disappointed.

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  9. I don't know about tram drivers, but most of Europe's postmen seem to be women these days.

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    1. Cro, that is worry. I am really not sure about women's ability to read addresses, never mind putting them in the right box. Well, Europe has always being progressive in disabled areas.

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  10. Andrew we condutresses in the past but it was so expensive to pay them extra salary so the managmenent decided to resign from them.

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    1. Gosia, much the same all over the world. Teh wage cost of running trams or buses without a conductor dropped by almost half. But then security guards and ticket checkers had to be employed.

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  11. Hi Andrew. A very interesting post. In London we called them 'clippies', presumably because of what they did to the tickets.
    Incidentally, with reference to your remark about 'fighting another country's war' - surely Australia is a part of the western world and could have been Japanese now. You even mention the precaution against German or Jap bombing. Just sayin'!
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. Hi Bazza. I am old enough to remember On the Buses and I know about clippies, but thanks for reminding me about what I had forgotten. Britain deserted us on Churchill's orders when Singapore fell. Our colonial master gave us up for the taking to the Japs. Extreme paranoia and fear had the southern part of Australia prepared for war. Australia could have been independent from the world wars, (invading Poland? WTF is that is that to do with us?) and why on earth were in the desserts of North Africa. Wasn't Germany in the '30s part of the western world? She was not identified by name, but I suspect she was one of the Mitford sisters who I just heard today downplaying the holocaust in a recording from a few years ago. Deb, I think. 'I don't think it was six million Jews killed, somewhat less, maybe one million'. Sorry Bazza, you really sent me off on a defensive rant.

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  12. I guess the men tram drivers didn't use their penis to drive the trams, either! ;)

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    1. Quite so Lee, men did not need them to drive a tram and neither did women. I expect tram control by penis would have been erratic, to say the least.

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    2. For all concerned...passengers, drivers, conductors, and the many spectators! ;)

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  13. I did hear a story recently about a man who was so well endowed he could tie a knot in it, but there was no mention of driving a tram 😀😀

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    1. Interesting Grace, but what use is one with a knot in it.

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    2. The very question I asked Andrew 😀😀

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  14. Apparently I have outraged my family by a post in 2012 and had strips torn off me this morning. So it must be the day for outraging. That wouldn't have been Deb Mitford, the late Duchess of Devonshire but her sister Diana who married the leader of the British Nazi Party, Oswald Mosley. They were both imprisoned during the war and she outlived him but still believing in the masterrace. Annie O should be here, she is the font of all knowledge Mitford.

    And I couldn't help that the thought of you in a tight skirt was hilarious.

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    1. Jah The, whatever did you say. Don't make go back through all your posts in 2012. Yes, it was Deborah Mitford. I don't think she went to Germany, but certainly Diana and Unity did.

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  15. I have a female friend who drives the 57 tram, she often gets told she's too good looking to be a tram driver. WTH!
    I also have a female client who drives the talking tram in Bendigo! Penis indeed!!

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    1. Cool on both counts, Fen. With those old trams, it might be an advantage to not have a penis when driving a tram.

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