Connectivity today means cell towers and ultra-fast broadband but casting back, it was the post office that kept communities connected to the outside world.
To explore this rich history in communication, from pigeon post to telegrams and letters, the Waiheke Island Stamp Club has taken a deep dive into the archives for the launch of a new book, Waiheke Island Post Offices 1876-2019.
It’s been ten years in the making, and contributors have produced a detailed history which traces the evolution of the island through the lens of passionate philatelists.
Research reveals the first Waiheke Post Office was in Putiki Bay in 1876, when there was an estimated population of 192 people living here, and just 46 houses; at the time there were more people living in Great and Little Barrier Islands combined.
Increases in the population came after the Depression and World War II. Before this, all mail came by sea, and post offices were positioned around the coastline. As the population grew, post offices popped up across the island. The book explores this golden era of the post office tracking up to present day with the recent move of the post shop in Oneroa, where it had co-existed with Kiwibank, 160 metres along Ocean View Road to Paper Plus.
The shifts of the island are registered with postal markings, stamps, post office buildings, letters and descriptions of name changes as European settlers established themselves on the island.
There’s also a section on Waiheke stamp designer Manu Smith, showing his 2000 issue of Spirits and Guardians stamp designs, celebrating the mystery of the natural world through myth, legend and folk tales.
Post office thefts and fires are covered, as are the growing pains of developing technology and the ‘nightmare’ years when telegrams could be ‘heard all over the place’ before the creation of a private line telephone exchange and soundproof room.
The mystery of the solid stone ‘Lostend’ Post Office sign is also solved with the revelation it was stolen by pranksters when Ostend Post Office was closed in 1988. It was dumped outside a property on Seaview Road, where it still stands, causing a few of us to question our whereabouts over the years.
Island chiropractor Dr Neil Harding has been one of the driving forces behind the book, along with principal author Gerald Ellott and Sue Vaessen. •Liza Hamilton
Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!