The old Geraldine Post Office, South Canterbury, NZ

The Geraldine Post Office
South Canterbury


The Daily Telegraph September 7, 1907
Otago Witness
4 September 1907, Page 5

An extraordinary feature of the plans of the Geraldine post office building is being freely commented on locally. It appears (says the Temuka Leader) that no provision has been made for a back entrance to the building, and as the postmaster's living rooms will be upstairs everything must pass through the front door to reach the same. The butcher and baker must make their calls at the front door, and all coal, firewood, and kitchen requisites must make their way through the same entrance. The new post office will certainly be a unique building, if nothing else.

Star 2 November 1908, Page 1

The Prime Minister spent Friday night at Temuka, and on Saturday morning travelled, by motor-car to Geraldine in order to open the now post office and. attend a complimentary luncheon. He also received some deputations in. regard to local matters. Early in the afternoon Sir Joseph Ward motored to Orari, and caught the first express for Christchurch. He received a deputation representing the South Canterbury Educational Institute on the train, and caught the early steamer for Wellington.

GERALDINE' S NEEDS. Several deputations that waited upon the Prime Minister at Geraldine were introduced by Mr F. R. Flatman, M.P. The Mayor of Geraldine (Mr J. Maling) asked that the proposal to cut out Orari from the stopping-place of the through express on the inauguration of the Auckland-Bluff service should not be carried into effect.    
    Mr M'Kay asked that the Government should, assist the Geraldine Institute Library by subsidising a sum of 170 raised locally.
    Mr T. E. Sheriff mentioned matters in connection with the Geraldine School. The school buildings had been destroyed by fire, and this disaster, with other temporary factors, had caused the attendance at the High School to fall off to a serious extent. He asked that an extension of time should be granted, and the school not disrated because of a passing trouble.
    Colonel Moore, senior Justice of the Peace for the district, urged that the courthouse at Geraldine was quite inadequate to meet the reasonable requirements of the district. A new courthouse should be provided. Mr P. Mulvihill, of behalf of the settlers at Beautiful Valley, protested against the action of the Post and Telegraph Department in altering the name of the local post office from Beautiful Valley to Wahipai.
    Mr A. Metcalfe, on behalf of the Rangitata district, asked for more accommodation at the Rangitata railway station, in the shape of a verandah or a shelter-shed. He also asked that the Government should provide necessary protective works at the Rangitata River, which was threatening to destroy valuable land and cut off the railway station. 

The Prime Minister then opened the new Geraldine post office, a handsome brick structure on the main street. The building was completed about a month ago, and supplies ample accommodation for the several branches of the post and telegraph service. The Mayor of Geraldine welcomed the Prime Minister, and made reference to the magnificent service rendered to New Zealand and to the Empire by Sir Joseph Ward in connection with postal matters. Sir Joseph Ward, addressing the large gathering in front of the post office building, said that the been fortunate he could wish the district was that the new building would soon prove inadequate. He referred to the remarkable progress that had been made in postal matters dining recent years, and touched upon the history of the Geraldine district since the year 1854, when Mr Samuel Hewlings arrived in Geraldine, and took up his quarters in the Raukapuka Bush, opposite the post- office site. Mr Hewlings later surveyed the Geraldine township, which was named after Mrs J. E. Fitzgerald. Sir Joseph wished the district every success in the future, and then opened the main door of the new building. Mr F. R-. Fiatmam also addressed the gathering briefly. The new building, which, is of brick construction, is finish externally with coloured cement plaster and rough cask. It consists of two floors, having office accommodation on the ground floor as follows: Mail room, 30ft x 24ft; public office, 24ft x 12ft; postmaster's room, 12ft x 12ft ; telephone room and private boxes lobby. Post-master's quarters are provided in the upper floor. Provision has been made for a bracket clock over the front entrance.

3 April 1997 Timaru Herald
Geraldine Post Office staff are marking the closure of the office with first and last day postcards featuring the very first post office and the office as it is today. The post office closes its doors tomorrow as the franchise moves to the Geraldine Lotto and Bookshop which would be operating as a post shop on Monday April 7. Tomorrow the staff will put stamps on the postcards and date stamp them, marking the date of closure. In the two days the cards have been on sale, 172 have been pre-sold. It is the end of the road for the three retail staff and one mail officer who have between them 31 years' experience serving Geraldine residents' and tourists' mail needs. The move has meant the loss of all their jobs. For Norman and Eunice Raynel it is the end of 12 years working together - Norman as office manager and Eunice as mail officer. They have decided to stay in Geraldine in spite of Norman being offered further work with New Zealand Post if he was prepared to move. "Why should I move? We've got family locally and it's the longest we've been anywhere in our married life. The previous longest time was six years," Norman said. Norman is planning an extended holiday before getting back into the job market, while Eunice is retiring "to spend more time with the grandchildren". For retail officer Colin Walker tomorrow's closure will be the end of nearly 20 years working with New Zealand Post. Next week he will take up the position of house husband at his Temuka home. Retail officer Julie Cootes has spent three years at the Geraldine Post Shop and has taken up the option of part-time work with the Timaru branch. All mail sorting will be transferred to Timaru but the Geraldine posties and rural delivery will still pick up their mail and operate out of the rear of the old post office. Home delivery service will not change.

22 May 1997 Timaru Herald
The historic Geraldine Post Office is expected to be sold in the next few weeks, according to New Zealand Post South Island property manager Des O'Loughlin. Mr O'Loughlin said yesterday negotiations with a potential buyer were continuing. He would not name the group but the Herald understands Geraldine's Enterprise and Development Trust was attempting to buy the well-known landmark. Members of the trust were unable to be contacted yesterday. The building is home to the craft business Murch and Dice and is classified a category two historic building, which means the new owner has to gain resource consent to make alterations. The post office was franchised last month and was being run by a main street business as a post shop.

24 September 2005 Timaru Herald
As the fate of the old Geraldine Post Office hangs in the balance with the sale of the premises advertised, residents are asking about the origins and intentions of the vendors, the Geraldine Enterprise and Development Trust. The trust was registered as a charitable trust with the Ministry of Economic Development Companies Office in 1988 with the purpose to improve the employment prospects of people in the community. Its trust deed states that trust property can and will be held so long as the purpose of doing so is in line with the objectives of the trust and so long as those purposes are from time to time charitable. The first three objectives listed on the 1988 trust deed referred to the role of the trust in the provision of work opportunities and job training and the remaining three dealt with counteracting the social effects of unemployment and seeking community support for the objectives of the trust. The trust successfully tendered on the open market to provide work-skills training and received government funding to do so. By the early 1990s the needs of the community had changed and the services of the training centre established by the trust were no longer required. The trust's original Kennedy Street premises were sold and in 1998 the Post Office was purchased. The trust has not registered any change of address, change of purpose and no new beneficiaries have been identified. The Enterprise and Development Trust's employment-related objectives are now covered by providing the venue for the weekend market in the Post Office complex. It is understood that for the past two years allowing the local branch of St John to manage the booking of market stalls for a percentage of the weekly rent of $20 a stall has covered the charitable requirement. The Post Office building has been leased for an annual return of $19,835 plus GST. The trust board is able to appoint trustees and to procure and dispose of property at the discretion of the trustees. The trust is set up to allow the trustees to legally sell the Post Office building and adjacent carpark / market area and dispose of the proceeds of the sale as they see fit. However law changes that will require charitable trusts to submit their activities for auditing in return for tax-free status are threatening the existence of a number of such trusts.

Nov. 2011

15 October 2005  Timaru Herald
Post Office fetches $349,500 at auction
The historic Geraldine Post Office sold at a lively auction yesterday afternoon for $349,500. The winning bid was placed by a local woman on behalf of a group which has asked to remain anonymous until next week. The sale had been a subject of debate and controversy for the past month and the people of Geraldine were keen to be part of the action. Around 150 locals turned up to watch their iconic landmark auctioned. Harcourts Blackham Boote Real Estate auctioneer Roger Dawson reminded prospective bidders of the recently imposed condition requiring the new owners to register a covenant on the building, then opened the bidding at $100,000. Mr Dawson, who was recently named as New Zealand's top auctioneer, had the crowd hooked from the onset. Bidding quickly reached the $300,000 mark before the interested parties tailed off, leaving three serious contenders to battle it out. In the end it was a contest between two local people and bids were taken in $1000 then $500 increments until the hammer fell at $349,500. The successful bidder stood quietly at the back of the crowd taking instructions over the telephone during the auction. She said the identity and intentions of the new owners were honourable and would be disclosed to the community next week. Mr Dawson said it had been a highly successful sale, no vendor bids had been placed and the nine initial bidders scattered through the large crowd had kept him on his toes. Geraldine's Harcourts manager Barbara Hopa said they were thrilled with the result and the vendors, the Geraldine Enterprise and Development Trust, were extremely happy. The trust has said it will use the money for employment initiatives in the district.

Michelle Nelson 22 October 2005 Timaru Herald
The historic Geraldine Post Office building is to be restored to its former glory and the new owners will consult with the community beforehand. When Geraldine woman Jackie Nelson out bid her competitors at last Friday's public auction she was unprepared for the publicity and departed for Dunedin immediately after the paperwork was signed. Ms Nelson purchased the iconic building in partnership with a close friend who, at this stage, does not want to be identified. She said the state of disrepair the building had fallen into had bothered her for some time and often when walking past she had visualised restoring it. "Its a great building and when we heard it was coming up for auction it was time to act. "I'm thankful the Geraldine Enterprise and Development trustees put it up for public auction and didn't sell it privately, that way everyone had a chance," she said. The building will be registered with the Historic Places Trust as per the requirement added to the terms of sale days before the auction. But Ms Nelson welcomed this proviso and looked forward to receiving the trust's advise on restoring the building. The first stage of restoration will be a facelift in the form of a paint job and once the Historic Places Trust has made recommendations on appropriate colour schemes community opinion will be sought on the most favoured options. "It is Geraldine's building and we want it to be something the community can be proud of," she said. The current tenants hold long- term leases and Ms Nelson said there were no immediate plans to alter these but there were plans to develop the adjacent carpark / weekend market place. Ms Nelson said she was not surprised at the $349,500 the building fetched at auction but she is a little perplexed about the public reaction her purchase. "People pay $10 million for a farm and no-one raises an eyebrow. "It just goes to show the depth of feeling local people have about this grand old building. "The community can rest assured it is in safe hands," she said. The Geraldine Enterprise and Development Trust have to date refrained from talking about how the community will benefit from proceeds of last Friday's sale.

2005 photo

2005 - A fabulous landmark for Geraldine, the beautiful old building, the Geraldine Post Office, has been saved. There has been a covenant, a binding agreement, placed on it by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust so it can not be pulled down or alter structurally. The Post Office built in 1908 is on Talbot Street, the main street of Geraldine, and for the last ten years or more, it has been an antique/gift shop. Originally it had two brick chimneys and a flagstaff. 1920s

The post office used to be a focal point of the community, not just a place to post your letters.

The Geraldine Post Office in 1902, "McCaskey Photos"
Reference: 'Cyclopedia of New Zealand' pg 872.  John J. McCaskey, had a studio in  Geraldine 1894/95-1902

The Timaru Herald, of 18 May 1897, page 2

The new Geraldine Post Office, which is just about completed, is an improvement to the town and a great boon to the public, who previously were very badly treated as regards convenience for writing and transacting business. The new building is 23ft 6in x 18ft, and is divided into a mail room, public room and lobby. The mail room is well fitted up with conveniences for the officials, and the public room contains a new set of private letter boxes, a row of writing desks divided by glass screens, and a very commodious delivery counter. The building is lofty, well ventilated, and the workmanship is a credit to the contractor, Mr. J McInnis. The material used is rimu, totara and kauri, and the new post office has quite a substantial and imposing appearance.

Postmark - Geraldine 1904
1904 postmark

The earlier Geraldine Post Office c.?1896

The old Geraldine Post Office.
On the door is a notice with the heading Geraldine Electorate Electoral Roll, above the right window is Sutherland & Phillips Butchers.

The New Zealand Post Office Directory for 1892-93
Postmaster for Geraldine. FINCH: Thomas, Postmaster

Hawera & Normanby Star, 29 April 1904, Page 3
Mr T. Finch, postmaster, Geraldine

Grey River Argus 15 July 1907, Page 2
Mr Thomas Finch, who has been postmaster at Geraldine for thirty-two years has received notice that he will be retired on a pension from March 31, 1908. Mr Finch. has been in the service for forty years.

Star 20 February 1908, Page
Mr R. E. Lechner, who has been associated with the Ashburton Post Office for a term of thirty-three years, and who was recently appointed postmaster at Geraldine.

Evening Post, 3 March 1915, Page 2
Mr. R. E. Lechner, postmaster, Geraldine, is promoted to the position of postmaster, Reefton.
Mr. W. J. Webster, clerk, Napier, to be senior mail clerk, Timaru.
Mr D. Mulvey, telegraphist, Timaru, to be, postmaster, Tapanui.

Norman Raynel used to be the postmaster at Geraldine

Rae Keast later Rae McKenzie - rode a bicycle to deliver mail.
Rae Ayleen Keast b. 19 April 1925 and died in 2011 married Francis Stuart McKenzie in 1948. Francis died in 1991. He was born 16 Feb. 1921.

2011 The mail in Geraldine mail is delivered from a motor bike and the same bloke as been doing this since 1981 although not all of them on a motor bike. The bike speeded up deliveries especially to those living on hills. The Timaru girls still pedal. However the guy in Geraldine has a motor bike, most unusual!  The Honda CT 110s were well proven as an economical round-town mount. The CT had a dual-ratio gear box, which meant four low and four high gears. This made it an ideal two-wheeler for following the cows at a crawl - in fact, the well-muffled engine was perfect for all stock work. The post box is a drive through one opposite Geraldine Library on Talbot Street. The Geraldine post office closed on 4 April 1997 as the franchise moved further along to the Geraldine Lotto and Bookshop on Talbot Street. E-bike.

Geraldine postie. August 2013 Geraldine  Geraldine. 26 Aug. 2013 
1901 postmark

Timaru Herald, 11 December 1912, Page 11 MAIL SERVICES.
BY MOTOR CYCLE. At yesterday's meeting of the Geraldine Road Board the following letter was read from the Chief Postmaster, Timaru: "I beg to inform you that the Postal Department has arranged for a daily mail service by motor cycle from 1st January next, over the route mentioned below, and as I have been informed that there are a number of creeks to be crossed which are only bridged by a single plank, I am writing to solicit the kind offices of your Board in arranging for the width of the bridges to be increased, so a motor cycle with side attachment could be wheeled across when the streams are unfordable. It is believed that the daily mail service will prove a great boon to the settlers in the district, and I anticipate your co-operation in the matter referred to, in order that nothing shall be lacking to make the service a success. The route mentioned is as follows: Temuka, Rangitira Valley, Waitohi Flat, Upper Waitohi Flat, Kakahu School, Kakahu Bush, Pahimomona, Beautiful Valley, Gape's Valley, Te Moana, Pleasant Valley, and Hilton. The chairman said there would probably be additions to the localities served by motor cycle. He had asked Mr Dyer 10 make a rough estimate of the cost of doing what was asked for in the letter read, and this amounted to l4l0. Mr S. Thomson said that by doing what was asked they would be prevented from getting something more useful. It would be a good thing to get a daily service, but it would be better to go in for a bigger scheme of bridges. Mr Wharton thought they might do the work if the Government found the money. The chairman thought the Government, should have let their intentions be known beforehand. It was agreed that the Board could not agree to enter into this matter as the bridges that would be erected would not be of great advantage to the settlers for purposes other than the mail service, and the Board therefore considered it entirely a matter for the Government.

Timaru Herald 14/06/2014 Distance no barrier to delivery
Contractor Neville Richards has been delivering the Herald to Ferintosh Station for the past 14 years. Rain, hail or snow, he said, the paper nearly always gets through. "I think in the whole time I have been doing it, I have only been stopped by snow three times." Richards gets up at 3.45am every day to ensure he has started loading his van by 4.30am. He drives from Timaru, through Pleasant Point, Cave, Fairlie, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village, back to Twizel, and back along the same route each day. Richards believes he has the best office in the country. But he can see it is not everyone's cup of tea.

There was once a plethora of post offices in South Canterbury, but now they're all gone.

Timaru Herald 11 June 2005
Telegrams were a quick way of sending a short urgent message but were not necessarily cheap. Early telegrams had to be written in ink with no abbreviations. They had to be prepaid and 10 words could cost 2 shillings and 6 pence with 3 pence for each additional word. The address and the signature also had to be paid for. Several different systems were suggested for sending the telegrams but the dots and dashes system invented by Samuel Morse was the preferred one and was already in use in England and Australia. Morse code, using long and short signals, was used to send messages in a variety of ways from flashing lights, mirrors, or electrically through the telegraph wire. The early electronic machines received the messages by sound. The first telegraph line in New Zealand was in place in Christchurch in 1862 and three years later, in 1865, a telegraph office was opened in Timaru. This greatly enhanced communication, despite the difficulties in establishing the line as the rivers constantly changed their course and the nor'wester blew down the poles. At first the service was unreliable but The Timaru Herald was using telegraphed news by July 8, 1865. It was still popular, with 3153 messages being sent in 1868, which rocketed to 195,593 by 1908. One of the greatest advances to the telegraph service was the submarine cable link laid by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company between Nelson and Australia which was opened on February 21, 1876. This meant a link to England and the rest of the world and allowed news to arrive daily rather than weekly. While a message could now be sent to England within minutes, it cost 15 shillings per word! In 1921, machine printing telegraphs, invented by New Zealander Donald Murray, were replacing the Morse system. This multiplex machine doubled the number of telegrams that could be sent at any one time. In the 1930s this machine was rivalled by the start-stop-type, known as the teleprinter. The typed message was then taped on to the yellow telegram form. It was then sent or telephoned through to the recipient. However, the rise in popularity of the telephone saw a decrease in popularity of the telegram service. One remaining service that was popular well into the mid 20th century was the sending of congratulatory telegrams to events such as weddings where the message -- often tongue in check with double entendre -- was read out at the reception along with the word "Stop" at the end of each sentence.
Colourful telegram paper with an appropriate theme was often used for these messages.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project