|Memories from ex-Superintendent John Milne of his time at the station.|
John started work at Musick Point as an operator in 1939, when ZLF was first established. He details some of the pre-history of the area, pointing out that the site was originally a Maori Pa, originally settled about a thousand years ago, subsequent to Maui's discovery of Aotearoa in 850 AD.The land became the property of the Crown and in 1939 the then Post Office established ZLD/Auckland Radio on the site, along with three others in different parts of the country. These stations kept a 24 hours watch providing communications to shipping and the islands, as well as monitoring distress calls. John goes on to clarify the difference between the Maritime (ZLD) and Aeronautical (ZLF) Services.
Originally based in an upstairs room in the Auckland Chief Post Office, the Maritime Radiotelegraph services (ZLD) were transferred to Musick Point during the early days of World War II, operating from a shed on the site of the present garage.
Public Service transport ferried the operators to and from their homes during this time. Eventually operations moved to the newly built Musick Memorial Building. Houses for personnel was also established locally at Bucklands Beach at around that time.
John had left the station by that time, transferring to the Radio Inspection branch, and later as superintendent of Awanui Radio. Staff who were probably employed at that time were Bill Kirk, Jack Heleanan, Stan McAven, Jack Hornblow, pat Meehan, Ted Wilcox and Carl Littlejohn as far as he can remember.
In 1948 after being discharged from the NZ Army, John requested a transfer to ZLD from the telegraphic section of the CPO Auckland, finally retiring from this position after a further 28 years of service.
John recalls that the initial installation of the radio equipment at Musick Point took place between October 1941 and January 1942.
In mid 1941 the hostel accommodation for single staff comprised of a single story building which was later extended to a new two story one with bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and lounge and with a sundeck. This was the main block building known as the "Brown Annex".
Food supplies to the hostel there were delivered by the local baker, butcher and general grocery, while the small canteen run by the staff supplied items such as soap, toothpaste, cigarettes and an assortment of sweets. The profit from this was for future requirements.
Staff retention at ZLD was a problem, as Bucklands Beach was at that time a very remote area. After a short stay most moved, or were moved on. When the Japanese war seemed to be coming to an end there was no necessity for an increase fin staff, resulting in several transfers back to the CPO Telegraph section office in town.
During this period John recalls a problem with the hot water at the main hostel. The Superintendent, who received all the bills for certifying, noticed that the high usage of hot water, and consequently implemented a means to control it. He instructed all staff of the correct procedures to follow in future. The hot water heating would be switched off to the heater during the day, and he, as he had the only key to the cylinder room door, would cycle over each morning and turn the power off, then return in the afternoon to turn it back on. This was carried out for several weeks during which the water became constantly cold.
An electrician was called and turned off the switch to the cylinder as the element had blown. But he received a shock; someone had gained entry to the cylinder control and re-wired it permanently. The switch had been hot wired. As a result there was no shortage of hot water in spite of the superintendent's efforts, and the local technical staff vowed no knowledge of such a misdemeanor.
Mention is made by John that during 1939 some services were supplied to the maritime service from the transmitters at Mangere, and located in a hanger operated by Union Airways. Those who frequent the present Auckland Airport will be aware of the Aviation Golf Club. This was a site for the receiving antennas in those days. This all took place pre 1939 when the present ZLD was being planned and temporary buildings were being erected to house the operators. This first building was near where the present houses are located and was the gardener's cottage. This building is no longer in existence.
Cables of 100 pair were laid to the transmitting station in Oliver Road at this time.
Several of the technicians were keen yachtsmen. When it came to do a re paint of the vessel the station blow lamp would be borrowed to assist with the job. Wally Hirvan spent many hours burning off the old paint and feeling satisfied that at the end of the day he had done the job well, stood back to admire his handiwork. He had forgotten about where he had left the blow lamp pointing. The inevitable happened when a small spark was carried by the breeze and set fire to the gorse bank, and in no time it was ablaze.
The gentle wind pused it up the bank and towards the Superintendent's house. Poor Wally, with heart pounding, rushed up the bank through the smoke, to raise the alarm only to be met by an angry Superintendent himself. Both parties could be seen in confrontation with arms waving and raised voices, but no one got close enough to record exactly what exchange took place, during which time the local fire brigade and fire hoses had extinguished the burn off.