Norm Baglin had served with the 14th Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front. Almost exactly the same age as John Treloar, he began work in 1920 as a storeman and later an attendant in the Exhibition Building. He soon became a 'temporary clerk', and remained temporary for nearly twenty years, possibly through the workings of the old Public Service rules for Third Division Officers, for he later went to night school to complete his Intermediate Certificate and qualify for permanency. Norm's the portly, white-haired man with the RSL badge accepting the papers, a picture from 1947.
Though the old Memorial was a small workplace it manifest a curious compound of formality and informality, especially under Treloar's sobre hand. A week before Christmas in 1935 Treloar, who had worked closely with Baglin for fifteen years, wrote to him in a letter headed 'PERSONAL', but began 'Dear Mr Baglin'. Treloar continued '… with the completion of our transfer from Melbourne to Canberra, I feel I ought to thank you for the splendid way in which you have carried out your duties'. How far is this from today's tick-in-the-box 'Business Management Performance Feedback Scheme'? Not until 1938 did Treloar address Baglin as 'Norman'. He seems to have preferred 'Norm', and he comes across as a more racy character than one might expect from the old Memorial.
Norm hadn't followed Treloar and his colleagues to Canberra. He preferred to remain in Melbourne, not, it seems for family reasons, but perhaps because he revelled in the sporting life of the southern capital. He swapped duties with a salesman willing to become a clerk and, equipped with a motor car and a mileage allowance he grew into the job. In requesting an allowance Norm asked Tas Heyes to send him 'a cheque that I can cash at "Young & Jacksons" - the celebrated Melbourne pub - & not one of those beastly cheques which has to be paid to my Banking a/c (when I have one)'. His file includes allusions to the fortunes of his VFL team, Geelong, and to horse racing. Norm's personal file is full of complicated calculations for mileage allowances. In October 1940 a colleague suggested that the sudden submission of a claim 'makes me wonder if possibly it has some relation to your following the sport of kings'. 'I never think of sending in a claim', Norm breezily wrote to Arthur Bazley, 'until I have a severe attack of the "shorts"'. Given a special dispensation by the Public Service Board to work on after turning 65, Norm retired at the age of 68 in 1962.
The Memorial has always been closely associated with the writing and publication of the official histories. A glimpse of Gavin Long's troubles in the 1950s gives an insight into the old Memorial through the eyes of the medical historian, Dr Allan Walker. [insert photo 12 106066]. These are the Second World War official historians, with Allan Walker the silver-haired gentleman to the left of the doorway.
The early 'fifties were the Second World War official history's busiest years, with drafts arriving from authors, to be edited or circulated for comment. Bound by Public Service regulation Long was able to obtain approval for two evenings of overtime per month. The dominance of the Public Service Board (located across what is now the lake in Barton) is apparent in the matter of Mrs Glynis Pope's re-classification. From 1948, Long repeatedly reported that lack of typing assistance was 'very seriously impeding production of the war history'. He sought approval from the Board for Mrs Pope, a typist working for Allan Walker, to be re-classified from Typist Grade 1 to Typist Grade 2. To achieve this promotion, which involved an increase in Mrs Pope's salary of twelve pounds a year, Long had negotiated for a year with a Mr Peverill and a Mr Laird, Public Service Board inspectors. The story is taken up by a satirical parody in Allan Walker's hand, entitled 'Peverill' and placed on the file in retribution.
One day with buds on every tree
The Laird of Barton came,
An angel from the PSB
Pervasive, shy and tame
He held within his clutching hand
A bunch of formal files,
With regulations neatly planned
To beat Departments' wiles
He sat and tried with furrowed brow
Things medical to imbibe,
Deciding if he could endow
Promotion on the scribe …
The Editor long and wordily
The angel then engages,
But still the end could not foresee
As controversy rages …
And as he watched the angel go,
And kept the faintest hope
That he may kindly yet bestow
A blessing on our Pope
This delightful vignette illuminates the administrative atmosphere in which Long and his colleagues worked, and beyond it the little world of old Canberra. It's a world conjured up for me by this photograph: