Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 9 - Building Industry Long Service Leave Board

The Secretary of the Building Industry Long Service Leave Board was Keith Turner, the Administration Manager, Helmut Glenk and I was the Finance & Systems Manager. The Chairman of the Board was Mr Fred Watts of the Master Builders Association. The B.I.L.S.L.B. was created to provide portability of long service for workers in the building industry who changed jobs from employer to employer as each project was completed. The “Three Amigos” set up our first office on the ground floor of the State Superannuation Board building in Spring Street and started the process of creating an organisation to give effect to the legislation. We proposed an organisational structure that was accepted by the Board and the Public Service Board and started advertising for positions in the Government Gazette. In the meantime, I started specifying the computer system that was required to maintain the records to prospective members of the Building Industry Long Service Leave Fund. Once the three of us were happy with the results, the job was put out to tender. This was the first opportunity that I had of hand picking my staff and I made sure that the best staff from the State Superannuation Board and the Housing Commission whom I had worked with were given jobs that they were suited for.

Before staff started arriving, we selected two floors (I think it was the 6th and 7th Floors) at the Cinema Centre Offices in 140 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Furniture and fittings were ordered, together with in IBM Computer that was installed in a separately air-conditioned Computer Room.

It was a memorable day when the first staff arrived and set about establishing their working environment and documentation and procedures. It turned out be a mammoth task to find the retrospective records of all people who had worked in the building industry, going back some 40 years. Dale Orloff, a fellow burgher from Ceylon, Bob Simonton, Neil Forrest, Kevin Cassidy and others whose names I cannot recall joined me in the administration of the Finance & I.T.Section of the BILSLB. BILSLB Offices at 140 Bourke Street, Village Cinema Centre

The mammoth task of verifying retrospective work histories of thousands of former and current workers in the building industry was no mean task and once this was finished, the recording of part-time and full-time work histories of the current work force began in earnest.
Arthur Anderson & Company installed a very good I.B.M. 360 Computer System that was sufficient to start the recording process and this, with the help of our I.T.Manager, Jim Anderson, was improved in time to integrate with other software.

An extract from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, explains the computers capabilities.

The IBM System/360 (S/360) was a mainframe computer system family first announced by IBM on April 7, 1964, and sold between 1964 and 1978. It was the first family of computers designed to cover the complete range of applications, from small to large, both commercial and scientific. The design made a clear distinction between architecture and implementation, allowing IBM to release a suite of compatible designs at different prices. All but the most expensive systems used microcode to implement the instruction set, which featured 8-bit byte addressing and binary, decimal and floating-point calculations.

The System/360 models announced in 1964 ranged in speed from 0.034 MIPS[1] to 1.700 MIPS (50 times that speed),[2] with 8 kB and up to 8 MB of internal main memory,[2] though the latter was unusual, and up to 8 megabytes of slower Large Core Storage (LCS). A large system might have 256 kB of main storage.
An IBM System/360-20 (front panels removed), with IBM 2560 MFCM (Multi-Function Card Machine)
Contrasting with normal industry practice, IBM created an entire series of computers (or CPUs) from small to large, low to high performance, all using the same instruction set (with two exceptions for specific markets). This feat allowed customers to use a cheaper model and then upgrade to larger systems as their needs increased without the time and expense of rewriting software. IBM made the first commercial use of microcode technology to accomplish this compatibility, employing it in all but the largest models.

It was hard work and a lot of over-time work was required to meet very tight deadlines.
Some week-ends when Joan was not working the family would drive down to Leopold to spend the week-end with Joan’s parents and visit her brother Peter and his family and her sister Sue and her family.
1961 Austin Healey Sprite “Bug Eye”

Like all good things, they come to an end one day.
With the publication of Germain Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” and the women of Australia, including Joan, wanting to become more independent, the marriage started to unravel. We decided to live separate lives with no questions asked about where we had been, etc.
Joan bought herself and Austin Healey Sprite sports car and I invested in an MG “B” and the Nissan Station Wagon remained the family vehicle.

The children were well looked after either by Joan or myself, depending on who was at home at the time and this continued until one day Joan advised me that she was moving out of the house, but would be leaving me with the children.
MG B Sports – 1961

The die had been cast and it was then up to me to arrange for child minders to arrive in the morning and get Jacqueline and Christopher dressed and given breakfast and then taken to School or Kindergarten and minded for the rest of the day until I returned from work in the evening. The pressure was horrendous, but I was lucky to have found two women, namely Barbara Anthony and Kaye Anderson, who loved the children, helped me to look after them and life continued as usual until the start of term holidays. Camping at Lake Eppalock

Joan had moved into a rented house in Caulfield with two female friends and would pick up Jacqueline and Christopher once a fortnight on the Friday night and would bring them back home on Sunday night. During this period I tried very hard to not disadvantage the children’s life and on one occasion with Peter and Vernice Freer’s youngest daughter Jennie took the three of them on a camping holiday to Lake Eppalock, where we had been before. It was an interesting time, putting up the tent with their help and having several outings with them during the week-end. The Datsun Station Wagon came in very handy to transport us all and our gear.

This arrangement continued, until the term school holidays, when I got a telephone call from Joan to say that the children would not be staying with me any more and that she had made arrangements to look after them herself. I was devastated and confused and on the Monday morning made an appointment to see a lawyer. Unfortunately, I was advised that a legal battle would cost a small fortune and that in the end there was no guarantee that I would win. I reluctantly agreed to a custody agreement and went about changing my life without the children. The change had a bad effect on Christopher who at times would refuse to get out of my car when I took him back to his mother’s house and cry until I carried him into the premises. With time, they settled down and eventually, Joan bought a house in East Brunswick and moved in there by herself with the children.

This period of my life is like a bad dream, but one has to survive and this I did by joining a social group named “Parents without Partners”. They held a dance every Saturday night at various venues and one took oneself there in the hope of meeting someone who was in the same situation as myself.

I met my future wife Ruth Moyle (nee Hale) at one of the dances and we started going out together. We used to meet at her house in Ferntree Gully or she would stay at 10 Gillon Court, Oakleigh from time to time. Ruth’s children, Carolyn, Robert and Phillip got on well with my children, Jacqueline and Christopher and we then decided to live together after selling our own homes. I had come to a financial settlement with Joan regarding our own assets and when we sold both houses we decided to build a home that would accommodate the five children and ourselves. After much looking we bought a block of land in Tecoma in the Dandenongs. We engaged “Merchant Builders” to build us their “Studio House” with certain modifications on a sloping block of land that overlooked Melbourne.
The Rowlands Merchant Builders Studio House in Terrys Avenue, Tecoma

After both houses were sold, we rented a house in Boronia while the house at Tecoma was being built. I had met Neil Crozier, a fellow Burgher from Sri Lanka, when I started work at the State Superannuation Board and we became good friends with his wife Helen and their two sons, Damien and Mathew who were also about the same age as the five children of our combined family. We used to visit each other at regular intervals and I recall a wine bottling and BBQ that took place at our house with fond memories. It was during this time that Ruth’s Dad, Douglas Hale met his future wife Francis O’Kane and we met her for the first time when they came to dinner at our house in Boronia.

In the meantime, Joan and the children had moved into a house in Camberwell and the children would come for alternate week-ends to Boronia. Joan had purchased a Mini Moke and the children recall one time when she took all 5 of them for a trip in the car.

One day I visited the premises of a Consulting Engineer in Ferntree Gully to arrange for a soil test on the property in Tecoma. The receptionist was a Burgher lady who I recognised, but could not put a name to. A few days later I had a phone call from John Rodie who was a friend that I knew when we lived in Colombo – it turned out that the lady who I recognised was his wife Toni Rodie. I arranged to see them at their house in Glen Waverley and Ruth and I visited them at our first opportunity. We renewed our acquaintance and from then on have been good friends to date.

We had obtained the necessary permission from the various authorities who controlled the district and the building permit from the local council. I recall the day when we had to cut down a number of mountain ash trees that were growing on the building envelope. When the bulldozers started pushing the huge trees over, our neighbours who were “greenies” could not believe what was happening before their eyes. The Contractor removed the tree trunks and left behind all the branches of the canopy at the bottom of the block for us to clear. I questioned the Supervisor of Merchant Builders about this but could not get a satisfactory answer from them. The excavation of the split level was completed and construction started soon thereafter. We visited the construction site on a regular basis and one day noticed that the bricks on one wall had been erected with the face of the brick on the inside. We notified Merchant Builders who had the wall demolished and laid correctly. Other than some small deficiencies that were corrected, the house was finished to our satisfaction and we moved in our furniture with the help of friends.

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