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Athol Bulmer





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I had the great good fortune of working for and with Athol on two occasions.

During my first encounter, he was the Chief Passenger Officer (CPO) in charge of the Elizabeth St Booking hall, and I was a JCT in the Passports and Visas cell just outside his office at the Hunter Street end of the building, and later as the much put-upon officer responsible for the CPO file, situated beside the Cashier and under the escalators, and then in 1964 and ’65 as one of Athol’s spear carriers writing tickets and doing fare quotes in his Booking Hall.

We’d work together again, this time as equals when we setup the Inflight Sales Program which allowed FSDs to “sell and report” seats, within a pre-agreed quota, on all Qantas services. The paperwork would be put ashore at the next port, and if the sale was urgent, details would be telexed back to DPRC, otherwise the slip would go to Sydney in the OCS. It made us a lot of money over the 4 or 5 years it operated.

Athol would customarily enter Qantas House via the northern lift lobby and make his way to his office with frequent stops to say hello. Invariably there’d be a group of staff standing around the water cooler near the glass doors at the southern end, and these idlers would be greeted with the admonition “groups of one!”

Athol’s man management skills probably wouldn’t get much coverage in present day manuals but they worked well, and with John O’Sullivan (Jos), Tony Holland and Stan Booth as his deputies, he ran a happy and productive department.

He wouldn’t talk much about “his war” and there was low level speculation that he’d flown aeroplanes in the Pacific Theatre.

Purely by chance, I was able to put that rumour to bed, when I found, in the Australian War Museum’s records, a crayon drawing by Roy Hodgkinson of a Pilot Officer Francis Fethers chatting with a Corporal Athol Bulmer as the latter arms and fits a couple of 250 lb bombs to a Boston Light Bomber in Port Moresby. Athol was an Armourer. No wonder he smoked heavily. See if interested.

There was, in those far off days, a printing firm with offices in Laurel Street Willoughby, called Mockridge and Bulmer, who printed a lot of Qantas’s stationery including baggage tags, and I’ve often wondered if Athol was a part of that family.

A good bloke and one of many to whom I’ll raise a glass and a toast to “absent friends” on the 16th November 2020.

John McHarg

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