Historical information

Letter of Reference for Miss Margaret Burn detailing her work as a bookkeeper, machine operator, typist, and stenographer over seven years at Dennys Lascelles Limited.

The letter details her leaving the company as she married in 1939. In the same year, Ms Burn returned to the office owing to the shortage of staff caused by various employees being called away for Military Training. Included in the staff called away for military training was her newlywed husband, Mr Jack Ganly. A fellow employee of Dennys, the Ganly name was well known within the company, with three generations of the Ganly family working at Dennys.

Margaret worked at Dennys for 7 years during the 1930s. The Letter of Reference is accompanied with a story written by Margaret about her time working at the company.

WORKING CONDITIONS & OFFICE WORK DUTIES. Written by Margaret Burn in 2021. Worked at Dennys Lascelles in the 1930s.

In the 1930s coming out of the Depression, jobs were hard to come by and had to be clung to by efficiency and subserviency. There was no union to protect workers – bosses could be tough and rough.

Dennys Lascelles revolved around fortnightly wool sales in the “season” – September to May. Sale day was always a day of suppressed excitement. Preparation from a clerical point of view was complete and we now awaited the aftermath of the actual wool auction. The building teemed with people. There were country people down to see their wool sold, buyers of many nationalities, or from the big cities, who were coming in and out of the building all day. Their role was to inspect the acres of wool bales displayed on the show floors; however, caterers were present to feed clients, and there was plenty of social interactions on top of business.

The office staff did not go home but waited until the first figures came back from the wool sales and the machines went in to action, both human and mechanical, preparing the invoices for the buyers’ firms. This comprised of lists of lot numbers, weights, prices per lb., and the total prices paid. A lot of this was done by old-school typewriters, making this work a big, heavy, tiring job. Before the finished lists could be dispatched, they were collated on an “abstract”. The lists had to balance with the catalogue from which the invoices had been prepared. This never happened automatically. All the paperwork had to be split up amongst pairs of workers and checked until discrepancies were found. This would happen until midnight but occasionally went until 2 or 3 am. Once complete, the invoices could then be rushed off to the buyers’ firms usually in Melbourne, and hire cars took the staff home.

It was back on the job the next morning, usually around 8.30. The office hours varied according to the size of the sale and work involved. Some days started as early as 8 and could finish around 5.30. The second phase of work began with the account sales to be prepared for the sellers of the wool. These detailed all the weights, descriptions of wool, brands, and prices. One Sales account could have multitudes of lot numbers, all needing to be individually described. Various charges needed to be deducted such as finance for woolpacks, extra stock, or farmers who were given a loan to live on during the season. Details of how payment was to be made was also noted, whether the seller was to be paid by cheque, to a bank, or credited to their account with the company (which often left the seller still in debt).

For a couple of months in the winter, things were quieter when staff took holidays and were sometimes given afternoons off. But there were still weekly skin sales and stock sales around the state. The annual end of June figures to be prepared for a big company like Dennys with branches all around the state also kept the staff busy. In good years there was sometimes a bonus.

On sale days there was a bar open for the clients and wool buyers. This added to the excitement for the young girls, who were strictly barred from using it, but somehow managed to sneak a gin and tonic. This is how I had my first ever, before the evening meal.
There was also the romantic notion in some minds, with all the influx of males, that some of us might end up on a wealthy station, or be noticed by an exotic buyer. To my knowledge, this never happened at Dennys Lascelles Limited.

Group staff photo at Dennys Lascelles Limited.
Margaret Burn. Age 18 or 19.
Jack Ganly (Margaret’s future husband). 22.

Physical description

Sheet of paper shorter in length than A4 size, creamed with age. Paper has a header for Dennys, Lascelles Limited’s Head Office at 32 Moorabool Street, Geelong. Body of paper is made up of 3 paragraphs in a typewritten message of black ink with subheadings highlighted with a red underline. The text is finished with a signature at the bottom of the paper.

Paper is accompanied by its original envelope. Envelope has typewritten text in black ink with a red underline located at the centre. It also has return to sender instructions to Dennys, Lascelles Limited in the lower left-hand corner.

Inscriptions & markings

Typewritten text, black and red ink.
Multiple. See multimedia