Friday, 11 March 2011

Ring the changes

More from OPU's retro cataloguing boxes this week! These Post Office publications demonstrate how image and design were being used to recruit staff. They also reflect the changes in the industry at the time. The recruitment leaflet from 1971 looks like this: The leaflet looks like this in 1972: The people in the photos look more glamorous and the photos more polished. The clashing orange background has been replaced by a less eye-wrenching colour. Unlike the leaflets for telephonists issued at the same time, these are aimed at both men and women. Perhaps the newer, revamped leaflet's function was to boost the Post Office's recruitment as they expanded in the early 1970's. The Post Office was busy selling itself to its potential employees: "Or else you are working on management duties...which is every bit as interesting!" This large expansion was due to the Post Office Act 1969. Services separated and became specialized for greater efficiency, with exchanges growing in size and technology to accomodate STD and international dialling. Ten years later the Conservatives split telecommunications away from the Post Office. In 1981 the British Telecommunications Act saw the creation of British Telecom. (Photos show 'Become a telecommunications traffic officer' leaflets from 1971 & 1972, shelfmark GPD.21)

Another day at the office

So, here is a glimpse of life in the OPU office! Hope you appreciate our fab retro clothing.
Only joking - these are photos from 1970's Post Office recruitment leaflets, although the retro part applies to the cataloguing, which my colleagues have been doing.

These colourful publications tell us a lot about attitudes to women in the workplace as well as showcasing some groovy fashions. The 1971 leaflet declares that any lady between 15 and 59 years old can be a "telephone girl." The tone of the language reveals that women were seen to be seeking employment which involved "helping people, smoothing out their troubles," but was fun and sociable: "You will be at the centre of'll work with lots of friendly girls, all as nice as you, in pleasant surroundings. Sounds good, doesn't it."
Compare this with the leaflet for men: "It is interesting work - STD handles all routine calls - with friendly people. It is the sort of job which might suit you very will give you a profitable skill."
However, after the Equal Pay Act 1970 came into force in 1975, the leaflets reflect a change in attitude. "Dial the World as a day telephonist" from 1978 is aimed at both sexes and there is no reference to ladies' working hours giving them time for "that special hair-do or shopping spree."

Watch out for more retro gems as my colleagues continue to update the catalogue.

(Photos show parts from Clerical Officer leaflet (1972) and a selection of Post Office leaflets from OPU's collection, shelfmark GPD.21)