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There would not be many people nowadays, if they could see these systems working, who would not say this is a computer system. It is interesting to note that the Julius Tote TIMs often outlived the Julius Tote era and continued to operate with new Minicomputer based totalisator systems.
Below is part three of a three part document which is an extraction from the memoirs of David Hamilton. David was the New South Wales Operations Manager for Automatic Totalisators. He would have spent considerable time in the Tote House shown above. David is the most modest man I have ever met. He had a nickname at Automatic Totalisators Commander Hamilton. It was not until after I retired that I discovered he used to be a Commander in the Royal Navy. In the text below, which are extracts from his memoirs, some information presented in part one is required if you are reading this without having read part one. Firstly, his wife is Erella and David has also referred to her as Matron E, or just E. David mentions Fred Armstrong who was the Australasian operations manager. I find David's tote recollections very familiar as they mirror mine! David Mentions Del Elliott, Sid Williams and Asa Rand who I remember well from my time with ATL.
One soon got to know some people well. The Chief Stipendiary Steward. He and the Stewards (Stipes) under him are responsible for monitoring every race, track work, stables, drug testing, race rules, race protests; he would often appear after a meeting in the Committee bar where we would have a chat and a drink with other Club members and officials. He was a keen fly fisherman and got offers from umpteen racehorse owners to use the facilities on the properties they owned in the bush. I joined him in some of the expeditions.
Others I knew, AJC racecourse manager. I don't know if he was ever contacted by Wal but I made a point of seeing him at every meeting. After some months I started keeping a record on tote ticket sales, per meeting at each window, at each race venue - not done before, to my knowledge. It soon became obvious that, in some areas windows could be closed. Whilst the Club paid for the tote sellers wages I considered it was ATL's duty to keep the wage bill as low as possible. Harry would not take any notice of me to start with but slowly realised that I knew what I was doing and eventually agreed, without arguing, if I suggested closing a window. Basically I aimed that every open window should make a profit for the Club. Obviously the 50c window would have to sell a lot of tickets to cover overheads. It did not do, however, to close too many - this could cause elderly ladies to buy from higher value windows and there is nothing more annoying to a regular punter than an oldie in front emptying her handbag on the counter to scrabble for coins when the race is about to jump. Harry eventually retired and he was allowed to buy his Club car as part of his farewell gift. The day before he left he went to the garage and bought 5 new tyres and put that on the Club bill. When the new man took over he queried the contractor, who delivered all the grog, why there were 13 bottles to every dozen - Harry's perks. He was relieved by a chap who got involved in trotting later.
Sir Clyde Kennedy, Chairman of the STC was friendly and easy to talk to, I would class as very nice. One Saturday at Rosehill the heavens opened before the first race and flooding caused cancellation of the meeting. Sir Clyde sent for me and asked if I could organise staff for a meeting on the Monday. I said we could and he suggested that I return to the Committee room after that had been done. In there was a huge spread of food and wine and some of the Stipes, the racecourse manager, Dept. of Sport & Recreation inspectors and others. We had a great afternoon and when I left there was still flooding on the main road and I drove very carefully home. Erella asked if it had been a good meeting and I said yes. I never told her it had been cancelled.
STC Secretary Richard Boulter and his wife Royce became friends; we visited each others homes and continued after he retired. He had served in North Africa, including the siege of Tobruk. I met someone who was also there who told me he was known as Wah Boulter because he was always calling for 'more barbed Wah'. He wrote a history - "The Sydney Turf Club Forty Years On" a history of the first forty years 1943-1983 He kindly sent me a copy with his personal note on the inner page.
There were only two people, ever, admitted to the STC as Members without references, Sir Robert Askin NSW Premier, and myself .
Members were invited to lunch in rotation and were seated among the racehorse owners and other guests. Once I shared a table with, amongst others, a couple who had a business in Papua New Guinea. They owned a horse called TANGFU and said it had a chance, so I backed it and it won at 10-1, not bad. I asked them what the name meant and was told Typical Air New Guinea F--- Up.! Apparently a thoroughly disorganised outfit.
The Harold Park President, Stan Hedges, ex three times Mayor of Lidcombe, a keen fisherman and general enjoyer of life. I stayed at his fishing lodge in the Snowys a few times. Very well fitted out for the main purpose. Two showers, four bunks in one room, two in another, his own ensuite, good sized kitchen and large wine store. Situated on the shingle banks of the Eucumbene Dam, one of the Snowy Mountain scheme dams, it had two roller doors at the back facing the water; open them and find two dinghies outboard engines attached, each boat had its own electric winch. Easy as anything to lower them down to the water, the level of which varied depending on the pumping in the Snowy system. Off early AM with a net, [Pedro the Fisherman] which was used when the fish were not biting well - usually winter time. Pedro was stretched across one of the tiny inlets and the fish scared into it. [This was illegal] Meanwhile I started a large bonfire from all the timber littering the shore line and had a bottle of sloe gin handy. As it was tradition to have a wee tot before a hunt set out, or before a winter pheasant shoot at home, I thought it would go down well here - it did - the whole bottle. The boat came back with 4 or 5 nice trout which I cleaned on the spot and just about lost all feeling in my hands, while the providers were recovering in front of the fire; we had a splendid breakfast.
On another occasion Stan and I paddled quietly along trolling and every now and then I dipped our glasses in the water, put a bit of the ice that was floating about, and in with a wee dram for a perfect drink in perfect surroundings. He also carried a small folding iron grill so we could pull up on the shore and cook a fish if we wished.
Some years on one of ATL's general managers was the sort that tries to get rid of all the long service staff so he can mould the new boys to his satisfaction. He rang Stan, and told him he was thinking of making changes including me. Stan said that if he got rid of me ATL's contract would be cancelled. This GM was one of those, luckily rare, persons without any sense of humour. Absolutely impossible to work with. He finally got the push because he was using the Company's flyby points to take his family on holiday. He, having worked in the US, insisted that each department wrote a Mission Statement; load of bull.
The NSWTC Secretary was good and his Assistant also - her husband was a policeman who Invited me to a police dinner once and, thank goodness I had a hire car. He was another who always wore uniform when shopping, see Nirimba. Interesting that the trotting Club advertised for a female assistant and only had one applicant, this in the 80s when jobs were difficult to find.
A very nice man, and ex-Serviceman, Bill Small, was the racecourse manager, we often had supper at the track together. He used to put poison out around the track at Harold Park at 0500 for the pigeons and collect the corpses at 0630 before the do-gooders got out of bed. Pigeons always seem to be champion crappers. Sadly another friend who died of cancer, I went to see him a couple of times at Concord Hospital, when it was still veterans only.
There were other GMs, I recall one who came on loan from Aquila Steel, a very large man. He was the only one during my time in ATL that came to my office one day, plonked himself down and asked me if I had any problems. I did not have any at that time but mentioned a certain club and a few things that went on. He said "TEFE" pronounced teffy. I queried this and he translated "tell em f- em" One of his favourite replies to uncooperative bodies.
The Sec. GBOTA, was friendly and easy to get on with but one cannot say the same for the other association, generally a rough mob who also did not look after the track and its environs very well. Only went into their committee room rarely until one evening I was shouted at in a very rude way for letting my sellers drink while on duty. When I checked up, one of the regular punters who always went to the same window with the same girl seller gave her a drink of water as it was a hot evening. This happened a lot at the races, regular punters going to a favourite operator. I never went in to the Committee room again; if they wanted to complain they had to find me. There are still a lot of greyhounds being shot illegally because they did not win races.
We did have a windfall at Wentworth Park. In the tote house was a machine that worked in reverse. If a mistake was made by a seller by producing the ticket on the incorrect runner, it could be taken off with the machine. A doubles ticket was accepted back from the punter as it was wrong and before the Supervisor could take it off, the race started and we were stuck with the $50 it cost. But - the combination won and we got about $20,000. Don't worry we kept it, it compensated for the very rare mistakes the human dividend calculators made. The worst one I recall was at Gosford - quite ruined my day.
After I became Manager NSW I was able to win more contracts. Firstly I was accompanied by a sales team to one Club, and listened to them telling Club officials what they would get, rather than asking what they would like. I went to Fred Armstrong and told him that from then on I would do the negotiations myself. The matter of charges to the Club for our operation was on a sliding scale. First amount would cover our costs, second amount our profit, and after that a bit of cream on the top. The third section went mainly to the Club so our charge dropped as each increase in turnover was reached. With Gosford, a leading country gallop Club, where the drop was, say at every extra $4000 of turnover, I dropped it to a smaller charge every $3000. This was pleasing to the Club but actually did not make much difference. The Chairman was delighted and we won the contract. Another was Hawkesbury Gallops, in between Sydney and the Blue Mountains, was interesting to me because the Chairman was an ex Battle of Britain pilot. Relaxed like a country meeting.
With the Bulli Trotting Club, having looked at the operation I told them that I would double their turnover within 6 months if we had the contract. When that happened the Sec. presented me with a fine set of 6 whisky glasses engraved with trotting horses in action - a very kind thought.
Richmond G.R.C - the Sec. was sending details of my offer to the Wyong Club further north, also a contender. Luckily the Chairman was a very nice bloke and took that leakage into account. The watchword I used at all meetings with the Committee "no hidden charges" - the price I quoted covered every item. I won that contract. Later Del and I visited the Chairman, on invitation, several times for lunch at his home. That started the ATL gossips going! At the race meetings his wife ran the hot food outlet and made the tastiest hamburgers I have ever had. Guess where that Sec. went when he left Richmond. At one race on one night in the season the Club gave all the takings to the Blacktown District Hospital children's fund. So I attended that night and while Erella, in her Matrons uniform, did and said all the right things accepting the cheque, I sat in the Committee room, betting from the member's tips. Did not get one winner! I also had a small tote house, with three windows, built on the far side of the bookies ring.
Reminds me of the things I had to go through on behalf of the Hospital Funds over the years. Sometimes I knew how Prince Phillip felt - walking one pace behind the Boss. One visit was to the Penrith Leagues Club, who were to present a cheque to Erella for the Children's Ward improvements. Sat down and the Sec. asked us what we would like to drink and I chose a beer. Back he came with a loaded tray, tripped and I had a beer shower. And sat there all evening getting stickier and stickier. In those days each hospital was independent, ie it was run by the Chief Executve Officer, the Medical Superintendant and the Director of Nursing. They answered to a Committee made up of local businessmen. The hospital finances were a part of it. The local population considered the hospital as part of the community family. Everyone helped in different ways, Companies donated money or bought some apparatus, Ladies volunteered to be Pink Ladies and visited the sick, Erella cooked about fifty Xmas cakes every year. The Committee consisted of local business men and the two local MPs, one Liberal and one Labour both helped, often together. The hospital always had money in the bank. Along came the Government and introduced Medicare. Hospitals all over the Country were nationalised and their hard won bank savings, running into millions were snatched from them. Of course no local would donate anything to a Government department any longer. Again, that is called progress.
Other Clubs that I signed up were Bulli dogs, Dapto dogs and Bathurst Trots which was really too far away. The reason I made a point of winning these tracks was that it kept the rivals out, stopped them creeping in around the edges and slowly whittle our domain away.
As computers were getting smaller I suggested that a trailer/caravan would be ideal as a control centre for the computer and the dividend calculators [human]. This being approved I hunted high and low to find a Company to build one. No one was interested. Finally found a bloke who said he could do it. Gave him all the details of the equipment, dimensions, weights, size etc and let him get on with it. The workmanship was OK and everything neat and tidy. Took it to our place and put in some gear - the van promptly sat down on one end - the axle was in the wrong place.!!!! When it was fixed we used it at the smaller tracks, like Bathurst. - 2014, I see that they are to spend $7 million to refurbish, not before time.
Myself and the engineers rostered would arrive a couple of hours before the first race, although on many occasion they had been working on the equipment for some time before. I would check that tests were going satisfactorily and say hallo to race officials, especially the Club Secretary. The casual staff did not come under my jurisdiction until selling started, usually half an hour before the first race. Therefore they were able to buy a drink at a racecourse bar and have a cigarette, if they wished but they knew they were in trouble if I could smell anything on their breath.
I nearly always, before selling started, had one drink with the Union representative, John Auld, as a good way of keeping in touch and getting his thoughts on matters concerning his members. We remained on very good terms during my time with ATL, and never had any industrial trouble. There was an interesting clause in their Union Rules. If the payout clerks lost any money by misreading the ticket presented or lost money any other way they had to refund it. This rule was put to good use by some of the old stagers. Go short before Xmas by pocketing some cash and repay it over some weeks in the New Year. One thing I forbade, when they came into use, were pocket calculators and sure enough one payer, at Randwick, got the decimal in the wrong place and paid out some hundreds of dollars instead of tens. We were able to trace the person and took him to court because if honest he would have returned the money at the window. This is where the vultures win - every court appearance was postponed for some reason by the defence and eventually we gave up. All I could hope for was that the solicitor would charge the man more than he stole. The payer lost his job as he did not want to, or could not afford to, pay the money back out of his own pocket.
Talking of payout clerks there must have been great temptation at times but we very rarely had trouble. I organised credit checks through a well-known company and Fred sent for me and questioned the move saying it was a waste of money and ATL had never done it. I stuck to my guns and was vindicated some weeks later when one who had applied for a job was found by the Credit Company, to owe money in three States.
Each totehouse had an area on the back wall with the usual counter and flap behind which would be a banker and sometimes an assistant or two. There was one stupid rule from the insurance companies --- because there was a lot of cash around we had to have a pistol in the main bank. A huge worry, no one had had any training [except me] and who, with any brains, would grab for it if some robbers came through the door. The armoured van personnel did not carry weapons! At the end of the meeting all the cash from the other totes was counted and amalgamated and packed into old ammunition tins, collected by Armaguard, owned by Mayne Nickless and taken to the main Commonwealth Bank, in the City who counted it early next morning. I found it interesting that it was always short by small sums - say $30 - usually coins. One time, after arrangement with the Bank, I took a team in and we counted the money under their eyes. We showed a surplus, as I thought we would. When you think about it ,the tellers counted a hell of a lot of money every day and if they went short a few dollars after every count it would be put down to the error of the depositor who would write off such a piddling amount. All those little amounts would add up over the days, weeks, months. Nice pickings !!! Anyway I hoped we got the message through that we were awake to the possibilities and to leave us alone.
One Saturday at Rosehill, Armaguard collected all the tins as usual, drove off and everyone went home. Ted started loading the machines to take to another venue and came across a money tin lying on the ground, opened it and it was full. He put it in his car and started ringing around. No answer anywhere and finally got in touch with me. There was nothing I could do except get him to bring it to me which I thought to be a dangerous, suppose he broke down on the way. I told him to put his car in his garage and lock the car and garage. When Armaguard were contacted on Monday they behaved as though Ted Evans had stolen the money - some of us got very cross at their behaviour.
Familiarity breeds contempt and at Menangle I wandered over to the banking house - empty with all that money around. I Saw the banker and two assistants outside watching the race, they did not see me. I put about $400 dollars in my pocket. After the last race, when balancing the meeting, big panic, recounting and worry. Banker told me he was short and I reminded him that he would have to pay up. So it went on until I produced the cash. He never left the bank again - I did not lay him off as he was an old timer with a good record.
There was a suspicion that an assistant banker was stealing small amounts of money and a long serving banker told me who he thought it was. So, with his help I had some banknotes marked and their numbers recorded. It did not take long, we got him at Canterbury. Another banker who always worked in a tote house at Harold Park was an expert at "tatting" and used to bring a basket of bits and pieces to work so he could do a bit in the quiet periods. One night he pulled a bit of cloth out of the basket - a needle flew up straight into his eye. Awful business.
Over one period we started getting forged notes through the windows. I got a couple and showed them to the police who sent an appropriate officer along. He took all details and pocketed the notes. I said hey what's happening? And he replied that the notes were evidence and there was no compensation. After that I told all the payers to pass any forgeries back to a customer as change, quick smart.
The tote staff came from all walks of life: bus drivers and conductors, railway men, bank tellers, widows and housewives, all with one thing in common; a desire to earn some extra money. It also became a habit with some, almost a hobby. Some of the craftier types would go to, say, the bus station and sign on, then get a mate to look after things, come and earn his tote pay and then back to his work place and sign off. Being Government run no one ever seemed to be found out.
I gave a ticket seller's job to my niece's husband who was starting a business in the Rag trade. On one particular meeting at Randwick where we were operating a new form of betting, the Jackpot for the first time, we were so short of staff I talked Erella into manning a window but she hated it and made sure that she was never available again!! This jackpot entailed picking the winner of every race and naturally, selling stopped when the first race jumped. During the race there was a clumping of footsteps up the stairs of the main house at Randwick and Frank Packer, the biggest business name in Australia and Member of the AJC Committee, came up and told me that his friend had been a bit late and could I include his ticket in the pool. I took great delight in explaining to him, very politely, that this was not possible as it was against the law.
The Department of Sport and Recreation. A State Government outfit:
Inspectors were present at every meeting keeping an eye on all things financial, checking on bookmakers, checking on us, and generally trying to thwart skulduggery. A very nice bunch of blokes who I got to know well, both on track and socially. After a year or two I had an idea of introducing something new to the sport and would make us money. I kept the matter to myself because my experience over the years taught me to present a fait accompli which had a chance of success. Discuss an idea straight away and some will rubbish it or say no good because it will alter the status quo, which means more work etc,etc.
We printed our own ticket paper, delivered in rolls that fitted into the ticket machines - like the rolls one sees on every till, only bigger. The front of the ticket when sold to a punter would have the date, the runner number, the cost and a serial number BUT the back was blank. So why not sell that side for advertising? Most punters look at the back when buying the ticket. One could also have a lucky ticket which would get a prize. ATL could either print the adverts at a cost to the advertiser, or sell the blank rolls for someone else to print - this could produce problems. I firstly contacted a company that made all types of tickets, such as the ones called scratchies where you scratched the numbers to see if you won a prize. Two people turned up in my office, a man and a woman who was an absolute stunner. One of the prettiest women I had ever seen, an Anglo-Indian and, funnily enough, Erella and I got to meet her socially and we saw her a few weeks ago at her mother Betty's 98th birthday party. The Company concerned explained all the matters regarding production and so I had back up if needed. They made all sorts of gambling tickets.
So I started work on the Dept. of Rec. and talked and talked and talked - [and had some very pleasant long lunches]. I proposed that as a start, tobacco and beer would be great to advertise. At that time the advertising of cigarettes was starting to be frowned upon but eventually they all agreed that the average race-goer was a smoking, beer drinker anyway. After 18 months work I had their permission - whoopee. I went to the GM with all the info and possible profits and he said No. I could have wept.
I suggested another thing, which I had seen at my brother-in-law's factory in the UK. He sold generators of his own design, Puma, including turbines, all over the world. Anytime a foreigner visited he flew the appropriate national flag on his mast. A nice complement. That was knocked back too.
This is probably a suitable time to draw a line over my business career which lasted twenty years, I retired when my superannuation became available - I was 63. A farewell with a difference was given me by the Dept. of Sport and Rec. in their office, I was told this had never been done before.
Our top salesman, Peter Rolls went to Hong Kong to negotiate there, hired a flat and took his family, local thieves broke in and during the ordeal Peter was stabbed to death. Apparently a mistaken identity. The whole Company mourned.
Webmaster's note: I never met Peter Rolls, however I recall him enthusiastically hobbling around the Meadowbank factory on crutches with a broken leg acquired in a car accident in Hong Kong, during one of his rare visits back from Sha Tin when the Sha Tin project was in full swing. I knew Peter was an excellent salesman and recall him as being the Sha Tin Project Manager at the time. I have heard on multiple occasions since his death that he was the driving force behind the Sha Tin project and that he was the only one who could have ensured its success. Without him, the project failed due to inability to deliver on time.
Following are some recollections from Chris Robertson regarding Harold Park. Chris is the most informed punter on the subject of totalisators I have ever known. His reference to the two links are links to the first two parts of David Hamilton's Tote Memoirs.
My first trip outside Victoria was to Sydney, by car with three like minded school mates, in September 1973 for the National Sprint Championship greyhound race at Harold Park. It was my first interaction with a computerised on course tote. There were J11 machines operating by then, as well as the machine I can't identify, but which seems to be a predecessor to the J18. On later visits to Harold Park I saw J11 machines adapted to sell trifectas: something I had never expected to see. I can't recall Universal Totalisators at Harold Park, though I certainly remember them at the four metro racecourses, as well as Wentworth Park greyhounds. At the thoroughbred tracks Universal operated the quinellas, as well as the Extra and Daily Double. The two links from your email were fascinating reading. They are part of the anecdotal history of racecourse betting in Australia, and deserve a place where they can be accessed by those who lived through those eras, as well as those who want to know more about racing's past.
Webmaster's Note: There is so much of David's recollections that strikes very strong accords with me. I have tried to refrain from writing too much as it detracts from David's contribution. There are many things that to the reader will appear like common sense but in fact were a real problem. David, above refers to "familiarity breeds contempt". I can remember security being a major concern. In my latter years working in operations on the Brisbane and Bundamba racetracks, OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) became increasingly significant. Not only does poor tote house security policy implementation create potential for loss of money through theft, it also places the employees in the tote house being robbed at risk of injury or being traumatised by the event. Despite writing many memos to staff over the years, placing OH&S notices in the tote houses for operators to lock the door during operations and talking to operations staff to attempt to enlighten them of the reason for locked doors there were always staff who placed convenience or comfort above security. Tote houses, particularly ones containing banks could house large sums of money. The wayward operators would insist that getting up to open the door occasionally for a staff member to enter the building or to get a slight breeze well outweighed the benefit of security. Much was done to try and improve the ventilation or air conditioning in many of the old tote houses and improve the security systems to minimise the impact of staff without keys entering the building however that always came back to a matter of money and hence was problematic. Providing more keys to staff also presented a problem as this meant keys would be lost circumventing this attempt to improve security. Anyway the end result would often be that a dissenting operator would bow to the company policy and dispense with the manager's attempts to implement the policy by saying they would comply in future, however it was always just a matter of a short period of time until things went back to open tote house doors on racedays. We introduced a policy of training Supervisors on how to act during hold-ups in the hope that this would heighten awareness of the issues and result in a realisation that prevention is better than cure, however that was not particularly effective. We implemented a policy of security guards on the door of main banks. That was effective however that is back to a matter of money again! I have not met anyone in the business who has experienced a robbery who is not a firm believer in the need for tote house security.
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