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Below is part one 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. This makes Harold Park well and truly David's Domain so it is appropriate to present part one of his document here. David refers to ATL, an acronym for Automatic Totalisators Limited, which the company adopted as its new name. As David immigrated to Australia in 1969 the above image of Harold Park well pre-dates David's time there. David first visited Australia in 1944 with 3 weeks in Fremantle WA while in the Royal Navy and again in 1966 for 2 years exchange in the Royal Australian Navy as Executive Officer HMAS Nirimba. 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 realised he used to be a Commander in the Royal Navy. I knew he was an RN Pilot, as we engaged in multiple aviation conversations during the ATL years. There are people he mentions in his memoir that I have met, like Del Elliott, Sid Williams and Asa Rand during my time at Automatic Totalisators. I find David's tote recollections very familiar as they mirror mine! I too arrived in Australia on a Qantas Boeing 707 although I was a schoolboy.
In the photograph below of 892 Squadron, David is the Commanding Officer and is seated in the middle.
Having served in the Royal Navy for 29 years, and was a qualified pilot and navigator in the Fleet Air Arm [FAA], I spent my last two years 1966-68 on exchange in the RAN at Sydney, when I returned to England I resigned in order to emigrate.
Officers of 892 Sea Vixen FAW1 squadron in tropical dress uniform, taken off Aden 16th March 1961
I flew out to Australia in QANTAS 707 on 24th July 1969, the cost being £289- 7 shillings, one way economy, and was met at Mascot, [Kingsford-Smith] airport by Erella Macaulay AM, Director of Nursing at a Sydney hospital, and my fiancé. I put my gear into E's car, and we went up to Gosford and spent a few days in a motel handy to lovely beaches and rock pools. Then back to North Turramurra and settled in the home of another ex FAA pilot who most kindly put me up and put up with me while I looked for a job.
Not having any idea what sort of work I would like, and being 43, I applied for anything that looked promising in the adverts. I also registered at the local Employment Office. That did not last long because I was told to present myself every Tuesday morning, which I did until I had an interview for a position on a Tuesday. When I turned up on the Wednesday I was reprimanded by the counter clerk who said I HAD to appear on Tuesdays or else. I explained why I had been absent but this was not accepted so I demanded to see the Supervisor. He kept me waiting and waiting and waiting so I walked out, never to return.
Only two companies out of about fifty asked for references and two naval types sent appropriate letters. After a few days one of them got a reply announcing he had not got the job. How efficient!
The vast majority never replied to my applications, and, after further contact and/or interview, very few informed me of the result. The only one which entailed an IQ test was for State Manager of the Naval, Air Force and Army Institute [NAAFI]. One of the questions was "would you rather be an accountant or a fighter pilot?" Another interview was for a managerial position with David Jones, one of the leading department stores in New South Wales. The interviewer thought I was very relaxed - I should have been, I was older than he. He said "of course you have a handicap". When I asked what that was he replied, "you are English." This was the first occasion that I realised that there was sometimes bias against 'Poms', although most Aussies still referred to the 'Old Dart', the mother country. None of my umpteen applications had any success.
However, another ex-FAA pilot in Sydney was Jack Bovey Cary who had been one of my pilots in both 892 and 899. His delightful wife was the daughter of a Director of Automatic Totalisators Limited [ATL] who ran the on-course betting systems throughout the Country and also overseas. She knew that ATL was looking for a Relieving Manager and John, who was flying DC6's for Qantas on non-scheduled routes, asked her to pass on my name. I had an interview with the Company Manager, Grace, the Personnel Manager was on leave, and he pricked his ears up when he found I had worked on the first RN computer, named Poseidon, as they were in the process of converting to computer tote operations. If only I had taken that name as a hint. Later on Australian Poseidon mining shares trading, at 50 cents, started rising and went up to $250 or so in a matter of weeks.
Anyway, after about 3 months searching, I was offered two jobs at the same time - decisions decisions!! As I had no idea which I would enjoy the most I took the one with ATL, although the salary was slightly less. It was in Sydney which meant that if it did not suit me I could look around for another job, while still earning a quid. In Whyalla one was miles from anywhere and finding another job would be very difficult and going for interviews even more so. Also, Erella was Director of Nursing at a Sydney Hospital, there was no way I could expect her to throw away a great career and twiddle her fingers in Whyalla. ATL sounded right up my street as it did not involve being tied to a desk, which would have driven me mad. So I took up the post as a Relieving Manager. It's not what you know but who!!
The other was an ex Aus. Army Lieut.Colonel, Ross Jenkinson, a nice chap but very serious type. We became friends with the family. Ross felt a bit sick at an ATL function, went and sat in his car and later was found dead. We went to the funeral service.
ATL had more than 200 installations on racecourses in 30 countries, Philipines, South Africa, United States, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Indonesia, Rhodesia, Trinidad, England, Scotland, Columbia, Germany, Manila, Singapore, Pakistan, Jamaica, Nigeria, Canada, France, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Spain, Iraq, Eire, Ghana, Sweden, and India. It had subsidiary Companies in the US, Hong Kong, France, England and New Zealand.
In Australia there were Managers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, but not in the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra [ACT] or the Northern Territories [NT]. Every State had three racing codes, and we did not operate for some of the smaller Clubs. The Codes were; horse racing, the "Gallops"; trotting [later changed to pacing] races, the "Trots"; and greyhound races, the "Dogs". Managers had an Assistant in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, full time engineers for the Julius Tote mainframe systems, ticket machines, odds and result indicator operations, all of which were designed and manufactured in house. Office staff to do the paper work, including a roster clerk whose sole task was to organise the large pool of casual labour manning the tote houses on race days. The only full time staff at race meetings would be the Manager or Assistant, Engineers and sometimes the Roster Clerk. ATL also manufactured ancillary equipment such as turn-styles and had a research department looking into future requirements. They also made vehicle number plates for the NSW Government and during the war manufactured parts for aircraft.
ATL had been founded by Sir George Julius. One of his first inventions, as a young man in WA, was an electro-mechanical voting machine. This was never taken up, probably because it prevented votes being fiddled and that wouldn't suit politicians. So the machine was converted to a totalisator ["tote"] ticket selling machine at race tracks, and the first automatic tote in the world was in use in 1913, in New .Zealand I still have a bottle of port celebrating ATL's 75th anniversary, in 1988. Sir George ended up as Head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO] and other organisations such as President of the Institute of Engineers, Australia.
ATL ran on-course betting at major tracks, the cost to the Race Clubs being the hire of ticket machines, use of our engineers and the provision and management of casual tote staff [whose wages were paid by the Club]. The other Company selling Doubles tickets on some of the tracks was Universal Totes, owned and run by Bill Wells, a brilliant engineer and mathematician. We hit it off and every now and then he would ring me and suggest a lunch "to kick the cat around". He lived alone and had a daughter who was pestering him to sell the business. One time he locked himself out and I managed to climb in through a window and came out covered from top to toe in dust. He was another keen trout fisherman and usually went to NZ, the trouble there was he was not allowed to bring them back because of Quarantine laws. He finally got round them in a fashion, he was allowed to bring smoked fish back. When the trifecta [betting on first 3 horses] was introduced he would calculate the dividend and always said that it was too low and was very suspicious of the TAB.
The off-course betting was run by a semi-government Totalisator Agency Board [TAB] using small offices selling their betting tickets in towns scattered through the State. The Manager was John Robinson and the Assistant Al Smith, who had been a tail gunner in Bomber Command during the War. The TAB thought they ruled racing because as a part of the deal they allocated funds to the Clubs. Therefore the Clubs were always kowtowing to them and if, as happened with one dog track, they badly wanted new starting boxes but the TAB did not like the toilets; they got new toilets. There was a number three in their hierarchy, I kept in close touch with him as he was very cooperative.
In 1970 when I started, Wal O'Connor was NSW Manager, Peter Pierce, Assistant, Mrs Bosley, Secretary, later replaced by Nola Joyce, and some other office staff. Val Adams was NSW Chief Engineer. The Roster Clerk was Del Elliott. We also had a small office in the CBD, for the convenience of punters, where winning tickets could be cashed; that was manned by John Leech. We were lucky in being in a separate building across the road of the Head Office, but not as lucky as those well away in the other States - this discouraged visitors dropping in for a chat, another time waster!
Head Office, was in a large Art Deco era building and the Company Tote Manager was Fred Armstrong, his engineering adviser Joe Norris. Driving home one day he saw a bright rainbow across the sky, so stopped at a news agent and bought a lottery ticket. He won $10,000, not long afterwards he retired.
All operations in Australia were electro-mechanical systems except Harold Park Trots where the Company installed Australia's first computer based system using Digital Equipment Corporation PDP 8s. In those days consisting of about 6 wardrobe size metal trays down one side of the No Smoking control room.
There were two types of electro-mechanical ticket issuing machines in use, the J8, selling win and place tickets the other, J10, selling quinella and doubles tickets [covering 2 races]. Each machine sold only one value of ticket, 50c up to $50
The TAB sales were transmitted to the on-course tote and amalgamated with ours, the total then converted to show the betting odds on large mechanically operated roller blinds in frames [the "Odds Indicator"] along the top of the main totalisator building or sometimes free standing, on every race track and also on TV in TAB sales points. There were also results and dividend indicators at some tracks. If the TAB had a transmission failure, which meant we were not getting any of the off-course betting figures and had to stop selling, ATL was always blamed by the ignorant Press. "Tote Breaks Down Again". This once happened at THE meeting of the year and on THE race - The annual Miracle Mile. Never had an apology. We also had one Inter-Dominion Meeting while I was in ATL. The biggest race in the trotting world and brought New Zealand into the competition and rotated the venue every year. Stan, as host Chairman, thoughtful as ever, kindly thanked me and ATL for my efforts in his address to the audience. I think this was another poke at our GM.
Odds: An attempt at a simple explanation of the Pari-Mutuel method of betting. Two horses AA and ZZ and people bet on which will win the race. At close of betting AA has 60% of the money, odds are 4-6 on and ZZ 40%. Odds 6-4 against. All the money will go to the winner. If ZZ wins and you backed it you will receive $2.50 for every $1 invested, if AA wins you will receive $1.70 for every $1 invested. Complicate that because the Race Club takes a percentage, and the State government wants its cut, so in actual practice less than 100% goes back to the punter. The bookmaker has a different system, he returns what he likes to the punter, within reason of course. So, in this same race he pays a fee to Club, tax to Government and less or more to the punter depending what his odds were when he sold the ticket. By offering only 5-4 on ZZ.and 4-7 on AA. [$2.20 and $1.60] he increases his profit. On the other hand he can have accepted bets on an outsider, which then won at enormous odds, so that he pays out more money on that horse than the total he took on all the runners in the race.
The trouble with bookmakers is that there can be skulduggery if there is a chance of a heavily backed horse winning. On a classic race, such as the Melbourne Cup, the favourite is backed throughout the Country and the bookies may stand to lose millions. So the temptation is to "nobble" the animal [much more difficult these days as random dope tests are taken after the race] or get the jockey to "pull" the race; this could be threats or money offer. With that sort of money a half a million bribe is worthwhile! A jockey living in Sydney went home one evening and found his pet dog dead on the doorstep. It was made known to him that he had better think of his family and not try too hard in a certain race. I was at Warwick Farm races one day and backed a winner in a race at Eagle Farm, Brisbane. I never collected my winnings because it was declared a No Race; the Stipendiary Stewards found that the winner was a ring in, [another horse with similar features]. The bookmaker, a major one in Sydney who organised the scam, was fined and banned for some years.
With tote betting, generally this type of thing is unlikely as the odds are automatically calculated by the money paid through the tote and TAB windows. The difference between the two systems is - you buy a ticket from a bookmaker at the odds he displays and that is the return you get if it wins - you buy one from the tote and the price you get is at the odds the horse was when the race starts. If you are interested, and go to race meetings, check a bookies odds board and see what his percentages are on the runners. In smaller race meetings they can get to 140%+ - daylight robbery. Nowadays odds are displayed as money back for a dollar. Fred Armstrong could look at the tote odds indicator with, say, 16 starters, and instantly see if one figure was inaccurate.
Talking to a retired jockey one day he told me of his first ride, as an amateur, at a country race meeting. The other four jockeys were professional. At the starting wire he nervously said "I wonder who will win the race" and there was a chorus "You will".
Racing, however, has become a great way to launder money. Drug money and any other sort of dirty dough. I had a visit from some plain clothes Federal police investigating a certain individual - he had 9 bank accounts and the Feds asked me to have a look through my records. Sat down one day and went through umpteen cheque book stubs and found one more account in his name.
Across the track you can see the Julius Tote Barometer Indicator. I visited it one miserable cold and wet night with Val Adams. It was a scary experience. To show the odds on the board the barometer Blind / Ribbon was drawn up a channel exposing a NEON tube lighting. The visibility was excellent at the 200 metre distance. The problem with the indicator was the very high voltage used to ignite the Neon Tubes. From memory it was in excess of 800 Volts AC, On wet and frosty nights the inside of the indicator housing was aglow with spurious arcing from the cable termination at each end of the neon tubes, Thus on entry into the housing before the interior lamps was turned on it was a sight to behold sparks flying everywhere. Most alarming, Val fiddled with a control that reduced the arcing.
Whilst on the subject of Barometer Indicators and Neville Mitchell, following is another anecdote from Neville, which is about a once-off manual Barometer Indicator. Although manual odds indicators existed, Automatic Totalisators Limited provided automated betting trend information. George Julius invented the world's first odds calculator in 1927 and Julius Totes after 1927 automatically calculated odds and displayed them instead of automatically showing runner and pool total investments. Neville was reminded of this indicator which was an ATL barometer indicator display unit converted to manual operation as the race-club did not have the required equipment to drive it. Neville's anecdote about this indicator, which follows, is an example of the Ockhams Razor principle:
The photo of the Albion Park Barometer Indicator reminded me of a barometer Indicator that was designed by Alf Lesins the then chief Draftsman.
There was apparently an urgent need for some sort of cheap odds indicator for the south of Wollongong Kembla Grange Race Track. Alf came up with a design that used the normal Julius type Barometer Indicator system with a brass looped band held in a channel passing the sign written odds displays. As time and money was the driver, a design using Cyclops Scooter wheels to quickly pull the band to the desired odds position was put into production and satisfactorily installed.
It was a crude solution to say the least however the guys who spent the race day sweltering in the indicator house said it was easy to use and was better than the original method of pulling the band by hand. The operator simply rolled the rubber tyred scooter wheel and by friction moving the band to the odds position on the indicator face.
The band had the odds sign written in small print so the operator could line up the correct display. Setting the indicator was done by the operator listening on a headset the odds being dictated by a person calculating the odds from the horse adder total readouts.
The Scooter wheel design was never used again. At Sandown Park ,Melbourne the two Interstate barometer indicators were the standard Julius design. These indicators all suffered from strong winds ripping the bands out of their tracks, The automatic barometers with their Selsen driven bands suffered from invasion by pigeons and possums as well as the climatic destruction.
Part 2 of David's memoirs can be found in the next page in the website. Select Next page button in the Nav Bar below. If you arrived here from the Photo Gallery and you wish to return there, select the "Top of the page" button in the Nav Bar below then click on the first image.
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