Laurie G Emens

Laurie Emens at Awarua Radio ZLB

Laurie George Emens
Born: 13 Nov 1897
Died: 25 May 1988 (age 90)

Worked at:

  • Marton Telegraph Office: Messenger, 1912-1914
  • Wanganui: Cadet, 1914-1916
  • Military service in Suez and Egypt, 1916-1918
  • Wanganui: Telegraphist, 1918
  • Wellington: Telegraphist, 1921
  • Cook Islands: Telegraphist, 1924
  • Wellington: Telegraphist, 1925-1929
  • Dunedin: Telegraphist, 1929
  • Invercargill: Supervisor, Telegraph Branch, 1930
  • Napier: Supervisor, Telegraph Branch, 1930
  • Westport: Supervisor, Telegraph Branch, 1934
  • Wellington: Supervisor, Telegraph Branch, 1935
  • Wellington: Radio Inspector, 1938-1945
  • Awarua Radio: Superintendent, 18 Apr 1945 – 1 Apr 1947
  • Auckland Radio: Superintendent, 1 Jul 1947 – 12 Feb 1953 (retirement)

Amateur radio: ZL1WH

Laurie Emens was my father, and spent two years as superintendent at Awarua. Mother did not accompany him down there – her own father was living with us and was frail and I suffered from severe asthma so we remained in Wellington. I remember a visit to the station at Christmas 1945 – we stayed with the Wallaces who remained very good friends for many years. My chief recollection of Awarua at the time was that it was flat and full of tussocks and rabbits!

I enjoyed visiting the operating room and seeing the Murray Multiplex machines; for years I treasured a length of punched tape from one of them, and I also recall seeing my first cathode ray oscilloscope – which may have influenced my future studies as I have an MSc degree in physics.

The caretaker used to make cocoa for me when I called in to see Dad. The photo in the operating room shows Dad with his characteristic cigarette in a holder; he was a two pack a day man until about 1954 when he decided to give up smoking and did so – within a week.

After Awarua, Dad was appointed Superintendent at Musick Point, succeeding George Scull, and he stayed there until his retirement in December 1952.

Dad held a ham licence for many years but was not active after we left Musick Point and sold his equipment. His call sign was ZL1WH – he was originally allotted ZL1WC but objected to the implications of such a call sign and had a hilarious correspondence with the powers that be over it.

After Dad’s retirement my parents moved from Bucklands Beach and rented in Auckland, finally living in the State Flats at 44 Symonds Street. Dad worked as a clerk for the Education Board in Wellesley Street for a number of years, and he and my mother travelled widely as well.

In 1986 my husband and I persuaded them to leave Auckland and come to live with us. Dad was then nearly 89 and mother 85, but the move was not as traumatic as it might have been as they had been coming across to Sydney to visit our family each Christmas and had made many friends here. Dad celebrated his 90th birthday in November 1987, still in reasonable health, and died unexpectedly on May 25th 1988.

Dad had an amazing memory for names, so many of the names in the list are familiar to me from both Awarua and Musick Point. We visited Alex Wallace in Christchurch at Christmas 1974 shortly after his wife Berta had died but I don’t know when he died.

Was JG Hogan the Hogan who was a senior technician at Musick Point? He transferred to Himitangi Radio in the 1950s.

John Milne (known as “Herbie” ) was one of Dad’s supervisors at ZLD and was transferred (to New Plymouth I think) while we were there, but returned to ZLD.

I think JF Ryan was Jack Ryan who spent time in the Chathams. He contacted me when he saw the announcement of Dad’s death and we stayed in touch until he died about 4 years ago in Waikanae.

Dad told some wonderful stories about his time at Awarua. There was a devastating show storm one winter that resulted in the telegraph lines being brought down with the weight of the snow on them so that all phone traffic was routed through Awarua; a somewhat hectic time for all concerned.

And there was the wonderful conversation between ZLB and (possibly) Wellington somehow involving the “installation of hot and cold folding doors” that was broken into by an irate radio operator who requested that “If you gentlemen have finished your plumbing, we have a war on”. A major battle was being interrupted.

One afternoon Dad was out in the tussocks with his .22 rifle shooting rabbits when he saw the Met officer releasing the balloon with the transponders attached. An irresistible impulse overcame him. He said the look on the Met officer’s face as he lost sight of the balloon with the theodolite was priceless. I don’t know if he ever admitted the crime!

– Janice (Emens) McAdam, 2015

Operators at Awarua Radio ZLB in August 1945

August 1945: Laurie Emens and operators at Awarua Radio handling extra traffic due to a major snowfall in Canterbury which took out landlines. Photo courtesy Alex Glennie

Telegraph message boys 1912 Marton, New Zealand

Telegraph message boys in Marton in 1912, L-R: LG Emens, A McGregor, HL Young. Photo appeared in the Katipo, July 1971