The Paddington Security Guard

Friend or Foe

by Robert Brand

It was an uneasy relationship between the Paddington Security guard and the staff. Security was outsourced to an external agency and the guards were never really part of the team. It made for an interesting time with lots of problems and also lots of humour and strange happenings.

You never knew whether they were part of management or part of the workers. There are way more stories here, but these few may prompt some memories. Let us know what happened with you and the guards.

Abseiling Paddington

As many will have read, many of us enjoyed the odd bit of abseiling and it was not just the members of the OTC Caving and Canyoning Club (OTCCC). I wandered down to the front door one morning only to be confronted by a very confused guard. He seemed to be concerned that he had let several staff members into the building when they were already in the building and appear not to have left. The staff in question were from MRSC (4th floor  Message Relay Switching Centre).

While I was there, in walked, again, the the three staff members in question. The guard had tested the alarms on the rear door and demanded that they tell him what they were up to. They shook their heads and walked past the guard, claiming that they had no clue what the guard was talking about. The guard was both angry and confused and about to burst a blood vessel. As the STO in charge I had a word with the trio. It seems that the senior guy had been conducting abseiling classes down the outside of the building. It turns out that they had been using the open space in the large read stair well. It had a central drop to the ground floor. They escalated the training to the rear wall. That’s me on the right abseiling in the Blue Mountains on an OTCCC trip.

The Manager Alarm

Of course the fun and games were not all one way. On many occasions there times of embarrassment when Managers dropped in unannounced. This was often when there was an event on the weekend at the showground. Engineers dropped by to use the car park. They would also come up to the ITMC to say hello. This was very difficult on night shifts and still awkward at any time after hours. We could be caught watching TV or any other activity that would be frowned on. Even the appearance of the lunch room phone (earlier post) may have raised eyebrows.

I decided to trust the security guard with a manager alarm. There was a panel next to the guard’s head and it had some PA function I remember – they had a paging microphone on their desk. I created a loose screw that operated a micro-switch when pressed. This in turn placed a particular tone on the PA system to let us know when a manager was parking his car – something that they did first. Only the regular guards were entrusted with the secret as only they would never spill the beans or recognise a senior manager. Unfortunately they were also the most mischievous. Although the manager alarm worked well, there were always the false alarms when the guard was feeling frisky.

The Changing Room

Paddington was frequented by a whole range of types that were not too modest. The steps to the front door provided a bit of an alcove and the mirrored surface meant that the inside of the building could not be seen.  One Sunday two girls looking for somewhere to change  from their swimmers brought a towel out of their car and a change of clothes. One girl  held a towel to hide the modesty of the other as she completely striped off in full view of the guard who had probably never seen a naked girl in his life.  Others wanting to get something from the shops stopped inside in amazement to watch the 5 minute impromptu striptease. They had no idea that 3 people were behind the one way mirror. One was only centimeters from them. Ah, the joys of Paddington. There were more naked people around the area than you could imagine.

The 8am Stop Work Break

During construction of the major extension to the Paddington terminal in the late 1970s, I was very involved in TV relays and each 7a-3p shift people happily gave me the job of the TV broadcast. I enjoyed this until one day I was rostered to do an 8a – 4p shift. As I turned up for work I could see almost the entire Civil and Civic workforce lining the office area and many of the OTC staff out of the door and other at the lunchroom window. I looked in the direction everyone else was staring at and there in full view three houses away was the show that stopped the workforce each day. I discovered that a tenant of the 4 metre wide terrace (so they were only 20 metres away) was an exhibitionist. Everyday in front of 40 – 50 heads vying for a view, she would change clothes and underwear about three times ignoring the throng in obvious full view. through the window. I suspect that she was even standing on something so the lower half of her body was in full view through the window.

So where did the guard come into this? One evening, an English guard who tended to do the rounds of the Oxford St strip clubs in Darlinghurst was on duty. He liked to brag about going on stage with the girls. In those days, the guard could lock the door when doing a patrol and was only gone 5 minutes. I was headed out to grab a bite and the door was locked. 10 minutes later, the door was still locked. This was a problem because a guard had been attacked patrolling our car park area near the photography school half a block away and we were worried. It seems that we needed not to have worried. Someone spotted our exhibitionist with out guard in her room with the lights on and ready for anyone to see. It took him half an hour to return and let us out. He was “read the riot act” by the senior STO and told to do that in his own time instead of locking us in. It never happened again to my knowledge. The girl in question moved to a new area once the construction finished. I guess she needed a bigger audience.

Anyway I found out why I got to do the TV broadcasts every morning!

Above – some of the new artwork next to the guards desk in the upgraded building

The Car Door Opener

For some reason, the guard did not let me in one day. Same guard as above. He was inside and just decided to have fun and of course it was decades before mobile phones so I had to up the anti somehow. As I was parked right there in the street on a Sunday I got in my Toyota Hilux 4WD and drove up the entrance steps to the terminal. I had the bull bars up against the glass door and was slowly pushing on them. They were flexing. The guard rushed to open the door for fear he would have a major “please explain” on his hands. I was amazed that I had done something so crazy. What if the doors had broken? Mind you, it had the desired effect and he never locked me out again.

Missing Construction Materials

During the construction phase of the Paddington terminal at the end of the 1970s, water coolers and other things went missing. The managers gave us all strong talks about honesty and the threat of dismissal if the equipment did not reappear. More stuff kept vanishing and OTC management were getting very annoyed. A trap was set and a juicy piece of equipment was left in full view.and vanished and the culprit nabbed. Naturally it was the person vested with looking after our security, the guard. The real shame of the matter was that it was the son of the senior guard at Paddington. He had gotten his son a job with his company and his son had seriously let him down and probably caused his position in the company to fall. All the staff were cleared of any wrong doing and all the stolen gear was located in the guards garage at his home. I expect it was a little bit embarrassing for OTC management after giving the staff a hard time over the thefts. I expect though, that they had no other choice.

6am Bird Calls

The guards also thought it was there job to make sure everyone was fully alert for the start of the day. Like those annoying nurses in hospitals that wake you up at 5 in the morning to see if you are still alive, they made it a regular event to find different ways to ensure that we were all alert for the day, even if we did not want to be alert until 6:30am. Different bird calls or music blasted through the PA system to the annoyance of anyone on the phone for work. No matter what we said, they would not change this routine. It was unfortunately a win to the guards on this one!

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8 thoughts on “The Paddington Security Guard

  1. Loved this story about the Paddo guards. In the early 1990’s OTC became concerned about Doonside’s security now it was fully remote controlled with new Marconi Tx’s & running unmanned at night. A bomb scare directed at nearby Prospect Reservoir’s pumping station raised the alert bar. So we were given a guard at night from I believe the same company OTC used in the city. Well the night shift was very quite with only rabbits & the odd fox spotted with the guards torch in the adjoining paddocks. The guards then started to worry about their job security & suddenly strange things would happen at night like windows being broken. These events were not the doings of intruders or even the legendary Bungarribee ghost but we believed the work of the guards themselves. 2 years later the bomb threat was now considered minimal & the guard service was cancelled. Coincidently all strange nightly attacks stopped. Lindley has an interesting story about being called out at 2am in the morning & catching the guard & his “attack” dog both fast asleep in front of his portable TV. In another incident Lindley arrived at night to a false fire alarm just as the local fire brigade were about to cut the gate chain with bolt cutters & then put a fire axe through the stations front doors.

    • I am so glad to see that Paddington was not the only place with fun and games with guards. It was MSS that had the contract at Paddington. Just to make us all safer, they held the hand gun safe at the Paddington terminal. This had MSS staff calling in for guns at all hours and you would think that the place would be safer with all the extra guards coming and going. The only issue was that the tame old Paddington guards were held up so that they could rob the gun safe. They got about 12 hand guns. We did not feel safer after that.

      • Robert ,

        Yes it was MSS (Metropolitan Security Services) I think it stood for. A better name for these guards would have been “Keystone Cops” from the B&W 1930’s comedy films. I did not want to mention their name on the website in case they saw it & took it the wrong way. I am aware that the use of the word “b*mb” on a social website can draw the attention of the police. They constantly scan these sites looking for useful leads to crooks. I forgot to mention we had already nicknamed the local Fire Brigade “Dad’s Army”. At the time it seemed like although we were doing our jobs efficiently, we were forced to put up with incompetence from certain contractors we hired.

        You may edit my reply if you wish before posting it.

        Neil

      • No problems. There are no untruths here to be concerned about. That was the past and I understand that they are a more competent group now than they were back then. Many companies have a learning curve and if they don’t improve, then bad luck, but MSS appears to be a top team these days.

  2. There is only one problem in publishing all this stuff and that is that all the managers will know who was behind most of the stuff going on back then. For some reason, I did not get fingered for many of the pranks and antics back then. Got to love how much we actually tailor made the place to be a friendly place. It was really nice to go to work most days. Always something new and exciting.

  3. I understand exactly what you are talking about as we had similar happenings at Doonside prior to the staff rationalisation in 1987. Lots of bright people with shift work time to burn that a book could be written on what happened after hours. As the saying goes “while the cats away, the mice will play”. We acquired Phil Healy from Paddo or Heals as he was nicknamed & he told us his version of what happened down there. To an outsider it might look like all fun & games however they can rest assured that when a service outage occurred it was all hands on deck to fix the problem ASAP. Yes OTC was a great place to work & we all miss it now. Looking back they were truly the golden years.

    • We actually used a lot of the time to make improvements. I created a control desk in the TV room that allowed the poor TV controller to actually sit still and concentrate on what was happening as he would normally have to get up all the time to patch things or press buttons. The lunchroom phone was the basis of the new Paddington orderwire system a few years later and the list goes on. At Broadway the old computing system was used to write software to make the running of the ITMC way more efficient. Yes, we were there for the failures that were common in the old days.

  4. It makes me think of the early fax machines that were in Sydney SOR and Melbourne MOR.
    When they first came prior to customer traffic,test patterns had to be sent to Beijing and somehow the page 3 girl out of the Daily Mirror went on her own trip. Didn’t the phone ring, you bet! The Shift Supervisor was not impressed after taking a call from an angry Chinese gentleman and the transmission of pornography!!

    Another time we had a visitor from Cable & Wireless London, the Shift Controller showing him through the Radion Telex section to the bases in Antarctica, Mawson, Casey and Davis.
    He proceeded to press the bell button on the Siemens Telex a couple of times, to get some response. No answer, so he hit the button again. Our C&W London visitor was suitably intrigued but certainly did not expect the response he got, ” If you press that bell key one more time, I will personally come up there and shove it up your a**e” You can imagine his reaction!!

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