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Fifty years in the map trade.

Like many others, I wandered accidentally into the map trade. In September 1950, I was looking to move from the work I was in at the time, and a friend who was in the sales team at Universal Business Directories told me the Company needed someone for eight weeks to prepare short histories of towns for the forthcoming new Country edition of their classified trade directories.

UBD had commenced operations in New Zealand about 1930, and spread to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth just before World War 2, and Sydney and Melbourne in 1948. So, I spent the 8 weeks on that project, and coincidentally, at the end of the period the whole sales team (of seven), including my friend, walked out.

The manager was left with two female clerks and ME!--a casual! The manager asked me to stay as Assistant Manager, which I thought was a good idea, because, in that short time, I had grown to like the business. I am sorry I have had to use so many "I's" in this item, but after all it is about my 50 years, so I can't help it.

Shortly, he appointed me as Sales Manager and I was instructed to recruit sales staff to replace the salesmen who had resigned. This meant I had to acquire a far greater understanding of the business and to learn how to present it to potential customers, in order to train the new recruits.

How did I know even the basics of what to do? Well, I had learnt the rudiments of being a salesman in a strange way, which had nothing to do with ordinary commercial life. In fact, I had a job in the Australian Army, which was very similar to that of a commercial traveller!

Of course, when you go into the forces during wartime, you have no say in where you are placed. You are simply told to go "there" and "that is where you go", especially when it is only one day after your twentieth birthday!

So, I found myself as a clerk in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps (RAAOC): specifically, in the DADOS (Deputy Assistant Director of the Ordnance Service) Office in the Headquarters of 2 Aust. Division, which was immediately sent to Western Australia.

I guess the "powers-that-be" assumed the Japanese could possibly come down the west coast. The 2 Aust. Division had been raised in Sydney. There was also, in the West, the 3 Aust. Division, which had been raised in Victoria, and an Armoured Brigade.

Here I was, a young clerk not really knowing much about anything, processing large heaps of paper (requisitions from various infantry battalions and artillery regiments, and such like, for equipment and stores; in fact, any supplies except food, which was handled by another section of the Army).

After some months, there was a sudden need for someone from the office to go out to one of the Brigade Headquarters to assist a person called an Ordnance Stores Conductor. The position was usually held by a very senior warrant officer called the Brigade Ordnance Warrant Officer (BOWO, in army parlance). So being a lowly corporal in the office I was the one who could most easily be missed from the headquarters staff. I was sent 100 miles away from the "cocoon" of the office to fend for myself, assisting a BOWO who didn't particularly want an assistant! I was known as the "BOWO'S Pup!"

Anyway, I learnt by bitter experience how to go out visiting strangers who were "customers", except that they were called Quartermasters of the individual unit stores. After three months, there was a perceived need for a person to replace a BOWO of another Brigade a 100 miles further away from the office!

This time, the lowly young corporal was on his own. Here, he learnt that the battalions and regiments he was to look after were in a very poor state. (The British Army had left all their equipment on the beach at Dunkirk and the Colonies were apparently assisting in their reequipping.) There were many young men on parade in their units in W.A. who had no shorts (using swimming trunks) or boots (sandshoes) or socks (nothing) etc. There was also a great shortage of other more vital equipment.

Here, besides learning to deal with strangers who were much senior to him, the young corporal also learnt how to scheme, to "work" the system to obtain the equipment "his" units needed. After several months of this, I rejoined the office at Headquarters where I was supposed to belong.

A few months later, when there was a need for someone to go to another area to "represent" the Ordnance; who was the one who could be most easily spared from the office, and who was now experienced in doing these peculiar jobs? Except that, this time the position was 350 miles from Headquarters!

And so it went on for four and a half years, in other States, and in Morotai (Netherland East Indies--now Indonesia) with gradual promotions, until eventually the rank of the senior warrant office was finally achieved (W.O. class 1a). I estimated, that at any one time, there were probably not more than about fifty of those in the whole Army!) The work was all right using a motor cycle or a jeep, but those who went to Borneo rode bicycles around the shell holes on the beach, and rowed a dingy out to the store ships in the harbour to chase up the items needed!

In 1950, four years after demobilisation, I was about 30 years of age. What's that got to do with Universal Business Directories? Although I didn't realise it at the time, I think where I gained the experience, the credibility, the courage, to go out to meet strangers, in their offices, with a difficult proposition to present to them, and then to train others to do the same, came from my work in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps, because in my teens, I had been very reserved and reticent! In 1950, I went to UBD for eight weeks, and stayed 15 years! Subsequently, over the years we built the sales force to a total of 60 salesmen and women, guided by six sales managers.

During 1952-1953 the Directors decided that we should include maps of some towns in the classified trade directories. We started by including maps in probably about ten towns, and gradually included more over the years. During this period we extended the sales training by developing professional sales presentations and manuals, and in-house, we even made a sales training film! In a year or two, the Company appointed me NSW State Manager, and the State Branch operated in separate premises from the Central Office. By force of circumstances, I was also virtually the publisher, although, of course, the Founder of the Company had the title.

During about 1958, the directors told me I was to start a Sydney Street Directory. That was all the detailed instructions I received! The original page layout was done on our home lounge room floor! This involved making certain arrangements with the Lands Department for the Company. During this same year the Directors appointed me South Australian Manager, in addition to managing NSW.

Coincidentally, around the same time, I contacted the Craigie Map Company, and made arrangements to purchase it for UBD. So, the Craigie Map Company became the drawing office for UBD, and John Craigie became Chief Cartographer of what developed into a powerful unit creating maps and guides. He was a superb cartographer. He had been trained by Clive Barrass, who, over a long period, drew most of the Gregory maps.

UBD absorbed the Craigie range of State Maps which were included in the items sold by the sales force. The first UBD Sydney Street Directory was published in 1964. Part of the launching of that Directory involved developing a special sales team of 10 or 12 ladies selling them door-to-door to businesses all over Sydney and the suburbs.

In the early 1960s, UBD introduced reprints from the main country classified trade directories for each State, into small directories for each town (about 60 towns in the case of NSW). These also included the street maps and indexes and were delivered into every home and business in the towns, which created a huge increase in distribution to about 130 000. These developed into what are now the very popular UBD Country Street Directories.

Around 1962, a Telephone Sales Room was started to supplement the advertising sales team. Ten ladies with a sales manager sold advertising in the street directories and the other publications. This became an important unit in the overall selling programme, and was started many years before telephone selling became common. We also started a chain of town maps entirely supported by advertising.

Next, we obtained the Australian agency for the City Guide maps which originated in Scandinavia. These were the maps in large metal cabinets erected on footpaths in the cities and suburbs and large country towns. In September 1965, I decided to resign from UBD, and was given the agency for the advertising selling on the City Guide units by UBD. Over the next three or four years I established (in my own name), Rex Publications, a series of tourist maps sold through newsagents in 45 editions covering a large part of Eastern Australia, from the Sunshine Coast to the South Australian border. These were called RexGuides and sold very cheaply. They were designed by me, and the maps were drawn by 17 cartographers employed casually. A colleague and I assembled the type, maps and advertising for the whole 45 publications. Some of these publications were continued for many years.

Around 1970, I obtained a contract to mount some thousands of school maps, and we leased a shop at 413 Pacific Highway, Artarmon (a Sydney suburb) across the road from the old Lane Cove Fire Station, and looking down Epping Road. (At that point, it was actually Longueville Road, but commonly called Epping Road.) We built mounting walls in the shop, using 90 inch wide linen mounts. In 1972, the contract ran out, and we decided to turn the shop into a specialist retail map shop.

This, of course, meant obtaining agencies from National Mapping, various Lands Departments around Australia, the Navy Hydrographic Office, all the relevant Australian map publishers, and the Forestry Department; and, eventually from overseas publishers also. The shop was in a good position and we painted the front in gaudy colours to attract attention. The shop gradually became very well known with a loyal following of customers.

Around 1975, we realised that the few book shops in the city of Sydney who were selling maps in a reasonable way had either closed their departments, or hidden them in out-of-the-way areas. Immediately, I went to the city and looked for a site for a retail shop, and leased one at Circular Quay, where it stayed for about ten years, until it was moved into the Prudential Arcade in Castlereagh Street on the corner of Martin Place. In the early 1990s it was moved to 325 Pitt Street, where it is still located at the time of writing.

In about 1978, we opened in 132 Parramatta Road, Granville, and about a year later opened in Princes Highway, Tempe. We retained both sites for many years.

In 1976, I began travelling overseas and visited many map shops in many countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, USA, and Denmark. Some of these had been established well before World War 2! One in Eastern Europe had even buried its stock of contour maps before the War started, and dug them up long after the War! I discovered that my chain of four map shops was the largest in the world! Rand McNally at that time had only three branches, admittedly huge, but one only in each of New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It was about 12 years before Rands started to expand with a very large chain of shops that were more like travel goods/gift shops. They increased to over 20 branches and the McNally family sold their interests some years ago to a group of investors.

In 1978, we entered the laminating trade (which was then in its infancy) and soon had one of the largest laminating plants in Sydney, with two 40 inch machines, a 50 inch machine, an 18 inch machine, and a 27 inch automatic cutter on the back of one of the 40 inch laminators. These, together with an eight-foot automatic guillotine, and 12-foot benches gave us a very large capacity for joining, trimming and mounting. We could mount and frame any size up to 12 foot by 8 foot.

About 1982, a large publisher with a long established map shop in USA, offered to sell the shop to me on very good terms, and, I was, of course, very keen to take up the offer. With the four shops in Sydney, it would have been the only international chain of map shops. However, there were a number of nonfinancial difficulties in the way, and we had to let the opportunity slide by.

Subsequently, Universal Business Directories became a map and street directory UBD brand within another corporate structure with no connection to the earlier Company.

I had joined the International Map Trade Association (IMTA) in 1984 and in 1988 the Board of Directors elected me to the position of Director-at-large for six years. In that role, I attended the Annual Board Meeting and using contacts I already had among the international map trade, was able to interest some of the early companies to become members. In 1995, the Board elected me to join other early members in the IMTA Hall of Fame, which I considered to be a great honour.

In 1996, I sold Rex Map Centres' four shops to Hema Maps Pty. Ltd., Brisbane, owned by Margaret and Henry Boegheim. They have kept two of the shops, under the name of Map World, and sold two to the managers. The latter two operate under other names. Hema has, in recent years, established a Map World in New Zealand, and therefore joins National Map Centre in London (with a branch in Dublin) in being, what I believe to be, the only international chains of map shops.

A year or two later, in discussions with friends in the trade, it was realised that, as I already knew much of the history of the Australian Commercial map trade, and knew some of the pioneers, I should write a history, and that is what I did. Getting There from Here--A History of Commercial Mapping in Australia 1788--2000 was published early in 2002.

I have since maintained a great interest in the map trade, and it recently occurred to me that I had done everything one could do to a map--designed, published, mounted, retailed, laminated, distributed, imported, exported, wholesaled--everything other than drawn one!
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Article Details
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Author:Bowden, Jim
Publication:The Globe
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:2509
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