My 3ft ruler. A reminicence

When I first arrived in Australia in the early 50s I came as an aspiring architect without any knowledge of Australian building methods or any awareness of the imperial system of measurements.

I was totally useless as a draftsman but my brother in law got me a job as a carpenter at the Puckapunyal army base. It was there when he kitted me out that I was introduced to the 3ft ruler. It was the most foreign of the tools I had been given and after opening it up I fell in love with it at once There was a simplicity and a clarity in the design. The folding method was at the same time simple and intricate.

I don’t know if I was a great success as a carpenter, but working there with a group of people I could barely understand was one of the most terrifying learning episodes I had had since leaving college. However feeling my 3 ft ruler in the back pocket of my overalls gave me the confidence I needed to be one with my newly acquired mates.

When I left my job as a carpenter and gained a position in an Architect’s office I at last became fully familiar with the imperial system of measurements.

I learned the ins and outs of the then Victorian Uniform Building Regulations, learned about room sizes, and started to build my own house accompanied by my tools and my trusted 3 ft. ruler.

Then in 1966 the Warden of the cinque ports announced with his usual pompous delivery that from now and forever forward we would have a decimal coinage system and the main unit would be called “the Royal” [actually someone talked him out of that and prosaically he called it the dollar, which I thought a pity; I liked the sound of royal]

I knew then that the days of my 3 ft. ruler were numbered and so it proved.

In 1976 the metric conversion of the building trade took place and we all went out and bought ourselves a roll-up measuring tape.

A friend of mine who was a supervisor of budding TAFE instructors once told me that one of his instructors told students on conversion day that from now on all 3 ft. rules would be a metre long! He thought it very funny and I went along with it, but to me there seemed a sadness about it.

So that was the final word From now on all 3 ft. rulers will be a metre long.

Or was it

People are still 6 ft tall or in the case of my neighbour 6’7”

Passes are still inch perfect [except off course for Denis Cometti]

It is still 9 miles from Gundagai to the dog on the tucker-box.

Someone or something is still miles away,

Our houses are still measured in squares. [Mine is 30 squares How big is your house?]