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.
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
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.
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?]