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A few stories and history of my early years as a Mechanic. People Profiles
By Don McKenzie My Early Tote Years - 1976-1988 | Industry Links | Acknowledgements | Julius History | A Few Stories |

People Profiles | The Staff transfer from ATL to the TAB 1988 | TABLOID ATL Staff Photos 1989-1990 | Recent Photos | Email Correspondence | Win Place & Sting |

Automatic Totalisators Limited.            The Old ATL Sydney Head Office Letterhead. No Longer Valid.

Victorian On Course ATL Technical Staff
Clive Angus | Peter Collier | Mark Dyball | Arthur Gardiner | Mick Gulovsen | Michael Higgins | Harry Lane | Loc An Lieu | Kevin Johnston | Ray Johnston | Jim Kennedy | Graeme Twycross |
Alf Schloeffel | Joe Waddington |
Frank Dowdle |
Robin Bone |

David Kinny | Mick Weiss | Glyn Hooper, Geoff Illing, & Michael Palmer |

Cliff Ellen | Mary Ellen | Jenny Ellen | McCalman

Professional Punters |

Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.

Victorian On Course ATL Technical Staff

When I joined the team in 1976, and during my early years, this work force consisted of Harry Lane, Peter Collier, Stan Jones, Michael Higgins, Graeme Twycross, Fred Estcourt, Don McKenzie, Ken Crook, Peter Nelson, Ian Dykes, Arthur Gardiner, Mick Gulovsen, Ray Johnston, Kevin Johnston, Jim Kennedy, Craig Allardice, Mark Dyball, Allan Peachy, Ken Long, Ian Bradshaw, and Ian Trustcott. Arthur Long was Pre-1976. Frank Dowdle was the Chief Engineer.

Many of these people came from P.M.G. or similar telephone exchange background, as the totes of the 1950s to 1960s were very much like an Australian telephone exchange of the same era. Generally used a 50VDC 3000 type relay operated system, mixed in with sets of mechanical gears designed specifically for totalisator counting, and dividend display operations. The 50VDC wiring system was based on PMG cable colour codes and cable wiring terminal blocks, we referred to as "Chocolate Blocks", so PMG techs of the time, could fall into the tote way of doing installations fairly quickly.

All of the the technical staff eventually had to make the move from electro-mechanical circuits, across to the DEC PDP-11/40, 16-bit minicomputer sold by Digital Equipment Corp, and terminals based on 7400 TTL logic. Later families of DEC gear followed in quick succession, right through to my retirement, as well as Motorola 6800 Microcontroller terminals, then eventually PC based terminals.

Further information on the above Technical Staff, and others, may be found at: People Profiles

Tech Tote Trivia
My length of ATL service pales into insignificance, when compared to some of my colleagues.

In 1959 four young men, that didn't know they were going to have something very special in common, joined the PMG Technician In Training Program in Melbourne. An intake of over 500 that year, from all over Australia. These fifteen-year-old lads were Harry Lane, Peter Collier, Don McKenzie, and Ken Crook. In 1960, Peter Collier and myself were chosen to be part of a group of 12 selected for training in the radio section of the PMG. We went on to be trained at the large radio transmitters of Radio Australia at Lyndhurst and Sydenham, as well as the 3LO-3AR ABC Radio studios in Melbourne. This was all radio valve technology, and we were just starting to see the first transistors. I remember paying equivalent to a weeks pay (about £3) for my first experimental transistor, a Mullard OC44.

Harry, Peter, and Ken moved across to ATL and spent the rest of their working lives there, until eventually retirement. This was close to 40 years with ATL (TABcorp), compared to my puny little effort of 23 years, 8 months, and a bit.

If I get the actual lengths of ATL service, I will post them here.


The Old Boys
When I started, we had the old boys brigade. This was a group of men generally past retirement age that ATL had kept on because of their experience, and shortage of work force. Gordon Collier (Peter Collier's father) was the youngest, and actually retired well before his 65th birthday. The rest of the old boys consisted of Alf Schloeffel, Alf Popel, Bob Davies, Les Strange, and Joe Waddington. These men were in their late sixties and early seventies. Alf Schloeffel, and Joe Waddington had an additional extension of service, when the J25 was launched, as they helped with the distribution of new paper supplies around the tote houses. Alf and Joe would have been closer to 80, or better, when they finally retired.

All old boys wore grey dustcoats. This was mandatory. I had some grey dust coats left over from my P.M.G. days, so I was able to mingle in without anyone noticing I was the new boy.


Casual Techs
We also had a large group of casual technicians to assist us on Saturday Race days. These were made up mainly of P.M.G. (Telstra), and armed services communications technicians. Many went on to become permanent technicians at ATL. Some names that come to mind: Ben Barton, Bill Telfar, Brendan Dowdle, Bernie Dowdle, Joe Waddington, Don Passmore, Stuart Smith, Fred Berry, Bernie Spence, and prior to my joining in 1976....  Jack Carnell, Alan Sengotta, Max Davies, Les Sellman, Don Brown, Henry Lynch, Max Lynch, Fred Rawiller, George Seivers, Colin Baker, and Keith Smith.


Clive Angus
Clive is a hardware engineer, and was working for Datatronics when it was purchased by ATL, so it was effectively a continuity of service.  A big red Mexican style mustache, and a bright smile. Very easy to like. Not much seemed to worry Clive, and he fitted in very well with a team that was eventually made up of Clive, Peter Collier, and Graeme Twycross. These three men became the hardware team to support the V.O.T.S. system. He transferred across to the TAB with the rest of us in 1988, which eventually became TABcorp. Clive and TABcorp parted ways in about 2006. His length of continual service would have been quite a long span also.

I didn't see a lot of Clive over the years, but I was able to amaze him at times, with my knowledge of Microcontroller circuits and interface chip part numbers. He always wondered were I kept plucking them from.


Peter Collier
If I owned a company, the last two people I would be getting rid of would have been Peter Collier and Graeme Twycross. TABcorp managed to terminate the services of both of these men well before their used by date.

Peter had served 40 years minus 3 weeks, and was possibly the sharpest engineering brain that Melbourne totes was ever likely to see. He is also a very good teacher. In later years, Peter moved into a strong technical management position at TABcorp.

I met Peter at the P.M.G. Training School at Moore's Stores in Chapel St, Prahran at the start of 1959 when we were both 15 years old. We established a firm friendship straight away. Lunch breaks, after work, and weekends, we would play billiards together, or chase the birds at St Moritz ice rink down at St Kilda, while pretending to ice skate.

At age 16, we attended the radio school in Batman St West Melbourne, and well before we were old enough for drivers licenses, we drove our cars to the P.M.G school, and compared notes on vehicles, running repairs, etc. Peter could remember the number plates on my cars even today I'm sure, and I have trouble remembering the cars we owned.

After the P.M.G., we steered off in our own directions, Peter to ATL totes, and I took off for the country life. Mid 1960's, I was running my own business: "McKenzie Woodhall, and Chapple", electrical contractors at Rainbow, Victoria.

1968, I was back in Melbourne with my new family, and the friendship continued. After speaking with Peter about what ATL may be able to offer me, I joined the team in January 1976. My income went from 13K a year to $26K. Sure, it was about money, and the prospect of getting into computers that really interested me.

As a social animal I found Peter one of the best friends a person could possibly have, but as the years rolled by, I was confronted with real problems. It was becoming apparent that we didn't see eye to eye on many technical, and job related personal matters. My last 10 or 12 years of service, I got to a stage where I didn't want to see, or talk to Peter at all.

Peter was the reason I joined totes, and he was one of the many reasons I left. So we went our own separate ways, me not speaking, nor wanting any contact with him.

Time rolls on, and we end up meeting again at old work colleagues funerals. A hell of a way to meet. We are getting old. I'm coming up 67 at the time of writing this. I had open heart surgery in June 2007, so It's a reminder that I am not going to be here forever.

My wife Cheryl said to me: "Do you want to go to your grave without making peace with Peter?". We start exchanging emails for birthdays and at Christmas. Peter then invites me to an industry luncheon and I accept. A slow process, but we are communicating again. Went to my second luncheon with him in December 2009.

Sure this is the very short version of Peter's profile, and could well be a good insight into mine. I could write a dozen pages, and not start to cover Peter Collier.

Peter steered the engineering direction of ATL Melbourne,(and later TAB-TABcorp) during his 40 years of employment, more so than any other individual. I doubt very much that you will find anyone who knows the facts, that will argue with that statement.

I'm starting to look at the writing of this "Tote History", as part of my own healing process, as I was dreading putting Peter's profile together.

Peter has been more helpful than anyone to date, with the piecing together of this history, by supplying text, photos, and corrections, and it has been very much appreciated.


Mark Dyball

I mentally tend to place Mark and Kevin Johnston in the same pigeon hole when it comes to ATL. Their career paths were almost the same, yet they were very different characters.

Mark and Kevin joined ATL as teenagers at very much the same time. Both were hired as casual Technicians, and stayed that way even though they worked more hours than many permanent technicians. I have covered this on many occasions in other parts of this history.

We didn't have a big group of men that held drivers licenses for semi-trailers, and those that we did have, were generally tied up on alternative duties. Jimmy was getting close to retirement, so Mark and Kevin were trained up to be able to move the Mobile Computers Vans around the various race courses.

When Jimmy retired, Mark was generally rostered with us for most of the country work, with Kevin as a backup. Mind you, there was a lot of movement of these vehicles during the years of the final stages of the 11/40 vans, followed by the 11/34 vans, and finally in 1990, the new Vax vans, so both Mark and Kevin were called upon as semi drivers during almost any given week.

Mark always appeared to have a cheeky affectionate grin, and I found him very easy to like. His love of management was much like Kevin's, and on more than one occasion, I remember him going toe to toe  (or is that nose to nose?) with Harry on various working issues.

When Graeme's role changed over the years, Mark ended up with being the "first man in" to the spring racing carnival installation team, and had to choreograph any new installations in advance of the full crew arriving at the tracks. Flemington was always a massive job, as it had so many portable tote houses, and temporary corporate marques that needed wiring up for the tote terminals.

I think I have this fact correct. Only two Technicians married tote sellers. Mick married Sue, and Mark married Yvonne. Graeme's wife Arnna, joined the tote as a seller, after they were married.

Some time after I retired, Mark and Yvonne left the tote, and got into their own business as the Lakeside Caravan Park owners at Bonnie Doon.
Ahhh!!! The serenity.

Again proving, there is life after the tote. 

Footnote for this story regarding Semi-trailer drivers:
Ray and Graeme were regular drivers in the earlier years, but also helped out from time to time in the later years. Harry and Peter Collier also shifted Computer Vans in their early years. It would be a big individual story in itself to explain who took on what roles at times.


Arthur Gardiner

Arthur was running the Doubles-Quinella Tote when I first met him. I eventually joined his crew as his number two man, and ended up spending several years on the road, around the country courses with him. Years that I enjoyed very much. Possibly the most enjoyable years of my working life. He was slim, and adored by the female staff. Loved the banter and a little flirting with the girls around the tote, and they loved him for it, however he wasn't the sort of man that his wife would ever have to worry about.

For everyone, he was a father confessor, a financial adviser, as well as a very good friend. He was also running a small farm at Heath Hill, down past Pakenham, and knew how to take advantage of Government Tax breaks to maximum benefit. He would often say things like: "My income tax just purchased a new tractor for me". Many times I recall hitting his farm at around 03:00 from some far away country course, grabbing a couple of hours sleep, getting up, doing all the things that one normally does before you take off for work for the day, then you feed the cows, and take off in the direction of the next country course on the roster.

Arthur rolled his own cigarettes, stuck them into a plastic holder, and puffed away during the day. He loved a cup of tea, and when we had dinner at a country pub, he would always have a wee drop of spirits to wash it all down. He loved a fresh country made pie, and the best were at a shop at Colac. It was always a treat to drop off at the Colac pie shop, and pick up our morning tea-lunch for the day. Unlike many of us who lived on junk food because of the nature of the job, and the silly hours worked, Arthur was a very healthy eater. The pies were one of the few exceptions he made to his eating habits.

Many clubs provided lunch for the tote boys, so we did't have to stoop to the on course vendor stands take-away menu of over inflated prices on pies, sausage rolls, chiko rolls, or dimsims. The Burke's of Pakenham always made us feel like family when we paid them a visit. You could count on it. Of course, the Burke family was running the race course when the tote boys did the installation in 1940, so the treatment of the tote boys never really changed. Mornington and Yarra Glen were fairly good also, however If I recall, they tightened the purse strings in later years. I don't know how this works today. Perhaps things have reverted back to the good old days.

Arthur and Ray Johnston enjoyed golfing together, and played well into their retirement. Arthur passed away at Heath Hill in 2008.


Mick Gulovsen
Mick was employed during the transition across to the new J25 6800-based TIMs.

I met Mick in early 1980, when he was 22. This took place at a TRS-80 User Group meeting in Moonee Ponds. We instantly became firm friends, as we appeared to have so much in common. Mick ended up coming around to my house, and drinking my beer every Friday night for many, many years , and we would kick around various hardware and software computer ideas between us. At the time, he was employed at GMH as a toolmaker-inspector, and had been there for nine and a half years.

After the TRS-80 days, we got involved in an Australian designed computer, the "Excalibur 64", that was effectively a colour version (clone) of the TRS-80, and Mick became president of the new club we had formed. He designed the software and hardware for a high resolution graphics board for the Excalibur, and had many other designs, such as a modem. Other projects of his were printed in Electronic magazines.

On the 16th of August 1985, six months short of his GMH long service leave, I somehow talked him into joining ATL, which means he had to forfeit his long service leave accumulation. I know it was worth it for me to drop what I was doing at the time, and join ATL, as I doubled my income in my first year. They paid well, but you had to work hard in the early years, and put in the hours. Mick never regretted his decision to join the team.

The Friday nights gradually vanished when Mick got married, and now that I have retired, we may only meet for lunch once every 3 or 4 months, but we still annoy each other in emails, which happens generally daily, to weekly.

Mick was a very important part of the direction of Dontronics, as he helped me during the years I was learning the game, and I always considered him my right hand man. If I have an awkward problem today, Mick can generally help me out in an email.

Big Mick is size XXXXXL, bald, and has a beard. I like to tell him he has his head on upside down. I could easily write a lot more about Mick, as we have always had a good close personal relationship for many years, but best I stop right here.

Kevin Johnston and Mick Gulovsen remain the only permanent ATL technical staff still working on course today. (April-2010). Everyone else has moved on, been retenched, retired, or fell off the perch.


Michael Higgins

Mike migrated from the UK when he was 11, and quickly assimilated into Australian society by becoming a fanatical Collingwood (AFL) Football supporter. These days, I know he attends most home games with his even more fanatical wife Shirley.

Mike went through PMG training school like most of the men his age on the job, and was a PDP 11/40 van engineer by the time I arrived on the scene. He rose through the ranks, and eventually became my immediate Manager, as he was the On-course Technical Manager when I resigned. At this stage we  were both effectively Senior Systems Engineers, working with the Vax vans that were introduced in 1990, so I spent quite a lot of time with Mike.

Michael is the most compassionate, understanding, and forgiving human being I have ever met, and I believe all the men working under him owe him a great personal debt. Most I feel have over looked this, and I am one of the few that has kept up any sort of an ongoing relationship with him. Mind you, we seem to have drifted away from our promises to lunch on a regular basis, as it is coming up 11 years since I left the scene.

Mike was always pushing for workers rights, further education, and generally better working conditions, but I feel he was always at cross roads with Management, as his big failing seemed to be he was simply too nice to be a manager, not cut-throat like it appeared you had to be, to get on well in TABcorp. I feel sure he would have made a great Human Resources Manager, as he had the ability to communicate easily with people, and negotiate at any level, in a very logical fashion.

In the final years, Mike was sending himself to University to pick up some educational degrees. Little did I know that Michael was interested in a career in teaching at this late stage of his life.

I remember when I handed in my resignation on the 29th of September 1999, Mike tried to sway me and suggested that I could sit in a corner until I was 65, pick up a big superannuation package, and forget about Dontronics. But no way. I wanted to get out and do something more with my life before I got too old to change direction.

Interestingly, no one survived reaching 65. TABcorp managed to retrench everyone in their early sixties that hadn't resigned. It is ironic that ATL not only valued the long service of the men in their sixties, they employed several well into their seventies, and even some into their early eighties.

Less than a year after I resigned almost to the day on the 28th of September 2000, Michael also resigned, and took up that teaching position, and has never looked back. He loves his new occupation. Proves there is life after TABcorp after all.


Harry Lane

Harry was one of the group of four young men that were inducted into the PMG in 1959, then later came across to join the technical staff at ATL. I have mentioned this many times elsewhere in this tote history.

As Harry joined ATL first, he became the most senior person of the group, and quickly shot up through the ranks. When I joined, he was the senior engineer in the 11/40 vans, and second in charge of the engineering staff. When the chief engineer Frank Dowdle went on leave, Harry was in charge.

Initially Harry seemed abrupt and short on words, and I wondered if I was doing something wrong, but it soon became apparent that you had to learn how to operate with Harry, and it wasn't long before we had a good working relationship.

Harry smoked a pipe, in fact most of the men smoked in those days including me. Now none of them do. Harry was a good competitor for Peter Collier, as they liked to pitch their skills against each other, and turned installations into a much more interesting game than it actually was.

In the dying days of the 11/40 computer vans, they were pressed into service at Colac, Sale, and Seymour country tracks, when they were of no further use in the City. I will be doing a story about the evolution of bringing these computer vans to the country tracks, and the method of operation elsewhere.

These vans were used from about 1981 to 1983 on these country tracks. Harry and myself did all the Van Engineering, with Jim Kennedy as the driver-technician, and possibly another tech was rostered if the meeting size warranted it.

My role in the 11/40 vans was basically a continuation of my service in the country with Arthur Gardiner. Here I was running the new 11/34 vans in the city, and still having a small role in the dying days of the old 11/40 vans with Harry in the country.

The short time I spent with Harry during the final days of the 11/40 systems was most enjoyable, and holds lots of good memories. It was a lot less labour intensive than my previous country service with Arthur, and almost as much fun.

Around 1983, Peter Kenyon the ATL Branch Manager, took up a new position with the Tasmanian Government, and Frank Dowdle moved into the vacant spot. This left the door open for Harry to step up to the position of chief engineer. He also inherited Frank's Holden Panel Van. Frank rolled his own cigarettes, and it was rumoured there was enough tobacco trapped down the back seat of the van, to keep Harry's pipe loaded for three months.

In July 1987, ATL Melbourne was restructured and Harry's role changed dramatically. This memo explains it in more detail. At this stage, Frank had passed away, and Peter Kenyon returned to his old position as Branch Manager.

Harry had become second in charge of the branch, and now part of the Administration team. Initially I felt he was placed in a position he wasn't going to like, but as the years rolled on he seemed to warm to the idea, and actually spent the second half of his tote life as an Administrative Manager.

You will have to ask Harry, which half he enjoyed most, but I suspect the second half was just as rewarding, if not more so than the first half.

Again, like everybody that made it through to their early sixties, Harry was retrenched prematurely, and now I get to see him and enjoy his company at the recent industry luncheons that I have been attending.


Loc An Lieu
Loc was employed to help out with the J25 Tims, however he was over-qualified, and eventually snapped up by the TAB as a programmer. Loc was a young Vietnamese lad, spoke good English, with an accent, however most people didn't have problems understanding him. Mick Gulovsen snapped him straight up under his wing, and they were then known as "Laurel and Hardy" because of their appropriate physical sizes, and the fact that they were then always seen together as a team.

Loc had a very good sense of humour, and with Mick's assistance, we ended up with a string of lines such as " I'm Lock n Loll, I'm Lock Smith's brother."  Yegad! "What have you done to poor Loc, Mick?" Loc loved his integration into the Aussie work force, and we enjoyed it also. He was a valued part of the technical team.

From the TAB, he went onto Tattersall's I think it was. I know I have received emails from him in recent years, just to say hello, but I can't find one quickly to verify his current location.


Kevin Johnston
D-Day the 6th of June 2007. I am in intensive care at the Royal Melbourne Hospital as I just had open heart surgery on D-Day, and it's the next morning. I have someone shaking me, and telling me to wake up as I have a visitor.

My mind isn't working just yet. Is it George Michael, or Ricky Martin one of the internationally known singers? It looks a bit like one of them. Hmmm.... Must to be my Cardiologist, as only he, or my wife Cheryl would get into the Intensive Care Unit at this very early stage of my recovery.

Hell, it's Kevin Bloody Johnston, son of Ray Johnston. He must have said he was my Cardio to get in to see me. Perhaps he just walked straight in and looked like my Surgeon. I really don't recall if our conversation made any sense or not, but it was good to see a friendly smiling face. Before the week was up, both Mick and Ray, the other two tote tech open heart patients, and very good friends, had paid me a visit also.

I feel Kevin has been one of the most misunderstood technicians on the job, as management always appeared to have on going issues with him. But for me, the rules were very simple. Treat Kevin the same as you would like to be treated yourself, and Kevin would do anything for you without question. I know Michael Higgins agreed fully with me. We both had lots of time for Kevin, and both enjoyed working with him.

Kevin, and Mark Dyball were treated as casual workers and never taken into the fold as permanent workers during the ATL period. This was an issue I never agreed with, and have covered in other parts of this history of the Victorian ATL Tote.

Kevin Johnston and Mick Gulovsen remain the only  permanent ATL technical staff still working on course today. (April-2010). Everyone else has moved on, been retenched, retired, or fell off the perch.


Picture: Twins Jen & Jo Johnston
Ray Johnston is a big broad shouldered man, and had served 25 years as a policeman. His last position was as the Chief Training Officer, Motor Cycles, at Dawson Street Brunswick. He worked as a part time technician for a while, then transferred across and spent another 25 years at ATL before he retired. I always imagined clinging by my fingertips to the top of a tall building, about to fall, and Ray would throw his big arm over the side, and grab my hand. "Don't worry, I've got you young Donny!" I always had the utmost confidence in Ray, and without hesitation, would trust him with my life. Ray had the loudest speaking voice you could imagine. Just another reason we affectionately called him Big Ray, or Officer Johnston. Ray has a son Michael in a TAB agency at Bundoora, and another Kevin as a Technician on the tote,  as well as twin daughters, Jen, and Jo, yes, all working on the tote. Brian, Ray's second eldest son is elsewhere. I remember Ray taking the girls to Colac in the Tote Mobile for their 15th birthday. I was at Colac that day with Arthur, and our DQ equipment.

When I first met Ray, I told him I had lived in a small country town called Rainbow in the southern Mallee, Victoria, for about 6 years, and had an electrical contracting business there. Then he said, "I know Rainbow very well". I honestly thought, what a load of "BS", but when he rattled off most of the local names, I had to concede. He came out from New Zealand in about 1952, and the first job he had was as a farm labourer at Rainbow for about 18 months. I actually knew the farming family fairly well. We had a real laugh about it for many years, and often spoke about Rainbow.

My first race day on the tote, I was rostered under Ray in Paddock A (and Padd A ext) at Moonee Valley. My head was really spinning. "Mechanic, Mechanic!". We ran about 50 TIMS in the house, which covered J8's, J10's, and J18's. Ray taught me how to run, repair, unload, and then unplug them. Jack White (Graeme Twycross's Uncle) was the house supervisor, and Ray had to tell Jack how well he had taught young Donny to quickly become part of the tote team. Whenever I worked with Jack and Ray, it was a real pleasure. You couldn't wish for a better roster.

For a full a reference to length of service for the Johnston family: Kevin Johnston 11-February-1010


Jim Kennedy, from what I recall, had worked at the munitions works at Maribyrnong during WWII, prior to coming across to ATL. Once the old boys brigade had fully retired, he became the oldest member of the group. He was always immaculately dressed, loved a beer, and mingled with the social set around the racecourse. Many times, racecourse administrators would ask us where Jim, the ATL Tote Manager was, as they really believed that was his position. We never bothered to correct them, as it never really worried us. Was more a bit of a giggle that he was able to portray this role. If the tote broke down, we could always send them off to Jim to complain to. 

I remember coming up to my 40th birthday, was making my second last payment on my house, and mentioned to Jim that I would miss making my very last house payment by one month. He immediately offered to make the last payment for me, so I could say that I paid if off by my 40th birthday. Of course the truth was, I still had to pay Jim, so it wasn't going to be fete accompli. I had to thank him and decline.


Graeme Twycross
If I owned a company, the last two people I would be getting rid of would have been Peter Collier and Graeme Twycross. TABcorp managed to terminate the services of both of these men well before their used by date.

Graeme was tall, slim, prematurely bald, (today, most of us look much the same as we have caught up), and he ate like a horse. Didn't matter how much he shoveled in, he never put on any weight.

In the early years, I spent a lot of time with Graeme, as we often moved the Semi-trailer Mobile Computer Vans at silly hours after night meetings. He would drive the van, and I would chase him up in a car. When we got the van into the next race course, we would then go back and pick up Graeme's car from possibly a third race course. Could be midnight to 02:00 depending on the location of the three tracks in question.

Not always at night, we did the same thing after day meetings sometimes, but the principle was much the same. Even a short day meeting could end up 07:00 to 20:00.

Jim Kennedy also shifted the computer vans. Depending on rosters, it may have been as simple as a Monday morning move to the next track with a chase car. As Jim approached retirement, both Mark Dyball and Kevin Johnston also got involved in these computer van movements.

And the same procedure with the extra J18 TIM moves in the small ATL van on a Saturday, and Saturday night. Graeme or myself would become the chase car for the other. This routine is outlined elsewhere in this history.

Graeme was also a big part of the installation crew, and was effectively a one man band that did the initial layout of the extra installations during the spring racing carnivals. When the deadlines got closer, he was followed up with a much larger crew.

He was part of the team of four van engineers during the operation of the PDP 11/34 Vans that commenced operations in 1980. This was made up of Micheal Higgins, Graeme, Fred Estcourt, and myself.

Later he made up the team of three engineers permanently rostered at the new VOTS system at Moonee Valley. This was Peter Collier, Clive Angus, and Graeme. Graeme still appeared at spring racing carnival installations during this period. He really loved doing new installation work, and seemed to prefer to be on his own whenever possible.

Under Peter Collier's direction, Graeme engineered the shift of the TABcorp Central Site full computer systems from the old Number 1 Queens Road building, to Bowen Crescent. This was around the time I had taken early retirement.

At a much later date, TABcorp in their wisdom decided that they no longer needed Graeme, and retrenched him. He was perhaps in his early fifties? I was really shocked, even though I had been out of the tote circus for some time. The gods are crazy!

Next I heard they hired him back as a consultant. I guess there wasn't too many people around that knew the new system like Graeme. I like to think he charged them three times what he was getting as a paid employee of the company.


Frank Dowdle
Frank Dowdle was the chief engineer, and was about 15 years my senior. Medium build, wavy red hair, glasses generally sitting up on his head, rolled his own cigarettes, and always said hello as you passed by, no matter how busy he may be at the time. He was old school P.M.G., and everything had to be done his way. I was never sure if he loved me, or hated me. I think most of the Techs felt much the same way.

He had a single goal, and that was to make sure the engineering section of ATL Melbourne was run smoothly and successfully. He put in as many hours as anyone, and was always there on Saturdays and Saturday nights. On many occasions, he would drive his working family to the race track on a Saturday, as many were working as part time technicians, or sellers. After the races he would go home for tea, then turn up during the night at the trots.

He hated big changes, and lectured me about the evils of change due to the introduction of computers. He likened it to the industrial revolution. "Will put millions of people world wide out of work." And here I am on the other side of the argument, pushing as hard as I can to do just the opposite. I could see a computer in every home eventually.

Frank had seen all the manual sellers vanish. The J25 TIMs were able to read the bar-coded tickets, and the sellers became payers as well, and all from the one window. This made many other jobs obsolete, as it cut out a lot of internal tote staff, such as runners, money counters, and bankers. The main cash flow wasn't through the bank anymore, but at each individual sell-pay window.

The ATL Branch Manager Peter Kenyon had resigned, as he had accepted a job position in Tasmania, and Frank replaced him as the Branch Manager. Frank seemed to enjoy the new job, but he still had to be involved in the Engineering side of things. I guess it had been a way of life for too long for him to be able to let it go.

Aged 57, he became very ill with Cancer, but he still drove the kids to the races on a Saturday. The last time I saw him, he was hanging onto the door of his car for support, while he chatted to me in the driveway, near the tote van at Flemington. This was the week before he passed away.


Alf Schloeffel
Alf Schloeffel was sent from Sydney to Melbourne in 1931 for 6 weeks for the installation of Flemington. Alf liked Melbourne so much, he never returned. He was still there in 1980. After he finally retired, he drove a crash repair spare parts van for his son-in-law. I remember him paying us a few visits many years later at Olympic Park. Offered him a cup of tea, and I had to put eight spoonfuls of sugar in it, before he said, "OK. That's enough thanks Don". Alf could have been 75+ when I worked with him.

"Stick a sandwich in your mouth, I'm talking to a gentleman", was one of his favorite sayings. You couldn't find too many people to say a bad word about Alf, even when he may bring you undone on a daily basis. You had to love him. Alf smoked all his life. I think he was 86 when we went to the celebration of his life.


Joe Waddington
Joe always looked 15. A good crop of white hair, and the face of a teenager. He never seemed to age. I had kicked off by buying myself a new set of spanners and sockets that would fit the mechanical parts of the old TIMs, and supplement my already fairly extensive tool kit. By comparison, Joe had a wooden handled screwdriver with a broken handle, and a pair of bull nose pliers, both of which looked like they were out of a junked toolbox from a 1915 T Model Ford. Basically, he got by with these two tools, and it wasn't often I needed to lend him a helping hand, or a tool. His tool kit vanished into his jacket very readily when he was traveling. Joe could have been 75+ when I worked with him.


ATL Managers and Office Staff.
Peter Kenyon, an ex-government inspector, was the Branch Manager for many years.
Robin Bone, Maureen Jones,


Robin Bone
Sadly I learnt a few days ago about the passing of Robin Bone. (22-Feb-2010), and as I wanted to do a profile on Robin, I felt that now was a good time to do it, as I have many fond memories of him running around in my head at this moment.

I considered Robin a very good friend. He was an ATL manager in charge of staffing and race meeting operations. As such, I ran into him at virtually every country track, as well as most city tracks in the old electro-mechanical days.

He was the sort of person that easily gained respect, and was a mother hen to all of his staff. He made sure everything was running smoothly at all times, and was the man that fronted disgruntled punters, and racing administrators, when things went badly wrong.

If the problem was a result of what we would call a mechanical error, Robin was able to sooth the masses and explain that he would get a technical response from the Engineers. Here I was stuck about midway between being a mechanic, and a technician at this stage, and Robin always referred to me as an engineer, years before I reached that title within the company.

When Don McKenzie came up with a madcap idea that would revolutionize  tote operations, Robin Bone would back him to the hilt. And when I usually got shot down, Robin would plummet with me. He should have kept his distance. You think he would have learnt after so many downers that I had dragged him through. 

He had a maroon Leyland P76 car, which was a bit of a classic, even for the years I am talking about here. Some night country meetings, we could get a little stuck for getting transportation into town for tea, as our truck (van) sometimes had two power transformers with the inputs and outputs plugged into a tote operation, and it wasn't always easy to disconnect, then drive the truck to town to get a decent pub meal.

Robin would offer Arthur Gardiner and myself the use of the P76 on these occasions. First time I drove it I said to Arthur "What a bomb", then Arthur suggested I look at the speedo reading. I can't remember if it was in miles or kilometers it was that long ago, but the number was a very big one, like about 330,000.

I instantly forgave the P76 for all obvious flaws of saggy suspension, seats, doors, and body work. Everything squeaked and leaked, but for what it was, it drove extremely well. Robin had only ever put water, oil, and lots of petrol into it. Oh yes, and heaps of rubber. I think his daughter Lauren ended up with the car eventually.

Robin decided to go a different direction later in his career, and took on a TAB agency, which he ran successfully for many years. His partner Karen was a tote seller, and went up through the ranks of ATL and then the TAB over the years. I remember recommending Karen to Frank Dowdle, as a demo-seller-trainer when the J25s TIMs were first introduced in 1980.

Last time I saw Robin was at Noel Langlands funeral, and that was a long time ago. Wish I had been able to catch up with him just one more time.


ATL Software  Support.
Employed during the transition across to the new mobile PDP 11/34 systems, and the new VAX 780 VOTS Central site based at Moonee Valley.

David Kinny
I found David awkward to get to know well, and I guess I got along with him as good as anyone. He was the son of Doctors, and was a very sharp, young programmer. I would place him in guru class. David was found mainly at Moonee Valley doing software support  inside the VOTS computer complex.

I remember one Saturday night, I was in one of the mobile (semi-trailer) PDP 11-34 vans, running the Moonee Valley trot meeting, and David was inside the VOTS building, which was just outside the door of the mobile van. David wandered into the van, and saw me with graph paper, mapping out the lower case letters "a to z" in a 6 by 8 matrix, then hand converting the values to Hexadecimal. When he asked, I told him it was for a new character generator ROM, I was designing for the TRS-80 Model One Computer I had at home. These don't have lower case characters, and I had designed the hardware to fix this, and now I needed an EPROM chip mapped out to generate the new lower case characters. I had thought of writing a small program to do it, but decided it wasn't a big job to map it out by hand. David then rushed off inside. I wasn't sure if he got called away, or was up to something else.

Note for TRS-80 Model One die-hards:
There was a conversion kit vailable for lower case, however it had the 5 letters "g j pq and y" sitting above the base line. Mine was the first to drop them below the base line.

David came back 15 minutes later,  and told me he had written a program that will run on the 11/34 to do my little job, and we should test it. Today, if you wanted to transfer an exe file from one PC to another, you would do it with a USB memory stick. In 1980 on the systems we had, basically you had a very large Pertec tape drive, and our tape drives were used as audit tapes during any race meeting. They would be backing up the complete transaction file. We did run a duplex system, so it isn't a major problem. David dismounted one tape drive, mounted his executable file, then re-mounted the transaction file tape.

We then ran his new program. He had used the cursor keys, and space bar, to set and reset each individual pixel. The Hex values appeared to the right of the character box. Precisely what I needed. I thanked him, and pointed out that he had only mapped it 5 wide, not 6 as I needed. He deleted the file, grabbed the tape, and took off. At this stage I had two thoughts. 1) He has gone to fix it.  2) What a great programmer. Saw what I needed and had it running in 10 or 15 minutes.

An hour later I went to look for him and found him inside, tapping away on a keyboard on the VOTS system, and asked him how he went with the 6 bits wide version. "You said it was no good, so I deleted it!". Sorry, I don't have a moral to this story, as David had completely shocked me with this action. Needless to say, I found out why I had to stay at arms length from him in future. Some people are like that.


Mick Weiss
How do I explain Mick Weiss? At one stage we had a team of four men covering the PDP 11/34 race meetings. This was  Michael Higgins, Graeme Twycross, Fred Estcourt, and myself. Graeme was starting to move into the new team of three at our new central site at Moonee Valley known as VOTS, (Victorian On-course Totalisator System) so to help cover the roster, as well as give us on course software support with a new system, Mick Weiss was employed as an on course software engineer.

Mick had one big problem. He loved a drink. The three of us probably protected him too much, and I feel he was really hated by management, but as long as he pulled his magic on course when the system went down in a screaming heap, we were happy to continue to let things go.

We had unlisted phone numbers between systems, and whenever you rang Mick, he would answer with just a yep, a grunt, or an OK, and you would know it was him, even with the very short response, but were never quick enough to react with a silly response back. One day he answered "Telephone", so I shot back at him "Person", and I heard him slide to the floor in giggles, so I knew I had finally trapped him at his own game,  and got the better of his telephone technique.

The three of us remained firm friends with Mick, right up until we did the transfer to the TAB in 1988. Most of the techs got on well with Mick.  For some reason, Mick wouldn't have a bar of the transfer to the TAB, and resigned.Off he went and we never heard from him again.


Glyn Hooper, Geoff Illing, and Michael Palmer.
Were all key personal, employed by ATL to implement the conversion of the on course tote, to the new VOTS system. If I get the actual titles, and a little more information, I'll add it here. I knew them all reasonably well, and had a good working relationship with them. Geoff and Mike went onto for their own software business venture  UNICO. Gasp!, I just Googled UNICO, went to the link and saw a picture of Geoff. Has it been that long Geoff? Glyn took off to New Zealand for a similar racing project.


Dale Oxtoby
Dale Oxtoby


The Tote Staff
All sellers were female. Age didn't matter all that much, as long as you were over eighteen. Support staff such as dividend calculators, odds calculators, tote and house supervisors, bankers, payers, runners, and money counters, were made up of a mixture of male and female staff.

We had several family generations of staff in many cases. Gordon Collier, Frank Dowdle, Allan McCalman, and Joyce Mackintosh, are just a few examples of three generations employed on the tote. There would have been many more. Virtually everyone had some sort of family on the tote. My daughter Penny had a short stay as a seller. Now she runs my business.

What we called the core group, (A.K.A. The royal family) often worked six, seven, or more shifts a week, as many days had double header meetings because of day and night commitments, and mostly at different tracks, so there was a scramble to get from say a Mornington day meeting, to a Sandown Dog night meeting. Most of these sellers covered all country and dog tracks, as well as any races and trot commitments in the city.

At this point, I wish I had a selling staff race day roster, anywhere from around 1976 to about 1986, as it is impossible to mention everyone personally, even if I wanted to do so.


Cliff Ellen
When I met Cliff, he was a part time actor, and it appears he still is. See his Internet listings at: and
Ironically, he played the part of the horse float driver in the 1983 Australian movie about Australia's most famous horse, Phar Lap. The movie bearing the same name. He was responsible for driving the horse float down the members drive with Par Lap on board, as portrayed in the movie, on Melbourne Cup Day 1930.

Cliff is 7 years older than me, but he was prematurely bald in the days when I had a reasonable head of red hair. Because of the age he looked, he usually got the part of someones dad, the caretaker, the undertaker, the hospital patient, etc. At one stage, he did a TV series that was named after his character:  "Bingles" .... Ron (23 episodes, 1992-1993).

Cliff was a very experienced manual dividend calculator, and is a qualified accountant. When the manual calculator job vanished because of the introduction of Computers, he became a tote house supervisor. He also has a very good idea of horses, and the sort of money they should be paying on the tote. He helped ATL and myself with what we called "Mechanical Errors" on many occasions. If the equipment went wrong, and you had to make an educated guess on a dividend, Cliff was the right person to have handy.

I worked with Cliff directly on all the old electro-mechanical totes still running at the time I joined the team. This consisted of all city Interstate tote houses every Raceday, and all country tracks. So I knew him very well indeed.

For Cliff, the tote was a family business. His in-laws, Allan and Rose McCalman, his wife Mary, and daughter Jenny, all worked on the tote. He also had a brother and sister in-law working on the tote. There may have been other members of the family. This is the way the tote operated during these years.

Today, I sit in front of my computer, tapping away, always keeping busy. And I always have a TV running. Hardly watch it when I am tapping away. A voice from the TV stops me in my tracks. It is Cliff doing yet another ad. I can pick Cliffy's voice every time. I know it so very well.

The first time I had seen a computer virus was on Cliff's computer. It was the first time I had ever dealt with one. I had trouble believing that a computer could catch a virus. Now of course, it is a fact of life.

AHA! It's amazing what a little google can do for you: "Mr Ellen writes a column for a local newspaper based on the Mornington Peninsula."
Neighbours: The Perfect Blend | Interview: Cliff Ellen

Stone the flamin crows. It's Mr Ellen now!

Lucky Grills was a national Australian treasure and had a TV series called Bluey in 1975. A comedy team of writers grabbed the series and did their own voice-overs, and turned it into a comedy, Bargearse in 1992-93. Cliff's image appeared in the series a couple of times, and he was getting a small royalty because his image appeared, even though his voice was no longer heard.
Check out:
I would love to pinpoint the two episodes he appeared in.

Today Cliff lives at Rye on the Mornington Peninsula, and has a Facebook entry.

A further Ellen family reference: Kevin Johnston 11-February-1010


Mary Ellen
Mary Ellen (pictured twice on this page) is the daughter of Allan and Rose McCalman, (long time toties) and married to Cliff Ellen. Their daughter Jenny also worked on the tote for many years. Mary was always involved in some sort of admin control position on the tote. I remember her mainly operating the switchboards in the tote control area, or the mobile vans.

To finish this little story off, I have to mention that there was one other direct member of the Ellen family I was aware of. During school holidays at the quieter country tracks, Mary would bring in her other daughter Suzie. She must have been all of seven or eight at the time, and Mary would sit her in a corner with crayons, and a colouring-in book. Many, including myself, would approach her from time to time to see if she was OK, and needed anything including a good cheer up, but she was very happy and contented to sit for perhaps eight hours a day, colouring in, and keeping an eye on us.  Hardly said a word all day, quiet as a church mouse. Very unlike her parents.

Sadly Mary passed away in 2004, and was one of my favorite people. As was her husband Cliff. (As was Jenny) 


Jenny Ellen

Two stories Jenny told me many years ago, and I have never forgotten, and feel the need to repeat them here.

Jenny, the Tram, and "That's my dad!"
Jenny was having an early evening dinner with a friend at a restaurant in Glenferrie Rd, near Dandenong Rd Malvern, when an elderly drunk was verbally abused, then thrown from a passing tram, right in front of them. He started to go through a rubbish bin, before the tram moved on. Jenny's friend said something along the lines: "Isn't that shocking, seeing an old man so drunk, and down on his luck, that he has to go and do something like that". Jenny replied "That's my dad".
Dining in Melbourne can be a fabulous experience, especially aboard the fleet of historical trams that have become The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. These glossy, burgundy restaurants on wheels are the first travelling tramcar restaurants in the world and ensure a delightful innovative approach to dining.

Cliff had an acting gig on the Tramcar, and was the annoying drunk for the trip.

Jenny the Greek Shop Assistant.
Jenny has some good Greek friends, and was invited to Greece for a short working holiday. All she needed to do was sell a few clothes to the tourists in the shop. If you know Jenny, she could easily pass for a Greek with her long black hair and dark complexion. The tourists all believed she was a local, and couldn't possibly understand much English, so she was able to pick up on what they were saying very easily, which gave her a good advantage when it came to sales. When asked if she could speak English by the Americans, she positioned her thumb and index finger about 1/2" apart, and said "Leettle beet".

I can only start to imagine the fun Jenny had with this one. I think she was there three months. I see from her Facebook, she still has lot of Greek friends. 


Many of the roles below, swapped around a little bit from time to time, and my memory needs a good prompt on some of the names:

Dividend Calculators
Little story about DC's.
Cliff Ellen, Steve Smith, Ash Conroy, Pat Paul, Elsie Hibberd and Elsie Gardiner, Ross?

Odds Calculators
Little story about OC's.
Win Folley, Betty Miles, Dulcie Lewis, Dot Westcott, Mattie Rainsbury.

Control Staff
Control Supervisors, Vic Lees, Bryan Whittard, Ash Conroy, Ian Uren
Race Day Control, Val Farrell, Mary Ellen, Sandra Kinsella, Pat Randell, Judy Berry, Pat Samble, Karen Anderson, Marilyn Moloney, Judy Williams,


Non-ATL On Course Support Staff
There are a lot more groups associated with the race clubs than I have listed below, however these are the people we had a close race day working relationship with.

Government Inspectors
Little story about GI's.
Malcolm Van Acadi, Jack (Doc) Mannix, Ian Davies, Ross Johnson, Richard Lachall (His father was Secretary Of the VRC), John Condon, and Ross Kennedy


TAB Representatives

Little story about TR's.
Wally Kenny,


PROVIDEO On Course Video Provider
Frank Verstrepen, and his step son David Ferrier, provided the video distribution systems on many racecourses we attended, certainly all of the country ones. This was from the camera work, right through to the video monitors, and provide the video recordings of each event. Frank was from the old Channel 0-10 TV network, and knew a couple of my friends that also worked at the Nunawading complex.

I met David at Sale racecourse, when he was all of about 14. I was just relating a story about David to Brian Conlon, and felt it should be included in this archive.

David was Harley Davidson motorcycle mad. Possibly still is. He would impersonate Arnold Schwarzenegger with the rifle holster, and the sunnies from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), during coffee breaks, etc. He would cock the rifle using one hand, holster it, and then flip the sunnies on with the other, saying "I'll be bark". He would then jump on the Harley and ride off into the nearest tote house spinning his wheels. I always imagined a fish tailswing of the rear wheel as he took off. David now tells me he is a grand father.

Currently David operates Race-Tech Australia The Big Screen Company.


TIM Cartage Contractors
Mayne Nickless, Peter Kennedy, Jack Asmar, Asmar Transport, (Also big Terry, the wild man from borneo), Jack sub-contracted to Border Express later.

Race Course Administrators

Special mentions...  David and Gavin Burke, Bunny Drake, Allan ??, and Pakenham. Ted Walker, Ron King, VRC, Ron Snell (VATC, Sandown Dogs, Cranbourne Dogs), Ian McEwen MVRC..........


On Course Professional Punters
Ron Parkinson, Chris Robertson, Neil Rieck, and Norm Scott (CR) are pro punters that readily come to mind.

(Chris Robertson 27-12-2009)
Neil Rieck and Norm Scott. Norm is still betting at city tracks. Neil lives in Clifton Springs and has dropped off the radar. Ron bets from home inbetween mutterings about the Essendon Football Club's playing group. He rings me from time to time to talk about the current state of Australia's horse race betting. He might not appreciate me paraphrasing him, so you'll have to guess what he thinks of the current deregulated system. We were more recognisable as a 'gang of four' at distant meetings. The locals must have thought us a very odd assortment. They'd have been right. There are others, but they might value their anonymity. As for the 'gang of four', too late for that now.

There was a small group of professional punters, that made a living from punting, perhaps working on a margin of only 1%. They turned up every raceday, and were as hard working as anyone on the course. In the early days, to me, they seemed to have been treated a little like lepers, as they appeared to be hogging the tote window queues, as far as the general public was concerned. They sometimes needed to place numerous bet types, and usually very large sums of money. So, they would be at the front of the queue, and the queue traffic wouldn't be moving. General public didn't like it. Sellers and pro punters had a very good relationship, and most knew each other on a first name basis.

Years later, after examining the turnover, the clubs decided that pro punters were an important part of their business. Special facilities, such as purpose built tote houses were constructed and used on all major city courses. They had their own TIM, and operator. Tea, coffee, soft drinks,  a selection of sandwiches and hot snacks were also provided. Only very experienced staff were rostered in the Pro Punters Room.

After I retired, I think the situation reverted fully back to the leper approach. The introduction of the PC based TIM in 1994, seems to have spelt the deathblow for on course professional punters.

Quoting Chris Robertson from Brian Conlon's Page in 2001:
"What was really sad was the replacement of J25s in 1994. To me the Tote was no longer the Tote. Nowadays it seems any generic computer terminal can handle the functions that were previously carried out by highly specialised machines that were a delight to watch perform... That's progress. Computers have been the nemesis of the old fashioned 'Overs' punter. My Saturdays are now spent watching football, and last year I missed my first Derby Day at Flemington since 1969... "

About a third of the way into this page:
Under the Heading: "Following are some extracts from emails received from Chris Robertson in September 2001"
You will be able to read the full email from Chris.


Chris, Neil and the ATL tote truck.
Due to the commitments of the TIMs on Saturdays, we would usually need to transport anywhere from 25 to 40 J18's from the major racecourse day meeting, to the trot night meeting. This night meeting was the Showgrounds at Ascot Vale, or Moonee Valley trots in later years. This meant specific tote houses would be designated to be closed and "unloaded" early, so that we could get the job done quickly. We would carry one terminal between two men, and we formed a daisy chain line of as many Technicians as we could get, to load up the truck. Example: Six men carried five terminals at once. If you needed to move 40 terminals, then you had eight trips out to the truck.

Depending on the daily roster, Graeme Twycross and-or myself, usually had the task of driving the white Leyland van out to the night trot meeting. When we arrived, it was then a rush to get the TIMs out of the truck and into the tote houses and "Loaded" up with type, before race one opened for sales. If Joe Waddington was rostered on the day meeting, he would get a lift out with us, as he came into work by train, and lived right opposite the Showgrounds. He was into his seventies then. The truck was only a two seater, unless you sat on the engine cowling (many did), but Joe was more than comfortable in the back, sitting on a wooden chair amongst the terminals.

Chris and Neil being pro-punters, and at the leper stage of pro-punter on course development, would give us a hand with the TIMs, in exchange for a lift out to the Showgrounds. This also meant they would get in for free, as they were in the back of the ATL truck. Quite a contrast to later years for them. The pro-punters also chased every country meeting they could get to, and as I spent a lot of time on the country tracks in the electro-mechanical days, I got to know them all very well.

As a footnote, I knew Chris's brother Jim Robertson extremely well also. When I told him I had known Chris since 1976, he got quite a shock. As Dontronics, I sold Jim's Warp-13 Australian (Geelong) designed PIC microcontroller programmer, for many years. It was a world wide known, and without doubt, the best available. I built Dontronics on getting the best of other peoples ideas, and marketing them on the Internet. This programmer hasn't been available for many years now, but if you Google "warp-13 pic programmer", (with quotes) you will still find plenty of hits. These hits will vanish as the years go by. I spoke with Jim in the last few days of writing this sentence. (Dec-2009) He purchased some gear from me, to do some more development work on a new idea he has evolving.


From Brian Conlon Nov-2009:
Regarding Chris Robertson, I found him to be an absolutely amazing individual. His knowledge of ATL was uncanny. For a punter on the outside he wrote more like a tote manager with knowledge of what goes on inside the tote. He even knew the sort of things that "struck fear" into the hearts of tote managers, especially with the Julius tote but not isolated to that. He knew ATL's product line, every model of TIM and where they were installed. He certainly knows a lot more about this last subject than I do. In the "Caracas a latterday Julius tote installation" I put an entry at the bottom about another latterday installation at Blue Bonnetts at Montreal. See I originally copied the writing on the back of the photograph which stated Blue Bonnets was in Ottawa.

Chris was obviously keeping a close eye on changes to the totalisator history website as he wrote to me after a long break in communication informing me that Blue Bonnets was not in Ottawa but Montreal. I checked the photo and it definitely stated Ottawa so I spoke to Neville Mitchell to ask for confirmation. Neville said I know it is wrong, that was a bugger of an installation, requiring long hour days 7 days a week and I was exhausted when I wrote that and it was the wrong location. The next paragraph now resides in the Blue Bonnets section. Of course not only had Chris been there, he also knew which ticket issuing machines were in use. The other totie like feeling he displayed was an emotion of disappointment when the ticket issuing machines stopped being custom built specialist devices and just became off the shelf generic type devices. To me Chris is an enigma. Most people on the outside know little of the inside. He to me appears to be an expert on the inside worthy of someone who has worked inside the tote for decades.

(Postscript - there was some confusion over the location of this installation. Neville's note indicates that it is in Ottawa. After receiving an email from Chris Robertson in March 2005 correcting this error, I spoke to Neville about it. He said he was exhausted after this project and recorded the location in error. I have included an extract from Chris' email - But any respecting Francophone Canadian will take umbrage at the suggestion that Blue Bonnets Raceway is, or ever was in Ottawa. It won't come as any great surprise to you to learn I've actually been to Blue Bonnets and I can assure you it is in Montreal Quebec.)