‘sticker-licker’: meaning and origin

In the state of South Australia, the noun sticker-licker designates a traffic warden, i.e., a person employed to enforce regulations about the parking of motor vehicles.

This noun refers to the fact that South Australian traffic wardens licked the adhesive parking tickets in order to stick them to the windscreens—hence also the verb sticker-lick. This was mentioned for example in the following from the column Good Morning!, published in The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) of Friday 21st August 1953:

STICKY BUSINESS.—A Stirling dweller complains that he took a severe licking the other day when he tried to remove a sticker left on his car by a council inspector, and he suggests that it might be an effective way of spreading germs. Why, he asks, cannot the City Council supply the “sticker-lickers” with a pad similar to the sort of stamp pad on post office counters?

Likewise, the following, about an Adelaide businessman who was fined for a parking offence, was published in The News (Adelaide, South Australia) of Monday 21st September 1953:

The 10-minute parking time in front of an Adelaide business premises such as Foy and Gibson’s was, in his opinion, a trap for revenue.
His second grievance was that the parking inspector’s sticker had been applied with a surplus of spittle and stuck to his fingers like a sticky feather.
Subsequently he had to take his three-year-old girl to a doctor with an infection in the middle ear.
“There may be no connection between the two events, but it is sufficient for me that the possibility was there.
“If it is even remotely possible that germs can be transferred from human spittle, the City Council should drop the sticker-licking habit.”
He instanced a Press report today that the polio virus entered by the mouth.

These are the earliest occurrences of the verb sticker-lick and of the noun sticker-licker that I have found, in chronological order:

1-: From the column Good Morning!, published in The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) of Friday 10th October 1952:

VERSATILE.—That “mountie” on the grey, now a familiar figure in the city streets, is rapidly becoming a master of all trades from sticker-licking, to controlling traffic.

2-: From a letter to the Editor, published in The News (Adelaide, South Australia) of Monday 2nd March 1953:

PARKING PROBLEM
The town clerk (Mr. Veale) said (The News, 21/2/53) that his door was always open to traders for discussion of their parking problems.
I drive a 2½-ton truck for a well-known city firm. About a fortnight ago I parked in Gawler place for the purpose of loading. After waiting 20 minutes I was told the article would not be ready until next day. When I returned to my truck there was a sticker on the windscreen.
Next morning I went to the town hall and asked to see the town clerk. I was told to put my explanation in writing. These “sticker lickers” as we call them should give the worker a bit more latitude.
Adelaide                FAIR GO

3-: From the column Good Morning!, published in The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) of Saturday 6th June 1953:

Here’s a tip to the sticker-lickers of the Adelaide City Council from the “Dutch-Australian Weekly.” Traffic police of the Dutch town of Arnhem have formed themselves into a sort of Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Motorists. Parking offenders find this happily-phrased note on their cars: “No, dear driver, you are not right. This note is not a threat but a kind warning for your own good.”

4-: From the column Good Morning!, published in The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) of Tuesday 4th August 1953:

BOOK ENTRY.—When is a bike not a bike? When it’s a piece of furniture. That’s what a secondhand furniture dealer not far from this office had to explain to a City Council “sticker-licker” yesterday when he attempted to book a vintage motor cycle for standing in a prohibited area in Marlborough place.
The furniture dealer had been commissioned to sell the machine, and had leant it—flat back tyre, wear and tear of years, auctioneer’s chalk marks, and all—against the kerb in the lane to get it temporarily out of his shop. But that sticker-licker took a power of convincing!

The Australian poet, editor, journalist, bookseller and publisher Maxwell Henley ‘Max’ Harris (1921-1995), who was born and bred in South Australia, mentioned sticker-licker in Dictionaries: War of words still has long way to run, a very interesting article published in The Bulletin (Sydney, New South Wales) of Tuesday 2nd March 1982:

The dictionary publishing event of the decade, as far as Australia is concerned, was the launching of the Macquarie Dictionary last year. The marketing licence was assigned to the Fairfax-Herald-Weekly Times newspaper alliance.
Although academic eyebrows have been raised about claims of the Macquarie dictionary being “this historic first edition,” attention focused almost entirely upon Professor Delbridge’s coverage of Australian idioms and indigenous neologisms.
The idea for a great Australian lexicographical authority goes back to 1968 and Brian Clouston’s Jacaranda Press. A fair amount of the work was carried out in the Jacaranda Sydney offices between 1970 and 1973. It has been a fragmented operation and by no means as scientifically researched as the propaganda claims. The modern computer resources don’t seem to have been deeply explored. And it shows.
There are plenty of nits that can be picked, most of them attributable to the Sydney-centred basis of the compilation and inadequate attention to regionalisms which are, after all, one of the most interesting aspects of the Australian language.
[…]
[…] The refusal of the compilers to detail regionalisms will lead to mystification for most Australians. “Brown bomber,” for example, is meaningless outside Sydney. In Melbourne they probably would think it had something to do with the Essendon Football Club. In South Australia they certainly wouldn’t associate it with “sticker lickers” (not included). Because parking inspectors are called “brown bombers” in Sydney the usage is applied to the whole nation. How parochial can you get?

Photograph and caption from Dictionaries: War of words still has long way to run, published in The Bulletin (Sydney, New South Wales) of Tuesday 2nd March 1982:

'sticker licker' Max Harris - The Bulletin (Sydney, New South Wales) - 2 March 1982

Max Harris: sticker lickers in South Australia are called brown bombers in New South Wales