Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Australia (Part III) - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Last week’s blog was the second post about the exploits of my Uncle Tony, his wife Mary and their 5 children pictured below while in Australia where Tony worked for John Deere down under from 1964-69. The third and final installment follows as the family discovers Australia:

Australia (Part III)

Australian Sheep Station
One of our most memorable family trips was to a 9000 acre sheep station, near Young, North South Wales (NSW), about 120 miles from our home. Here we became better acquainted with a rural family, the Page’s, whose children attended boarding school in Sydney. Our kids became acquainted with the Page children around the local pool, and as a result we were invited to visit with them at their home. Jennie, their daughter, later came to the USA as an exchange student in Indiana.

As a side note, a number of years later after returning to the States, we noticed a picture of a local girl in the newspaper indicating she recently returned from Australia where she was an exchange student, having lived with the Page's in Young, NSW. It also noted that Jennie Page, whom we met in Australia, was scheduled to visit with her the following week from her USA host’s home in Indiana. That same time, I became acquainted with a recently returned Vietnam veteran who mentioned to me that he bypassed the tourist areas of Sydney to take his R&R in the country, staying with the Page’s for a week. What a wonderful coincidence, when Jennie Page, along with the local girl who’s photo was in the paper and the Vietnam veteran (a new John Deere employee), all came to our home for dinner. Small world!

JFK park - Melbourne
Exploring out of the way places has always been one of our interests, and with a myriad of new places to discover, there was no shortages of destinations to visit on weekends. Whale Beach became a regular for us if we weren’t out of town with the family exploring the neighboring areas. Some of the places which come to mind, in addition to the Page’s 9000 acre sheep station, were visits to the Blue Mountains, fishing for trout in the Goodradigbe River, the Snowy Mountains, Castle Hill where Alan Jackson lived, tea at the Coleman’s; visit with Bill and Molly Carty (Bill was General McArthur‘s personal photographer and author of the book Flickers of History), deep sea fishing on a commercial fishing vessel out of Woolongong, Australia’s capital Canberra, kangaroo site seeing at Braidwood; the city of Melbourne and its J.F. Kennedy Park, Phillips Island’s fairy penguins, cruising the Hawksbury in the Elimatta, and a host of school activities as well as an occasional a round of golf at the local course early on a Saturday.

Sydney itself was a most interesting city to explore. Doyle’s cafĂ© was one of our favorite eateries, where patrons were permitted to bring their own wine or other drinks. The controversial and famous Opera House was constructed during our stay. Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral were also on our agenda.

Sydney Opera House

Mary and I took several vacation trips alone or with friends, such as a cruise of the Great Barrier Reef, the Goroka, New Guinea Highlands Show, to the New South Wales outback, to Queensland Gold Coast and to the Atherton Tablelands.

Company travel to the various distributor locations were sometimes extended to more than a week, as was the case traveling to New Zealand for the World Ploughing Contest, to lengthy sales meetings at distributors in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, and to our main store in Melbourne.

On several occasions I traveled with territory managers to get a feel for the vast areas they needed to cover to fulfill their duties, as well as a taste of the real Australia. On one occasion, we drove the inland route north from Brisbane through rural Queensland to Townsville. No evidence of human habitation was evidenced anywhere along the three hundred miles of gravel road, not even a petrol station (extra fuel was carried in metal containers). We observed many iguanas, emus, exotic birds, and kangaroos. On this trip we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn during the noon hour on December 21st as the sun was directly overhead. We cast no shadow.

I remember on one occasion Mary accompanied me on a business trip to the NSW outback We had an interesting experience and learned of yet another custom of that culture. Alcoholic beverages were available to the public only in hotels, and ladies were not allowed in the hotel’s standup bar, and men were restricted from the lounge unless with a lady. Coat and tie was mandatory and ladies were NOT to wear slacks, as Mary did that day. Being a Yank fortunately relieved us of such a requirement on that occasion. However, a selection of coats and ties were readily available for men on racks near the entrance for those who came without.

Our first car was a red and white Holden, a General Motors car, which was about equivalent to a US built compact car. Later on we purchased a Volkswagen sedan, a model not sold in the USA. I traded for a new white Holden after three years. This was the largest car built in Australia. VW beetles and the Mini Minors were the most popular cars on the road. Japanese-built small cars were just beginning to be introduced to the Australian market at that time, long before they became available in the USA. Many of these brand names became familiar in our country years later.

Our kids in the back of the Holden

Deere & Co. executives, included CEO William Hewitt, often visited to review manufacturing and marketing operations, attend to governmental issues, make management personnel changes, investigate growth possibilities in Australia and revise contract provisions Somebody would arrive almost weekly , especially during the winter months in the States! This often involved meeting them at the airport, showing them around, delivering them to the hotel, and spending time with them in conferences for a few days and often entertaining them in the evenings. Factory reps from the USA were often invited to present new product information at our scheduled sales meetings.

My personal claim to fame with John Deere to this day is the establishment of the first independent Australian John Deere dealer, in Tamworth, NSW. This is now one of the largest dealers in Australia, owning and operating six dealerships, all as a family endeavor I’m proud of the fact that Deere & Company's annual sales in Australia have reached $1 billion starting from zero in 1964.

Each year, the family was allowed an all expense paid trip back home, which we looked forward to immensely. However, one year we decided instead to take a trip with all five kids including stops in Singapore, Bangkok Thailand, Karachi Pakistan, India, Kuwait, Istanbul Turkey, Athens Greece, Rome Italy (where we saw the pope), Switzerland, Munich Germany, Mexico City, Honolulu Hawaii, and Western Samoa – around the world!

Early in 1969, I was re-assigned to a position back in the States after having spent 5 wonderful years in Australia; an adventure our family will never forget. And in 1983, I retired from Deere & Company after 34 years, moving one last time to Sun City, Florida between Tampa and Sarasota.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Australia (Part II) - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Last week’s blog was the initial post about my Uncle Tony and his family’s exploits in Australia when he worked for John Deere down under from 1964-69. Recall the photo of the family as they were about to depart, all in suits, ties and formal dress. Imagine flying all the way to Australia dressed that way? The second installment follows as the family departs for Australia:

Australia (Part II)

Now, back to reality. We had lots of work to do. Deere recommended that we not ship much household goods, especially electrical appliances, since Australia used 220 volt power to residential homes. Any electrical appliance we would bring required a transformer. The timetable established that I be in Australia on the job as soon as possible, preferably within a couple of weeks. Disposal of most of our household goods and car, securing passports for all, special inoculations for certain tropical diseases, visiting with our respective families to say goodbye, and a thousand other things contributed to the flurry of activities leading up to our departure in September, 1964.

That last day in the “states” we packed all our belongings into 10 suitcases, and drove our station wagon to Springfield to say goodbye, then on to Ft. Loramie to stay with my sister and her family (Note: that would be us!) before departure from the Dayton airport the next morning. It was quite a sight to see all seven of us and all our luggage in and on top of that station wagon. Our first flight was on a DC6B from Dayton to Chicago, changed to a Boeing 727 to San Francisco, where we changed to a Boeing 707 for the flight to Honolulu where we were to stay over for a couple of days. We spent an anxious day without luggage, which accidentally continued on to Sydney. But, it was eventually returned, and all was well. While in Hawaii, our former next door neighbors in Springfield, Jack and Elsie, who were now living in Honolulu, visited with us. Two days later we were on our way to Sydney aboard another Qantas 707.

Once we were settled in at the Shore Motel (pictured above) in Sydney, one of the first things we needed to address was education for our children. The normal school year in Australia runs from February through mid December. Being in the southern hemisphere, September was springtime, and over half the school year had already been completed. After much thought, we decided to place them in the same grade they just completed in Ohio, to give them a chance to become acclimated to that system. They were temporarily enrolled in the Chatswood school system, near the Shore Motel, where we occupied the manager’s suite, until we could find a 4 bedroom house to rent. Mary did most of the house hunting, scouting the areas with wives of other Deere employees. After scores of hours she spent with real estate people, we finally decided to rent at 39 Lancaster ave. St. Ives, NSW.

This location was in the northern suburbs of Sydney, a rapidly growing area, so rapid that phones for most homes could not yet be supplied. Finally, after a two year wait, telephone service was finally supplied to our home.

The four school aged kids were enrolled in the local Catholic schools. Deere reimbursed us for all tuition and school expenses, including uniforms, books and supplies. The youngest entered the first grade on his 5th birthday, June 6, 1968, as was the custom in Australia, and was appalled upon our return to the States eight months later where he was not yet old enough for the first grade, therefore was placed in kindergarten!!!

We soon became acquainted in our new neighborhood, and became friends with many, especially the Wilcox’s, who hailed from Canada Our interest in bridge introduced us to many other Americans living in this area, and enjoyed many, many interesting parties with them. It was here that we really learned this card game by playing with experts.

And we quickly learned about the many, many differences from our previous lifestyle in Ohio. Our new home in St. Ives was of brick construction, no central heat or air conditioning, not conducive to comfort with year round temperatures ranging from a low of about 40 to a high of 95. It became mighty cold many mornings with inside temperatures in the 40’s. There were no closets in the bedrooms, small screened openings to the outside near the ceiling in each room for ventilation in case of carbon monoxide buildup (many homes were heated with charcoal).

Other differences included such things as lever type door handles, higher on the door so little tykes couldn't reach them, 220 volt electricity, light switches flipped up for off, down for on, seven foot high privacy fences around every backyard, milk not homogenized, and delivered in glass bottles, totally different sports at school, no stores open Saturday afternoon or Sunday, grocery stores did not provide bags, a totally different monetary system and a host of strange wildlife were just a few new things we had to quickly learn in this culture.

Even the spelling or pronunciation of some common words were different. The cadence of speech, and some of the slang words often threw us into a bit of a culture shock. For example:

But of necessity, all of us soon learned the meaning of these terms and others as time went by. There were many more.

Learning to drive on the left side of the road required total concentration, but after a while, it became so routine we had some lapses when driving back in America on our home leave!

Australia was still on the British type currency system: pounds, shillings and pence. Conversion to the decimal currency system occurred on 14th of February, 1966. Learning the system was not easy for anyone. Coins and bills looked so strange--different colors and sizes. Preparing expense accounts for our housing allowance, cost of living allowance and educational expenses on a monthly basis was not easy, considering that currency valuations between USA and Australia fluctuated from month to month, Converting pounds, shillings and pence to American dollars always gave me problems. My starting annual salary as General Sales Manager in 1964 was about $9000, up from $8000 as a territory manager in Ohio, then increased by increments to $12,500 by 1969. About one half of that was deposited in our Springfield, Ohio bank account by Deere so our General Manager, would not be aware that my salary exceeded his.

All our family soon settled in to our new environment, but nothing became routine. Much of my official time was spent out-of-town, sometimes for weeks and over weekends. Entertaining visiting Americans and others from other Deere facilities also demanded much of my time. This saddled Mary with all the responsibilities of running a household, which she did with aplomb. The older kids bought used bikes, and we all enjoyed frequent trips to the outback and other places of interest. There was so much to discover in this wondrous place far away from home.

Check next week’s blog to read more about the family's adventures while in Australia (and beyond).

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Australia - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s


This photo shows my uncle Tony and his family as they are about to depart for Australia in 1964. Tony worked for John Deere and was sent there to lead the sales and service operations down under. Tony is now deceased as documented in this previous blog about him. However, I recently discovered that he wrote a memoir about he and his family’s experiences while in Australia. This is the first installment of several to come:

by Tony Hoying

The land “down under”!!! A country so far away. A country so inviting. A country with roots similar to those of our own country. A country we could only dream of visiting. And yet that dream became a reality.

I am often awed by the unbelievable opportunity awaiting a simple farm boy when I entered the real world and started my career with John Deere. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought that I would be considered for a high management position, let alone being assigned to that capacity as the only American to represent Deere in a foreign country half way around the world. Much of the successes in that area must be granted to Mary and our kids. Without their agreement, encouragement and support, the promotion would have been mute. Their enthusiastic approval was the confidence builder much needed.

I’ll never forget that midday phone call from our Columbus , Ohio John Deere Branch Manager Ray Matson on that bright August day. I had just completed checking inventory at our John Deere dealer in Russellville, Ohio and prepared to break for lunch. The odds that an earlier brief conversation with him resulted in the question “Are you still interested in an overseas assignment?”, would in my mind, be a million to one. A few months prior, we had discussed Deere’s entry into the overseas market through the purchase of the Heinrich Lanz Company in Germany, I casually mentioned that an assignment there would be an interesting experience. My brother Hank had been appointed Branch Manager for NCR in Germany almost a year ago, and was doing well.

Mr. Mattson mentioned that I had been recommended as a candidate for the position of General Sales Manager at the recently opened office in Sydney, Australia. Lanz owned a facility in Australia, which Deere had acquired in the purchase, and Deere executives had plans to significantly upgrade operations in that part of the world. Naturally, I was caught completely off guard, as a thousand questions entered my mind, but I tried to remain calm and focused as possible as I responded, then was told to talk it over with Mary (Tony’s wife) and let him know as soon as possible.

I could scarcely think of anything else on my way home, driving that ‘64 Chevy station wagon hard on the winding two lane highways, wanting to break the news to my family. My emotions ran wild; surprised that I was even asked and offered an overseas promotion. The mystery of a very different culture; the impact it would have on our kids; wondering how our aging parents would feel; and realizing that we would face many near impossible challenges; all these entered my mind as I drove.

Finally, upon arriving home, I hurried into the house to break the news to Mary, busy ironing the laundry, not a real fun job. When I asked if she would like to move from her hometown of Springfield (Ohio) to Sydney, she showed obvious lack of enthusiasm, thinking I meant Sidney, Ohio. But after a short hesitation, I added Australia.

“Yes, yes, she cried, almost dropping the iron. Our sense of adventure grew by leaps and bounds, anticipating a most interesting future. Our kids, however, didn’t seem to grasp the significance of this issue when we presented it to them. But they, too, had a big stake in our decision. Their ages ranged from 15 months to 13 years old.

Early next morning Mr. Mattson was advised that all systems were “go” as far as we were concerned, so he immediately had plane reservations made for me to travel to Moline, for a formal interview with the Executive VP in charge of world wide sales. We were about to commence an eventful and satisfying journey. When I commented that I wasn’t sure of my ability to handle the job, the VP responded “Don’t worry, Tony, we’ve already taken care of that.” What a confidence booster!

After a welcome lunch in the executive dining room with the EVP as well as the CEO and many of the other top guns of Deere & Co., I was escorted on a private tour to the offices of other executives with whom I would correspond when in Australia. All seemed to be pleased with our decision, and welcomed me to that peer group. It was difficult to remain humble amongst all that executive power. They ordered first class airline tickets to Sydney for me, and a week later QANTAS delivered me there, arriving about 6am.

Dead tired after an all night flight, I was met by a contingent of executives of John Deere Australia Pty. Ltd.. After a brief conversation with them, I was escorted to the airport parking lot and for the first time, I had the harrowing experience of riding in a car with the controls on the right side and driving on the “wrong“ side of the road Needless to say, positioned in what we considered the driver’s seat, the ride to the Menzies Hotel was scary and hectic.. No apparent traffic lights, and mostly 4 way go streets made for a very exciting ride. Cars arriving from the left had the right of way. Sitting in what was normally the driver’s seat for Yanks, with no control of the vehicle, it was scary;.. Accommodations in Sydney were in the Menzies Hotel, as our offices were on the 20th floor in that same twin tower complex.

The next few weeks were spent traveling to the John Deere facilities in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as our distributors in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, where we took in the Agricultural Show of Queensland. A couple of days of R&R at the Chevron Resort in Surfers Paradise, then back to Sydney for a few days in the office before returning home to Ohio. What a trip! What a high!

Another couple of days in Moline for conferences with Deere people I’d be working with, and I was ready to take on the new job. But when the company presented me with a one way ticket for our family to Australia, I experienced a tremendous sinking feeling in my gut, wondering if we were really doing the right thing. This was a time of not only of high anticipation, but also of dread. I began to have some serious reservations. This was for real. Until now, all these activities were an exciting adventure. But now, serious questions entered my mind. What about our aging parents, what about health issues, what if we became seriously ill, what about a lot of other important issues, such as investments, remaining personal property, etc. But the tickets did include a two day layover in Honolulu, another indicator that John Deere was a company with character, concerned with the well being of our family.

Look for another excerpt of Uncle Tony and his family's Australian adventures next week

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Pond - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

The Pond

My wife grew up on her family's farm northeast of Russia that has two small ponds behind the barn. The family photo above taken in 1957 shows the smaller pond in the background. Her grandfather DJ had an old house trailer shown in the aerial photo below that was situated next to the pond where the family would congregate on weekends to hold fishing contests, fish fries, barbecues and play games.

Grandpa DJ especially enjoyed spending time there. In fact, he was at the pond when he died in 1976, likely his favorite place in the world. That’s definitely the way to go! He loved fishing; to the point this blogpost was written about his fishing tackle box that I picked up when the family divided up his personal belongings after his death. One of my wife’s high school classmates posted the following comment about the blog sharing his experiences at the pond:

"Really enjoyed this. I remember DJ's annual parties at the pond on the farm, I believe on first day of hunting season. All of the politicians (DJ & Gov. Gilligan shown below), priests, and celebrities of all stripes were there. Also, all of the local good ol' boys such as George Coffield, Shep (Simon), Charlie Grogean, Syl Daniel, etc. Free food, beer, liquor, cigars, cigarettes, etc. DJ was in his element going around patting everybody on the back. I guess I was invited because I was the local banker at the time. He gave me an ashtray that said "who is DJ" on it. Just a way of promoting his "brand". There were a lot of "characters" in those days but DJ was truly one of a kind. I guess God decided there was no sense in trying to duplicate him". :-)

My wife recalls riding in a rowboat with her father on the pond when it capsized, spilling both overboard. Her father lost his glasses and the first thing she feared was that her father couldn’t see to rescue her. But needless to say, he did. Then there was the time my wife’s two sisters ran away from home and they were feared to have drowned in the pond only to eventually be found in the nearby woods. My wife said she ran all over the farm crying the whole time while looking for them. And her brother recalls sneaking into grandpa DJ’s trailer with his friends as teenagers to sample the "stash of booze, cigs, guns and fireworks; all those things kids shouldn't be doing”.

Her sisters remember grandpa’s “creepy” bedroom in the trailer and several small mini-bikes the kids would ride all around the property. Apparently, once their mother almost ran one into the pond, which would have been a sight to see!

The family recalls ice skating on the pond in the winter, building a fire next to the ice to keep warm. The trailer was no longer useable so was eventually torn down and replaced by a much nicer and larger building with a restroom, small kitchenette, TV and wood burning stove for heat. With the new building in place, the family would host an annual party on the Saturday night before Father’s Day at the pond that included a band which would play from a makeshift stage made out of a hay wagon. It was quite an affair held before most of us had children. Once the kids started arriving, the tradition became history! Here’s a photo from one of the parties with an Hawaiian theme.

Our son would stay a week each summer with his cousins who lived near the farm. They’d of course spend most of their time goofing off around the pond. He recalls one year getting a fish hook caught in his finger requiring stitches and a tetanus shot. Ouch!

Fun at the pond still occurs to this day as shown on the following photographs. Only now the family has grown to 75 including in-laws, grandkids and great grandkids. We’re planning a family picture this Labor Day weekend, which should be an interesting experience. Maybe the setting will be out at the pond?

On one family get-together, I recall placing my bother-in-law's shoes on two posts in the middle of the pond. This photo shows him and my wife's youngest brother paddling out to recapture the shoes.

Every so often, someone would snag a gar fish that DJ had stocked in the pond many years ago. That was an automatic fishing derby winner!

The pond served an even more important role to the family a number of years ago when the family business located on the site of the original family farm buildings caught on fire. The pond provided the needed source of water for the fire department to isolate the fire and keep it from spreading to adjacent buildings. As a result, the company was able to restart production shortly after the fire, never missing a delivery to their customers.

Here’s an aerial photo of the pond as it looks today. After the fire, the larger pond was deepened and expanded to provide a source of water for the new sprinkler system installed in the family business shown in the lower right.

The pond provided so many fun times and great memories over the years; with for sure many more to come.