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 café 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.