Clothing Factory


While I was still in the RAAF, my wife had got a little clothing factory going in George Street, employing about fifteen or twenty girls. And I came along and had a look and we'd been sniffing around what we were going to do, see. And finally we decided we would get in the satin stitch business, because she understood it very well. Her mother had owned a clothing factory in Melbourne with about forty or fifty girls working there, and a couple of those girls came to work for us. I did a three months rehabilitation course in Sydney learning to repair sewing machines.

So we initially bought four satin stitch machines; they're the ones with the knee press and you move your knee over and it moves the side movement of the needle. It goes up and down but you can make it narrow or wider with your knee. And we got some girls to work, including some that taught others. And then that went for about six months. We were doing allright. I used to do some Masonic regalia and some church altar cloths for the Catholic Church and all these kind of things. And I'd fix up the machines. And we got about thirty girls working and bought a lot more machines.

During this time I went back to New Guinea for nine months with Bill Hunt, who owned a ninety-foot cargo vessel. And I couldn't get a job as an engineer, you see. I thought that working in that factory with my wife all the time was a bit dangerous; among all those women and often there wasn't much to do. I'd be lugging bolts of material about and all that kind of thing but it was no job for me. So Bill Hunt happened to come there and look me up. I'd known him in the Air Force and he told me what he was doing and I jumped at the chance. But he was a fellow who was a bit rough, he'd belt anybody on board up for the slightest thing. And he didn't pay people. He didn't pay me because I agreed to work for nothing providing he gave me sea time. I did most of the engineer's job because the engineer he had wasn't much good; he was too young. But I wanted the sea time because I planned that some day I could go back to sea. And I spent nine months with him and got time that I could've sat for a ticket, you see.

When I came back and the Hungarian business was on. The Hungarian refugees had started to arrive, and they're experts at that clothing business. You just can't look at 'em, they're so quick. So we employed some. And, oh, we were doing fine. But they get to work and local people, other Hungarians who've got factories, would employ them, but they would put two or three machines in their home, under the house. Brisbane lends itself to that because there are a lot of high houses. These girls would work these machines - the young sister of thirteen or fourteen be good on them too; away they'd go. And so we finally had to get out of business and came to Darwin. But when we looked at Top Springs we reckoned: 'That'll do. We're better off here.'

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