John (JD) Graham is a well known figure around the Wauchope area. A well-respected and prominent businessman and former Chairman of the Urban Committee in Wauchope for 25 years, he has seen many changes occur in the Hastings-Wauchope area over time …
How long have you lived in the Hastings/Wauchope area – and what originally brought you here?
My name is John Douglas Duncan Graham, but I am known as ‘JD’.
I was born in Wauchope on 7 February 1921, ninety-one years ago. Except for a brief period spent in Port Macquarie when the canal development began in the late ‘70s, I have lived here all my life. I was actually born in my Aunty Ailie’s (Klumpp) little house, which still stands in Cameron Street, opposite the RSL Club and is currently being renovated to house a new business.
Please provide us with a little bit of family background …
I am the third eldest in a family of six – four boys and two girls. My older brother, Colin, and I survive. My family was a farming one, and I spent my first five years on my paternal grandfather’s farm on Koree Island. My Dad, Jock Graham, then bought a small farm on the Port Lane, so we moved to a house in Randall Street, which was not too far away. It was then, in 1926, that I started school.
During the Depression years, we all had to work on the farm, milking by hand, both before and after school. I finished my schooling at age fourteen. By this time we had a milk run. Once we had a vat full of milk in the dairy, we took off and delivered it to the townsfolk in a horse and cart. The milk was measured with quart or pint jugs which had a flip-up lid, and the milk was tipped into the customer’s jug or billycan.
In 1941 I joined the RAAF Ground Crew, volunteered and became a ‘Don R’ (dispatch rider) and was stationed in Darwin during the sixty plus air raids which ensued. I was discharged in late 1945.
For the next two years I worked with my father in his auctioneering business, which was subsequently sold to Jones Berry in 1948.
The following six years were spent working with my brother-in-law in the local newsagency. We delivered papers on a push bike until we acquired a motor bike – much better!
The remainder of my working life was in selling menswear in the building and business I established in 1955, retiring in 1996. It still operates to this day as two shops under the names of ‘Street Smart Clothing’ and ‘Uniform Solutions’.
What prompted you to become involved with local government?
As a businessman, I saw the need to be involved in local affairs – particularly local government. Not having the time to stand for Shire Council, I stood for and was elected to the Urban Committee in 1950, which held its meetings at night. It was a separately elected group of five people, which included the Shire Clerk and the Shire Engineer. I served as Chairman for twenty-five years.
This committee looked after the Shire’s parks, roads and footpaths, and much of the town’s kerb and guttering was achieved during that time. Good management of Council and urban rates ensured that the streets were tar sealed and rural roads were well graded and maintained. New Council Chambers and a County Council building (where Watermans Café now stands) were constructed.
What have been some of the major changes you’ve witnessed in the Hastings area over the years?
There have been many changes over the years. Hastings Shire Council was well run, and we were successful in getting a Technical College, a Motor Registry and importantly, a new High School (which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year).
Amalgamation with Port Macquarie Municipality saw changes in Council administration. At last, rapid growth occurred in Port Macquarie, making it a major tourist destination, and Council’s resources moved to the coast.
What other businesses/charities/committees have you been involved with?
I have been involved with many organisations: the Wauchope Swimming Club, Civil Defence (now SES) as Deputy Controller, Wauchope Bonny Hills Surf Club (foundation member), for instance. I was honoured to receive an OAM for Community Welfare Services in 2005.
My number one interest was and is in our RSL Sub Branch and RSL Club. I am Life Member of each, and eleven times President of the Sub Branch. I joined Taree Legacy in 1953 and was a foundation member of Hastings Legacy. I am still active in welfare work.
What are some of your fondest memories of working within the local community?
I guess the fondest memories are of the people I’ve met (lobbying visiting politicians for town improvements), the lasting friendships I’ve made and the friendliness of the Wauchope community.
Looking back to when you first started your working life, how different is the Wauchope/Hastings area now to what you envisaged back then?
Very different. A great many changes occur during the course of a long working life. I suppose the most dramatic changes are due to advances in technology: television, computers, mobile phones and faster travel times.
What keeps you busy these days … what interests do you have now?
Well, as I said, I enjoy visiting Legacy widows and old friends. Friday nights at the RSL Club are a regular outing, as is Church on Sunday mornings. A lot of time is spent with family in town, and I have two granddaughters and their families in Sydney to visit, as well as my youngest granddaughter on the Gold Coast to keep in touch with.
If you could change one thing about the Wauchope/Hastings area now, what would it be and why?
My one wish would be to see our town streets resurfaced and our rural roads upgraded. We do live in a very special part of Australia.
Interview by Jo Atkins.