The Wauchope of those days was a bustling timber town, and corn growing was also an important part of the local economy. Chrissy Jones chats with Marketing & Communications Manager Tim Walker about the past, present and future of the local Co-op.
The Wauchope factory opened in 1916. Tell us a little about the early days:
The factory was built in Randall Street at a cost of 1,470 pounds and began production on 21 May 1917. We have found from old reports that the first Manager was Bill Hazelton; previously being the Port Macquarie Butter Factory manager, Bill relocated to the Wauchope Factory (at a salary of 300 pounds per annum). This was seen as a public declaration of the future of butter making in the area; the railway was linked to dairying’s future.
In those days, the river was the road between the farm and factory and fittingly, the first cream arrived by launch, and it was Claude Sheather who placed the first delivery of cans onto the factory platform. Claude held a remarkable record; only the 1929 major flood stopped him from delivering the cream in all his years, when he couldn’t get under the railway bridge because the water was lapping the railway lines. As well as river transport, cream was also conveyed by horse and cart, then by lorry.
The factory’s first year of operation saw the end of World War I, and the opening of the General Produce Store commenced at the beginning of World War II.
In 1940, the Co-op extended its shareholder services by diversifying into general retailing and added groceries and household items to the farm supplies that it was already selling. This new enterprise was housed in a tin shed next to the factory in Randall Street, and it was an immediate success.
October 1948 saw the opening of the Co-op’s Hastings Street ‘Family Store’, offering ladies wear, men’s wear, manchester and produce out the back, along with a bacon room, where they would slice up bacon, or weigh out and pack biscuits and sugar, mostly into brown paper bags.
What are some of the current Co-operative operations? We have come a long way from the Co-op of the past. We now have a variety of divisions – from the Dairy Products division that manufactures and distributes; the multi-award-winning Hastings Valley and Bago Bluff brands of cheeses and yoghurts; three IGA supermarkets, two including IGA Liquor; Mitre 10 and CRT hardware and rural supplies stores [Wauchope & Comboyne]; The Department Store; two service stations; a bulk fuel division; and a Bottle-O Liquor Barn.
How can readers be a part of the Co-operative if they are not already? Becoming a Co-op shareholder is as simple as filling in an application form from our website or at any Co-op business. Lifetime membership is only 10 $2 shares.
What benefits are there for members? We offer a great range of direct discounts at all our Co-op businesses, 6 cents off grocery to fuel every day, lots of instore giveaways and competitions and the lifetime investment of a Co-op shareholder – investing in a locally owned and operated cooperative.
What is the vision for future for the Co-operative? Our vision is to maintain and improve our businesses for our Shareholders our staff and our community and to develop further our position as a major regional business enterprise. The Hastings Co-operative embraces the following values as central to our work ethic: valuing our shareholders by keeping them informed and listening and responding to their wants and needs. Valuing the contributions from all our management, staff and the community, by fostering a team environment in the workplace. Building a strong and united base of shareholders and community members, who all believe in a rich partnership for the future. The Hastings Co-op will go on delivering a high standard of quality products and customer services.
The Hasting’s Co-op will never forget where it is we have come from, and it will strive to create a robust future in the region for many years to come.
One Wauchope local who has spent almost his entire working career in Co-op employment is Barney Avery, starting at the Hastings Street store in 1950 and spending the next 47 years in the job. I had a chat with Barney to find out more.
It started in hardware, when I would have been about 18. We had hardware, kitchenware, crockery and building materials, saddlery, collars for draught horses and things like that. We used to buy from travellers, selling everything for the man on the land – even milking machines. Everyone used to come to town on Friday then – in those days we closed at lunch time.
In time I took over management of the hardware section and did the painting school at British Paints. We used to employ a lot of juniors after school and at holiday times. The Co-op has given a lot to the community through giving young people jobs over the years; a lot of them have gone on to better things from the experiences learned at the Co-op.
I used to also be in charge of the toy department, and I loved that! I’d go to the toy shows in Sydney, and I’d take a couple of juniors with me. We’d go around and look at the toys; there was halls full of toy displays from different companies.
You had some fellow employees that served a long time as well, who were some of them? Yes, there were a lot of others who worked for years at the Co-op. You’d know a lot of them: Jim Monkley, Stan Campbell, Gwenda Johnson, Janet Monkley, Jill Trotter, Thelma Steel, Sandra Bain, Liz Eggert, Ken Wallis and Elaine Brennan, to name a few.
Your department brought some new things to the town. What were some? We were the first Porta-gas agent in town. We were always responsive to change. We were the first to get a key cutting machine. We thought we’d give it a go and cut a lot of keys.