THE SAGA OF ADRIAN TURNER & CO
THE SAGA OF ADRIAN TURNER & CO
Painting, Decorating, Sign writing
Growing up in depression years, it had never occurred to me to go into business on my own account. My ambition was to find a good position and work hard at it. Fate had decreed otherwise!
After service in the Royal Australian Air Force, I brought my small family to Brisbane to assist in the setting up of Clark Rubber's business in Melbourne Street, South Brisbane. I worked there for four years when a change of management saw me cast on the labour market. While in the RAAF, I had been able to attend the Melbourne Technical College to gain proficiency in sign writing - a trade which had always appealed to me. Now, it seemed, was the time to apply my expertise to the practical issue of making a living.
My first contract was for a general store in Newmarket Road, Newmarket, Queensland. The owner was apparently pleased with the result and asked if I would paint the shop and residence. This included repairing four veranda posts and secured for me a permanent customer. From this small beginning my clientele expanded by recommendation to Coorparoo, Clayfield and Ascot. There were times when under pressure from builders additional hands were hired, but at this stage only temporary labour was engaged.
I soon discovered that the wealthy people in Kitchener Road, Ascot were quite prepared to pay a good price for repainting the interior and exterior of their expensive homes provided they got good reliable service and I became quite friendly with many of them. This was a useful business tool because their neighbours or friends would phone and ask me if I could paint or paper a room before Christmas as family would be staying with them for a few days. These genuine people being professionals or executives were never unreasonable and contacted me weeks before the work was due to be done. Once contact was made and the price accepted I always submitted contract details on letterhead with an approximate starting date. As the time drew near I would contact the client by phone with more precise details of starting. This was always appreciated and resulted in a heavy work schedule over Christmas, so much so that I was able to cover the slack time before Easter with plenty of work.
In addition to private work I also had good contracts with builders on new homes, but one had to be diplomatic with spec builders. Sometimes you could be left with a finished house and they would file for bankruptcy without a whisper. In that case sub-contractors could whistle for their money. I was only caught once. I also found that a sign writing job demanded an immediate start. This was inconvenient if you were involved in a job worth $5000 dollars. Rarely was payment made under a month even though the invoice was submitted on completion. My policy was to mail a statement and if payment was not made within the month and if that drew no result within a week a visit to the office with a request for a cheque usually was complied with. Because of this syndrome I virtually gave away sign jobs which were of comparatively small value. I never experienced payment problems with regular customers or those recommended by them.
When our youngest son, our only Queenslander, began secondary education Elsie undertook the responsibility of drawing the weekly wages cheque and purchase of tax stamps. This saved me a trip to the bank and Post Office from wherever I may have been and was a real assistance. I could arrange the tax deductions in the evenings when I would frequently be late home - maybe until 7.00 pm but Elsie always had one of the boys to alert her when they saw the car arrive. "Dad's home" would be the signal for the meal to begin. We believed a family should share a meal together and that has certainly paid off in the close family contact through four generations. Our own children, their families, even down to our great grand-children are in close contact with us and with each other.
When Lewis entered his sub-senior year I asked him what trade or profession he wanted to follow. His sister was a schoolteacher, his eldest brother an electrical engineer, and the next boy an automotive engineer. Lewis' response to my question was usually "I don't know". I took the step of moving him to another school but the crunch came when he was to start senior year. He told me frankly "Dad, I want to leave school". I insisted that he fulfil his senior year which he did under protest. As he did not appear to have any special preference I took a tough stand, saying "If you don't find a job to your liking, you will be an apprentice to your father." To my amazement he brightened immediately and said, "I'd like to work with you Dad." This had seemingly been in his mind for a long time although he had never mentioned it to me. As far as I was concerned I was delighted to think I would have a son to carry on the business when I was too old to work.
Lewis' enthusiasm was not a passing fad. He excelled at the prescribed college work and was a careful painter. At the end of his four year apprenticeship he was among the top five for Queensland in practical work. In business acumen he also showed considerable flair and was able to be entrusted with real responsibility.
In the fourth year of Lewis' apprenticeship the business was restructured incorporating Elsie and Lewis within the partnership retaining the name Adrian Turner & Co. We were not a proprietary company but a registered partnership; there was less expense involved in that method. The arrangement worked very well and we were able to undertake work on a larger scale including the repainting of Kings College at the University of Queensland and stalls for the Queensland Exhibition. Our two leading hands and two apprentices who had been employed for six years had to be supplemented by three more journeymen, one of whom was a good paperhanger.
I recall a job at the Exhibition requiring high class work in papering. The paper chosen had a close French fleur-de-lys motif and the paperhanger was a German who did not recognise the design. He was a fast worker and hung it upside down to the consternation of the client. That one took quite a little sorting out, but under pressure of time and the fact that the pattern was not obviously wrong way up, he allowed it to remain. A sense of humour comes in handy in such a situation.
In 1981 I was involved in a serious collision while on my way to work. That left my new car a write-off and me with a broken arm, three broken ribs and two broken toes. The doctors patched me up and I only had a week in hospital, but the work I was halfway through had to be completed. Lewis, married and with an infant daughter, then living at Southport left his study project and finished the job for me. I was incapacitated for six months and had turned sixty-five so it seemed appropriate to retire. Elsie and I were deeply affected by Lewis' loyalty and passed the entire business over to him. He has now controlled the work I had so painstakingly built up from scratch for twenty-eight years. The economic scenario is vastly different from what faced me in 1954, but I was more than happy to sign over control and give him a good start as proprietor of his own company. I had to admit Adrian Turner & Co Painting, Decorating, Sign writing did not make me a millionaire but it provided a good income and enabled me to send my two eldest to Queensland University, the second son to serve an apprenticeship with Eagers in automotive engineering and ultimately to see my youngest son set up in business.
For this and for family loyalty I am profoundly thankful.
Story written by Adrian Turner
HOW WE SPENT OUR WEEK-ENDS IN THE TWENTIES
Intlose halcyon days when the population of Australia was a mere 5.5 million and the jumbuck was the maih contributor to our wealth, when any working man who topped six pounds weekly was considered well-heeled, if not wealthy; home was where dad arrived after work and mum was always there with cookies when the kids invaded the place after school. Only the really well-to-do drove cars, usually "tourers" or "roadsters;" (family cars or single-seaters) with a folding hood. Any person who drove a "sedan" was the counterprt of the "village squire."
In northem Victoria in the Goulburn Valley, the main towns were Echuca, Shepparton, Kyabram and
Rochester. They were market centres and each had the distinction of having a secondary school where the sons and daughters of the more affluent citizens rode their bikes to and from the farm and the school. The terrain was flat and uninteresting except for a small eminence dignified by the title "Mount Scobie." This hin had an economic value as a gravel pit for surfacing the main roads; other roads being graded into central crown of the red clay which characterised most of the district.
Klvalley was a tiny settlement of W.W.I soldiers who carved a living from the irrigated soil with either
fruit or dairy farms. There were only two public buildings, the state primary school and the Klvalley
Progress Association Hall where dances and fund-raising euchre prties provided entertainment during the week, and church services were held on Sundays. There was a tennis club where the young men and women in the twenties bracket would play frrn games or tournaments at week ends while those still at school preferred to barrack cricketers or the footy at the Kyabram recreation oval - the rec to us.
Every weekday morning would see seven or eight teen-aged boys and a couple of girls ride along the
railway line in single file as the shortest route for high school with three or four arriving from Merrigum, Stanhope or Lancaster. Most of the bikes were "fixed wheel," without gears or brakes on which the experts could do wheel stands or sit on the handle-bars and ride backwards. Each of us tried to outdo the others. The girls had bikes with "free-wheel" back pedal brakes which we looked upon as sissy. Fixed wheel bikes relied on the strength of the rider to back-pedal when coming to a stop. It was possible to put one's foot on the front tyre behind the fork in an emergency, but the risk meant the rider might find himself somersaulting over the handlebars. All these hazmds we saw as part of the fun.
Occasionally at week ends the keen fishermen would ride to the Goulburn River, about eight miles to the
east. Apart from fruit trees, grape vines, lucerne paddocks or dairy farmers' cow bails there was little in the way of scenery and a ride to the Goulburn provided some relief. On one occasion my father and I pedalled off to the river on a Saturday excursion having exchanged bikes for the morning. For a fourteen year old to be allowed to ride dad's bike was like a promotion in one's first job. I fear my smaller mount had suffered some rough treaftnent. Suddenly, without warning the front fork broke, and my father fell forward striking his nose on the ground. We had to walk the bikes back home, a lame flnale to the excursion.
On another occasion, my elder brother who had a reputation for a bull-at-a-gate approach to most things, was riding along the rail fiack into Ky. There were two or three road crossings where the bike had to be carried over the cattle-pits, and one place where the line crossed a main irrigation channel. The smart guys would ride across the bridge in the four- inch space between sleepers and girder, (there was no handrail.) My swashbuckling brother took the bridge fuIl -tilt but only made it halfivay. He and the bike finished up in about eight feet of water. He was a good swimmer and retrieved the bike to return home for a change of clothing.
As we got older the short excursions no longer satisfied us. My younger brother and I decided the sixty mile trip to Bendigo would be our nex:t ride. This involved riding over Mount Scobie to pick up the
Kyabram-Rochester Road linking with the Northern highway to Bendigo. We got nearly as far as
Rochester, when I got a puncture in the front tyre. We had repair kits at home but what help is that when one is stranded twenty miles out? We called at a roadside house where an elderly resident remarked somewhat critically on "the joys of motoring." However, the day was sayed when ayounger man who rodea bike supplied the necessary kit and we were soon on our way again. We learned to BE PREPARED. In the twenties there was little money, but we took our bikes seriously and enjoyed life.