Brooks' Joinery Works

Brooks Family

Brooks Family Home
Brooks family home at No. 1 Kent Road, Wooloowin. L to R William, Maurice, Harriet and Violet

William Brooks had a wood depot to supply fuel mainly for domestic use. Most, if not all, homes used wood for the cooking in a cast iron stove, boiling the copper on wash days in the laundry or back yard and the open fire place for heating the family room.

The children included Violet, Maurice, Leslie, Hugh, Owen

Leslie Brooks

Brooks, Leslie 300
Leslie Brooks

Leslie Brooks served his apprenticeship at Storey's Joinery Works and later was employed by Ed Rosenstengel, a top furniture manufacturer, in Fortitude Valley and worked his way up to become foreman.

Les and his new wife, Rose (nee Ensor) bought land at 97 Beaconsfield Terrace, Gordon Park. His first project was to build a garage for them to live in until their house was built; the house was called "Dawnview".

At weekends, Les worked at wood turning projects. He later extended the back of the garage, using materials from packing cases. In August 1926 he left Rosenstengel's and worked at home full time.

Feb 1927 to 30th September 1933 L & M Brooks (Les and Maurice Partnership)

Brooks, Maurice 300
Maurice Brooks

In February 1927, Les approached his brother, Maurice, to join him in a business. Maurice had finished his apprenticeship with Norman Wright's Shipyards at Bulimba. He used to ride his push bike from Wooloowin to Teneriffe, catch the vehicular ferry across the Brisbane River and ride to Bulimba each day; reverse process each evening.

The partnership began with Les working full time while Maurice kept his job at Wright's Shipyards to provide money for materials and working with Les at nights and weekends.

Norman Wright's Boat Building Shed

Brooks Norman Wright's Shipyard Bulimba
Norman Wright's boat building shed on Cr. Oxford and Quay Roads, Bulimba. The shed backed on to the Brisbane River. Maurice is fifth from the left. Are some of the men barefooted? It would be unusual for tradesmen even in 1929 when the photo was probably taken.

Purchase of the Kedron Winter Gardens Theatre

Kedron Winter Gardens Pictures Theatre 1920s
The original silent screen Kedron Winter Gardens Picture Show or Theatre. It was probably the biggest building in Kedron at the time. David Teague notes that there was a lot of lattice work in the building which made it bitterly cold in winter. To offset the chill fires were lit in bins to warm the audience; fire regulations must have been rather tolerant!

12 August 1930 the brothers had the opportunity to buy the freehold at 276 Gympie Road Kedron, of the original Winter Gardens Theatre. The theatre, had an earth floor, which was covered with a layer of tan bark, a waste product of the local tanneries, from time to time; in wet weather patrons became accustomed to the resultant mud and slush underfoot.

Mrs. Fanny Bennett owned the Winter Gardens Theatre where Silent films were screened but "Talkies" never; it is said that Mrs. Bennett believed that "they would be a passing fad".

The Freehold and Buildings were purchased on 23-8-1930 for 1,500 ($3,000). A deposit of 100 ($200) was paid on 16-8-1930 then paid off at 20 ($40) per calendar month.

The purchase of the theatre in depression years was a bold venture, which many regarded as suicidal for the young business. The cost of purchase was a huge amount and commitment by today's standards.

The business prospered for a while but the manufacture of furniture was not a money-making concern during the depression. They decided to concentrate on joinery manufacture and shortly afterwards started selling a small range of hardware items as well.

30th September 1933 to 1973 Brooks Joinery Works (Finally a company with Maurice's family shareholders)

The new name of Brooks Joinery Works was painted on the existing facade of the old theatre. Judging by the left side of the photo it looks like a new floor was built inside the old theatre. A level wooden floor would have been needed for a joinery shop anyway.

On 30th September 1933 the name was changed to Brooks' Joinery Works when William Brooks, father of Maurice and Les, joined the firm. This name remained till 1973.

Photo of Owners and Employees 1933

Brooks Leslie and Maurice in 1933
Two unknown employees, Leslie, Maurice and Hugh Brooks with, Jack Cockroft in front of the factory - 1933

Unfortunately there is no information to explain why this photo was taken. However it is a good representation of some of the workers. The owners were not distinguished from the workers.

Hall on South Side of Factory 1938

Brooks Hall 1938

Approximately 1938 a hall was built (by voluntary labour with materials supplied by the Brooks') on vacant land owned by them on the southern side of the factory, to provide a meeting place in the district for a local youth club.

All manner of 'physical fitness' activities were taught in the building, including boxing and gymnastics. lt was used by various youth organizations for a number of years. When community interest waned the building was used as a bulk store for the expanding hardware business of Les Brooks and Son Pty Ltd

Brooks Employees in the Late 1930s

Brooks Employees in the Late 1930s

Back Row from Left: 2nd Hugh Brooks, 3rd Jack Cockroft, 4th William Brooks, 5th Jack Dalgliesh, 7th Fred Edwards.
Front Row from Left: 4th Eddie Roberts, 6th Merv Ellerman

In all there are 14 men including two of the Brooks family. The status of the latter is unknown. Leslie and Maurice Brooks would have been management/employers. So the final number of personnel is 16 all male.

The increasing number indicates that the firm was growing strongly in spite of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Aerial View of the Works pre 1969

Pre 1969 Aerial view of Brooks' Joinery Works at 276 Gympie Road Kedron. Tram tracks are clearly visible in middle of road. The upper part of the tram lines looks like the beginning of the rose beds on each side! The trams ceased to run on 13th April 1969.

This section of Gympie Road has gone through many changes. The photograph above shows the road and old buildings that have since been demolished. The same fate has recently happened to some of their replacements as the needs of the area changed.

The Busway of the 2009 also made changes which have to be worked out later.

The War Years 1939-1945

Brooks Barge WWII
One of the many Bomb Scows or Barges built at Brooks works during the Second World War. It is shown being transported on a low loader probably to the Brisbane River. Maurice's training in Shipbuilding would have enabled the firm to build these barges.

During World War II the factory was declared a protected undertaking, Manufacture of Joinery for home building ceased in favour of full wartime production. A minimum 60-hour week was worked; work barges, motor rescue launches and bomb scows (vessels with twin engines, 32 foot or 9.8m long) were built for the defence forces.

An annexe was built on the southern side of the original theatre building by M.R. Hornibrook's Company to facilitate production. At its peak, the factory produced one vessel each 7 working days. As each vessel was completed it was transported from the factory on a 'low loader semi-trailer. A police escort was provided to close Gympie Road to all traffic (trams included) during the delivery. As a boy I used to watch this delivery operation as much as possible, with great interest.

Of particular interest was a rush emergency order for 1000 specially constructed security boxes which were used to transport the records from General Douglas MacArthur's office when he moved his command to the North, as the Japanese forces were being pushed back. General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters were in the AMP Building, Corner of Queen and Edward Streets, Brisbane.

Most businesses that contracted for war production did so on a 'cost plus' basis. This arrangement was cost of labour and materials plus 10% for profit. Many who cheated on costs and made a fortune abused the 'system'. Les and Maurice chose to produce on a contracted, fixed sum, basis, win or lose. They were commended for producing at a cost less than other manufactures. In recognition of their war efforts a citation was given to Brooks' Joinery Works by General Douglas MacArthur. Sadly this has been lost, but I well remember my father was proud of this. No doubt Maurice was also.

1945 Post War Expansion

Brooks New Frontage to Joinery Works
The front was not just remodeled but a new building of offices and showrooms was built.

1945 The facade of the old building was remodeled to create the showroom frontage, with offices above. The builder was Len Stevens, Uncle of Les Brooks' wife. The hardware section, now expanded in the more spacious showroom helped the business to progress rapidly.

William Brooks retired in 1946 and Les and Maurice dissolved their partnership in 1948, with Les taking over the hardware and Maurice the joinery section.

Division of the Firm - Joinery Operated by Maurice

Brooks Joinery Works Employees 1948

Brooks Joinery Employees Names 1948
There are thirty three employees plus Maurice and William Brooks in the photo. This number contrasts with the sixteen listed in the 1938 photo above. There must have been a rapid expansion during the war which set the firm up for the huge demand for housing during the post war period.

William Brooks retired in 1946 and Les and Maurice dissolved their partnership in 1948, with Les taking over the hardware and Maurice the joinery section.

I will continue with the Brooks Joinery Works through to its sale in 1970.

Following that I will continue with the Hardware line till its sale in 1975 and resumption in early 21st Century.

First Dentist in Kedron-Chermside

Brooks - Tom Packer's Dentist Surgery
The surgery was 270 Gympie Road beside the Joinery Works. It remained long after the Joinery was demolished. The Packer's house was behind the surgery.

About 1949 a block of land 270 Gympie Road was sold to Tom Packer where he and Viti built their home and his dental surgery. Still later their son John married Wendy Brooks and the two families continued their friendship down to the current sixth generation.

30th September 1948 to 30th June 1950 Les Brooks (Hardware business with Les Brooks as sole proprietor) Maurice alone operated Brooks Joinery Works

2015 Aerial Map Site of Brook's Properties.

The above map shows the present occupants of the site of Brooks Joinery Works of Maurice Brooks at 276 Gympie Road. Tom Packer's dentist surgery at 270 Gympie Road would have been on this site.

"Goldpin"Kedron Indoor Bowling Centre replaced the Brook's Joinery Works. It is now the AMF Noarlunga Ten Pin Bowling Centre.

On the opposite side at 257 Gympie Road to the South East of the Joinery Works was the site of the Paint Store, the Bulk Store, the Supermarket, pharmacy and a doctor's surgery.

Today the pharmacy and health centre is there - to be completed.....

Brooks' Joinery Works Pty Ltd 1966

Maurice died on 2nd January 1963 and on 22nd April 1966 the Company of Brooks' Joinery Works Pty Ltd was formed with Mrs Noela Brooks and her daughters (Maurine, Betty, Barbara, Desleigh and Corrine) as shareholders.

In 1968 Noela Brooks appointed Keith Jesberg as manager of Brooks' Joinery Pty Ltd and also appointed him as director. As part of the winding up of the business, he sold much of the timber.

The site was sold in 1970 to John Hicks & Co. The buildings were demolished, and eventually the land was sold and redeveloped as the "Goldpin" Kedron Indoor Bowling Centre.

Brooks' Joinery Works Pty Ltd continued to trade at 692 Trouts Road, Aspley where it sold building materials not included in the sale to Hicks. It was a short term arrangement. Today there is a house on the site (2015)

Allkind Joinery and Glass

Allkind Joinery and Glass 2009 at Rode Road, opposite The Prince Charles Hospital.

Allkind Joinery and Glass, Rode Road Chermside

Allkind was established when an earlier firm, Brooks' Joinery of Gympie Road, Kedron, closed down in 1968. Keith Jesberg had worked for Brooks'Joinery Works and when the firm closed, he was the manger of the firm. He started Allkind Joinery and Glass in 1970 and was managing director of the business until he retired in 1990. During that time, the firm did major work on extensions to Kedron Wavell Services Club.

This is an example of a small manufacturing firm which specialises in the custom manufacture of solid timber doors and windows, cupboards, cabinet and furniture making. The staff of 31 includes 8 apprentices which is a high ratio of apprentices to tradesmen, and for this, the firm won an Employer of the Year Award at the 2006 Queensland Training Awards in May, 2007; the firm also works with secondary schools by providing work experience and apprenticeship training for the students.

High quality timbers such as Syrian cedar, murbow and New Guinea rosewood are used by the wood machinists, cabinetmakers, glaziers, and joinery bench hands. The firm mainly uses clear finishes on its products to show the beauty of the natural timber grain; French polishing is also used when requested.

Excerpt taken from Pat O'Shea's book, A new History of Chermside

Demolition of Dentist Surgery 2009

Demolition work in July 2009 on the site of Tom Packer's Dental Surgery.

30th September 1948 to 30th June 1950 Les Brooks (Hardware business with Les Brooks as sole proprietor)

This was a recognition of Les taking over the Hardware side of the old firm. The next day the new firm had a new name which included Les and son Len.

1st July 1950 to 30th June 1957 Les Brooks and Son (Les Len partnership)

The Hardware Business, which was attached to the Joinery Factory, grew rapidly and in addition to wholesale and retail sales of local and imported hardware items, the firm operated a garage for its vehicles and those of their customers at 97 Beaconsfield Terrace, Gordon Park. Their mechanic was Roy Harvey, later to become Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

William and Les also owned a 528-acre small crops and poultry farm at what later became the suburb of Warner.

In 1950 Les formed a company with his son Len and called it Les Brooks and Son.

Rapid Growth in the Hardware Business

Brooks Paint Shop and Bulk Store
The Paint Shop and Bulk Store built on the east side of Gympie Road. The Supermarket was later built adjacent to the Paint Shop.

The hardware business grew in leaps and bounds. Wholesale Sales (sales to stores and retailers) were increased as well as Trade and Retail. The 'territory' extended from Lismore in the South, Cairns in the North and Cunnamulla in the West. Sale representatives (Sales people known as "Reps") were on the road. The firm was importing numerous products.

Importation became a significant part of the business especially after the war when building materials were not readily available locally to meet the turnover demands. Goods imported included: Reinforcing steel, cement, nails (in wooden barrels) porcelain earthenware such as bathroom basins, steel and cast iron baths, tools, etc. The baths were in crates of ten and very heavy. These were unloaded with block and tackle and manoeuvred on large wooden rollers until better handling equipment was acquired.

The way the staff, including Les, laboured in handling materials was a sign of the times; it would not be tolerated or appropriate these days.

Les found the growth was very demanding on his time and energies; he often worked up to 16 hours a day.

September 1954 the hardware firm purchased property at 257 Gympie Road Kedron diagonally opposite the earlier buildings on the west side of Gympie Road.

In November 1954 the hardware firm purchased the paint factory of Sterling Paint & Varnish Pty Ltd on Montague Road, South Brisbane and manufactured paint under licence to the parent company in Sydney. In 1956 the Queensland Government brought in legislation to stop the use of lead-based paint but the firm continued to sell paints manufactured by leading paint manufactures.

The hardware business from then on was located on both sides of Gympie Road. On the western side, as tenants of the premises then owned by Maurice, and on the eastern side in the new, company owned, buildings.

In July 1956 the hardware firm purchased Wally Miller's business of Chermside Plumbing and Hardware Co. Pty. Ltd., at 793 Gympie Road, Chermside. Buying this rival store and was a real coup and the business continued as a branch store.

In 1958 more properties were purchased and new buildings including a Paint Centre and a Bulk Store were erected on this site. The site was cleared for the development of a drive-in shopping centre.

1st July 1957 to 30th June 1958 (Len as sole proprietor)

Les sold his part of the business to his son, Len, who saw further business opportunities in Kedron.

1st July 1958 to 20th May 1983 Les Brooks and Son Pty Ltd (Family shareholders)

In March 1962 Les Brooks died.

In April 1962 the paint and hardware business of Les Brooks and Son Pty Ltd was sold to Wilston Builders Supplies Pty Ltd on the basis of merging the two firms into one.

The premises on 257 Gympie Road were leased to the purchaser who later closed their business at Wilston and moved it to Kedron. Still later W.B.S. sold the business to Doyle's Hardware, which subsequently became a 'MITRE' 10 store and then later 'Home Hardware'. Today, 2015, it is .

31st July 1963 the Kedron Shopping Centre opened and completed Stage 1 of the development of the area on the eastern side of Gympie Road. An original tenant, the Four Square supermarket named its building Time Square because of the large clock on top of the building.
Photo of Kedron Supermarket

Stage 2 followed and included the following tenants:
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Kedron Branch)
A Doctor's Surgery (Dr George Corones)
A Pharmacy (Bob Ferguson)
Wilston Builders Supplies Pty Ltd

On the 28th February 1975 the complete Kedron Shopping Centre was sold to the Queensland Temperance League.

All the properties to the south on that side of the road were resumed and demolished to make way for the construction of the M7 Airport Link (tunnel) which was completed in 2012

General Comments and Information by Len Brooks.

Use of two way radios for quick communication was introduced in 1958 with a base station at Les Brooks' house in Wavell Heights. This was long before mobile phones appeared and enabled the firm to communicate quickly with all of its employees, drivers and representatives and for them to communicate with head office. The effect was dramatic in that it saved valuable time and therefore money. They were only one of three operating the new system in Brisbane, others quickly followed when the found that the 'new-fangled' system really worked.

Another innovation was a profit sharing scheme with all employees. It was based on the idea that once overheads were covered for a month then a percentage of profit over and above the 'break-even point' would be given to the employees. This enabled the team spirit to develop and make everybody responsible for doing their best and not letting the rest of the team down.

Len is sure that these two innovations were fundamental to assisting the business to grow rapidly.

Embedded Map of Present Site

2015 - Current Occupants of Brooks Sites on Both Sides of Gympie Road.

Brooks -AMF Bowling Club 2015
AMF Bowling Club at 278 Gympie Road, Kedron is the current occupant of the old Brooks Joinery Works and the earlier Kedron Winter-garden. This is on the Western side of Gympie Road.

These photos give some idea of the size of the Brooks enterprises. They started in a backyard shed and by hard work and keen enterprise built up into a thriving business employing many people.

Brooks - Paint Shop and Storage Site 2015
The Paint Shop and Bulk Hardware Store at 271 Gympie Road East. The structure in front is part of the large 'over road' traffic sign directing motorists to the Airport Tunnel.

Brooks Entrance East 2015
The entrance to the Brooks Hardware complex on the East side of Gympie Road. This leads into a parking area and connects with Emerald Street

Brooks Building 257 Gympie Road East 2015
This large building houses several businesses. Pharmacist, Doctor's Surgery, Qld House and Land Organisation, C&K Offices, Ingenia Communities, Settlers and Garden Villages.

Brooks - Building Behind Pharmacy 2015
This large building is at right angles to the Pharmacy building. It may have been the site of the Kedron Supermarket opened in 1963.