Box & Beck - Local Footware Manufacturing Part 1.

A Box & Beck

Arthur Box migrated from England in 1922 and settled in Queensland. In 1940 he began working under his house as a saddler (concentrating on harness making), located where the current (as at 2008) Post Office is sited on the east side of Gympie Road between Kuran and Mermaid Streets. In 1942 he formed a partnership with Stan Beck and the firm of A Box & Beck, Saddlers, began.

The business diversified in 1948 when a friend of Arthur's (suffering a foot problem) sent him a pair of sandals with the request to find a similar pair. He took up the challenge to make a pair himself to suit his friend and subsequently took a prototype of these to a leading department store of the day. He secured a significant order and so began a new line of business.

The business prospered and by 1955 land was purchased at 47 Kate Street, Kedron and a building of 6000 sq feet (557 sq m) housed the new business. A photo taken the next year shows a staff of 32 people, 12 males and 20 females.

The business continued to prosper and the factory was extended by another 2000 sq feet. Further expansion led to adjacent land being purchased and a further 4000 sq ft (370 sq m) building was erected to house the packing and storage department.

By this time the manufacturing arm of the business traded under the name of Queensland Leather Products Pty Ltd and the goods distributed as 'Gaytones' by A Box and Beck Pty. Ltd.

The Company was proud to use leather from tanneries also located in the area. The introduction of a platted thong into the range was a great boon to sales and the use of kangaroo hide in their production was a boost to the overall range.

Production reached its peak in the mid 1960's when some 250,000 pairs of children's and adult's sandals and thongs were manufactured and distributed throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea, with the business employing up to 80 staff.

In 1966 Arthur suffered severe injuries in car accident and was hospitalized for some 6 months. During this period, and up to the sale of the business in 1967, his daughters Daphne (Designer and Production Manager) and Beryl (Sales Manager) conducted the business. The business changed hands in 1967 with Daphne and Beryl retained as Managers. By the end of 1970 both had retired from the business. It was the end of an era for the Box family.

The management and staff of A Box & Beck Pty Ltd in 1956 in front of the new premises at Kate Street, Kedron. The three men in the front row are from the left: Earnie Box, Arthur Box and Stan Beck. Herbert Carr, who donated this photo, is second from the left in the back row.

Plan of the New Factory

The plan drawn by Herbert Carr shows a well laid out factory floor using up to date methods. It is a good example of what could be done on a small scale and employing local labour.

View of the New Factory

The sketch of the factory by Herbert Carr shows the saw tooth roof construction which gave maximum natural lighting for the workers.

Local Footware Manufacturing Part 2. Michaelis Bayley Footware.

The new owner of the Kedron firm, Michaelis Bayley Footwear, was a larger business with a factory in the Valley employing some 600 workers. They bought the Kedron business as a going concern since they produced similar footwear making leather thongs, sandals and scuffs for men and women. They also used kangaroo leather, which in their case, was supplied by Packer Bros Tannery of Chermside.

The business prospered during the 1960s and into the early 1970s but then cheap imports of footwear began to affect the sales. So they switched to producing high quality ladies footwear which could sustain the higher wages paid in Australia and also cover the increasing cost of leather.

The move was successful and in the mid-1980s the Kedron firm was employing 150 workers and producing 2,000 pairs of footwear per day. However the effect was not long lasting and by the 1990s the import of high quality footwear was taking over the Australian market and by the mid 1990s the firm ceased production at Kedron.

From that time the Kedron firm, under the name of The Bare Traps Shoe Company Pty Ltd, has continued to operate as a completely retail establishment selling imported footwear but with a workforce of only 5 people. It is part of a larger organisation and is one of seven outlets operating under this name.

What began as a manufacturing firm in 1942 adapted to changing circumstances by changing products. Sold to a larger firm the business prospered by making more changes until cheap imports took over the local market. The firm survives but the cost is in the loss of local jobs as the local economy changes and the workforce moves from secondary industry into service industry.

Originally the second workshop built by A Box & Beck at 45 Kate Street, Kedron is now a ware house. It holds the imported footware sold by the present firm and trades under the name of Bare Traps.

Bare Traps Moves On 2011

The Courier Mail of 23-9-2011 p.11 reported that the firm Bare Traps, which had occupied the premises in Kate Street for 20 years, was moving to 221 Stafford Rd. Stafford.

The firm found that "being in the back streets of Kedron --- is not really conducive to growing the business." "We needed a place where people could see us - exposed to passing traffic with good access and carparking."

The Kate St., site had a 13,000 strong customer base so the firm did not want to move too far from the existing customers and they want more customers. The new site already has a Discount Chemist Store, an Amart All Sports shop and a Child Minding Centre. It is also on a main road with a three street access and a large carparking area.

The Kate Street site suited Box & Beck which was a factory and supplied certain shops as outlets for its products. Bare Traps sells footwear directly to the public and wants the best site to attract customers.

Thus, the trend of small manufacturing firms being replaced by sales outlets continues in Chermside, but this move is a step further in the direction of change. The expanding sales firm needs better sited premises to expand its business, Bare Traps is moving from the back streets to a main road site in an existing sales centre. They might has preferred to move on to Gympie Road in Chermside but apparently nothing suitable was available.

The Situation in November 2015

Box and Beck Building in 2015 Stansure Strata Management
No. 47 Kate Street, Kedron 12-11-15 No. 45 seems to be unoccupied.

No. 47 Kate Street is occupied by the firm Stansure Strata Management which specialises in working with the Body Corporate in many high rise apartment buildings.

No. 45 Kate Street at the same time seems to be vacant and has no name on the building. A short time before it was operating as a Sorting Centre and Op Shop for the RSPCA.

The buildings seem in good repair but the busy scene when 80 local people worked in the footwear business is gone. While cars are parked all around there is no sign of people.

Google Satellite View of Buildings

The Google photo shows the large Indoor Sports Centre which is a recent addition to the buildings.

The original building, No. 47, on the right has the original saw tooth roof which was commonly used in the post World War II days. It enabled natural light into all parts of the building as well as fresh air. That was in the days before fluorescent lighting and air conditioning.