From the 1920s to today

The Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia Ltd

Notes on Phosphate Co-op History provided by Alan Guy

In early 1919 Augustus Wolskel had visions of forming a co-operative company to manufacture fertilisers (mainly 22% superphosphate) for farmers at cost price.

As soon as sufficient shareholders were recruited he took over a small chemical company in Macaulay, a suburb of Melbourne near Flemington, which was manufacturing glauber salts, Epsom salts and other like industrial chemicals, and had a reasonable laboratory in which they could work to develop the manufacturing processes for sulphuric acid, and the rock and acid mixing to make the superphosphate. This factory must have been very close to the railway line as one of the chemists working there, Joe Power, told me all the lights would dip whenever the electric trains would move out of Macaulay Railway Station.

While the laboratory experimental work was going on, it was receiving financial support from the output of the Macaulay Chemical Works.

Having satisfied themselves on the probable methods in the laboratory, they decided to try it out on a more practical scale in the Macaulay factory. The problem then arose: “What do we do for monetary support if the plant stops producing glauber salts etc”.

The economy still being in a building boom after the end of World War 1 with houses being built everywhere and timber being the main material, they decided let’s get into the sawmilling business.

No sooner said than done. They took over the Whittlesea sawmills, closed Macaulay’s production and proceeded to modify the plant for experimenting on a larger scale to prove the practicability of the laboratory experiments.

In the meantime the search was on for a suitable site for the establishment of a factory to commence manufacture in commercial quantities.

Encouraged by the Geelong Harbour Trust they made negotiations with people by the name of Nicholls who owned a suitable area of land at North Shore which was 1. on the waterfront 2. level ground and 3. close to the railway track.

With the site secured they drew up plans and by late 1924 work was underway with both buildings and rail lines. However there was still one component necessary to make it all work missing – power.

At this time in the early twenties things were happening that do not occur very often and the Co-op made an agreement with another company and missed out. At this time, with things settling down after W.W.1., the Navy decided to dispose of some of its submarines. The Distillers Corporation was looking for a site to build a distillery in the Geelong area and chose a site on the main rail line alongside what was then a planned seaplane base for the Navy. The only thing missing was, again, power.

Whether the cost of power was very high or the cost of the erection and supply of transmission lines was prohibitive, I don’t know, but the Co-op got together with them and agreed to purchase one of the diesel engines from the submarines that the Navy was disposing of and generate their own power.

The engine was duly purchased and a contractor was engaged to set it up in the south-east corner of the Co-op’s property. Excavations were made and foundations poured and the engine duly mounted on same. Before the generator was fitted the engine was given a trial run which proved unsuccessful; the foundations were not satisfactory and collapsed leaving the project way behind schedule.

While the Co-op called in new contractors to rebed the engine which was done successfully the distillers could not wait and went ahead and had S.E.C. power installed. The Co-op, left on their own, had no alternative but to do likewise, and the engine remained on site until at least the mid 1950s.

With the start of the Geelong Plant the large scale experimental work at Macaulay ceased and the plant went back into production again to help finance and the Whittlesea sawmill was shut down and all the saw mill equipment and personnel was transferred to Geelong where the equipment, with the exception of the 7 feet breaking down saws, was put to work around the factory site. (The breaking down saws remained on site until 1943 when Mr Wolskel heard that a local sawmill supplying timber to Ford Motor Co to build landing barges for the Defence Department could not obtain saw blades. He made contact with them and donated them to the mill and they were collected and working within three days.)

With the construction well underway the job of recruiting chemists to operate the acid plant, which was quite innovative for its time, began.

Some of the operators recruited said the interview with Mr Wolskel was very long and their opinions on the methods to be used in the new plant were very much discussed.

The normal chamber acid plants up to this time used nitre pots with a heat source to break down sodium nitrate to a gaseous form to obtain nitrous oxide which was the catalyst in the reaction of water to SO2 to form H20+SO3 to H2So4.

However, the Wolskel experiments at Macaulay had shown by adding a tower next to the Glover towers he could mix the sodium nitrate with water and feed it as a liquid into this tower and using the hot gases from the Glover towers to break it down to provide the nitrous oxide for the reaction in the main towers.

The system worked really well and as the bugs were ironed out a new tower, round in shape, was added to the system. This tower was drawn up and built and named Governor tower and made the operation of the plant almost foolproof. This was about 1928. (In 1952 I came across an American chemical text book in which the manufacture of sulphuric acid by the chamber method was shown complete with the flow sheet of the process, and, surprise, surprise, there was no Governor tower – it was labelled Wolskel tower.)

With the manufacture of superphosphate now well established and sales good, another obstacle arose.

When the Co-op started, super prices were very high and the Co-op price kept coming down each year until a price of three pounds ten shillings was reached. When this was achieved the opposition companies, ie Cresco and Commonwealth Fertilizers, approached the British Phosphate Commission who controlled and were the only source of phosphatic rock, with the result that the Co-op were informed if they dropped their price any lower they would not receive any more rock.

The next year both Cresco and Commonwealth dropped their price to three pounds seven shillings and sixpence leaving the Co-op with a penalty of two shillings and sixpence, and the drop in sales, despite the huge drop in price brought about by the Co-op, was quite high, showing that apart from shareholders, the loyalty of customers was very thin.

In the early days the super was conveyed straight from the den to a rising conveyor near the south end of the super shed and onto the distributing belt without processing of any kind and the resulting material when it matured in the shed set very hard, particularly in the centre cores of the heaps.

As the reclaiming at this time was a largely manual operation, the heap had to be drilled and explosives used to break the material up for loading onto the wall conveyor to feed the elevators to feed the bagging bins for despatch.

The first mechanical reclaiming was done by a mobile bucket dredge mounted on four cast iron wheels with a chute attached to feed onto a portable conveyor which fed on to the wall conveyor. This was an improvement but still needed a lot of manual work and blasting to feed it.

Around this time the Victoria Market in Melbourne was nearing the completion of some earth works and Wolskel, always on the lookout, checked and found the earth works contractor had no immediate use for his equipment so he arranged to purchase two Ruston power shovels at the completion of the work. These were duly fitted with electric motors and put to work reclaiming with much success. With these developed the hoppers with revolving tines to break up the big lumps as they fed the conveyors.

These two shovels formed the main reclaiming equipment until 1937 when the company purchased from Ransome & Rapier, a British manufacturer of earth moving equipment, an all-electric one ton shovel.

This arrived dismantled in wooden crates and was assembled with modifications in the Co-op’s workshop which at that time was just south of the dens and grinding house with the rail line one side and the main doors facing the dens.

Due to the restricted passage between the dens and the workshop, only the tracks, turntable, cabin and motors were assembled in the workshop; the jib and bucket arms were assembled in the super shed, approximately 100 yards from the south end.

When the chassis assembly was completed it was driven out of the workshop into the super shed and the jib and bucket fitted.

The modifications mentioned above included the fitting of a two ton bucket to the machine which upset the engineer who came from Ransomes to check the assembly, so much so that they refused to give any warranty unless it was returned to normal.

However, the remark by the Co-op’s chief engineer, Mr M. J. Webb, that they had little faith in their basic design was borne out by the fact that in 1964, some 27 years later, when the Co-op purchased three Ruston RB38 shovels from Mary Kathleen uranium mine, the Ransome shovel was still working with them.

With the introduction of aerial spreading the quest for a cleaner, more uniform granulated product became the prime objective. This, I think, was about 1938 and started with a survey of the despatch section ie the elevator boot where all the feed from the wall conveyor was discharged to feed the elevators which fed the trammel screens, the product of which passed into the bagging bins for despatch. All oversize product which passed through the trammels fed a set of crusher rolls which discharged back into the elevator boot to recycle.

This study showed that elevators 3 and 4 had a lower percentage of fine material due to the velocity with which the material was discharged into the boot by the conveyor, the heavier course material throwing further to the east end of the boot where the 3 and 4 elevators were.

The Register Adelaide 11 March 1925


The Prosphate Co-operative Company of Australia has expended about £150,000 to date in developments at its works, now being erected at North Shore, Geelong. The works will ultimately occupy 47 acres and additional land has been acquired for residential purposes. The company proposes to build workmens’ homes, which will be sold to the men on easy terms at capital cost. The land will be valued at 7/- to 8/- a foot, compared with the 40/- to 50/- “boom” prices now charged for allotments in this locality. One store of 400 ft. x 80 ft. has been completed, and another, spanned by steel girders of 120 ft, and over 500ft. In length, is now being built. The works are connected with the local railway system, and the Government has been asked to construct a wharf, 150 ft from the foreshore at a cost of £20,000. Wharfage dues sufficient to meet interest charges, sinking fund and maintenance are guaranteed by the company. It is intended later to undertake the manufacture of sulphuric acid by-products. The company will be able to start its main operations next year, if wharfage facilities are provided.

 The Argus Melbourne 23 September 1926



Benefit to Producers.

About 150 shareholders, from all parts of Victoria, accepted the invitation of the directors of the Phosphate Co-operative Co. of Australia Ltd. to visit the works at North Shore, Geelong, by special train yesterday. After inspecting the site of 50 acres abutting on Corio Bay, they were escorted over the plant by the general manager (Mr. A. Wolskel).

Mr. Hill, M.H.R. (chairman of directors), in addressing the visitors, recalled that the company was formed in the unsettled period immediately after the war, when it was thought that there would probably be about 4,000 shareholders. At the prices then ruling the capital appeared to be sufficient for the works to cope with their fertiliser requirements. The cost of construction, however, advanced enormously, and, owing to the decision of the majority of shareholders to take the minimum number of shares, more than 8,000 shareholders were required to subscribe the necessary capital. The directors had always taken the stand that the company was to be self supporting, and that no construction was to be commenced until the money was in hand to pay for it. At the end of the last financial year, no less than £25,000 was due to the company in overdue calls. In the most marked cases, the directors recently had reluctantly been forced to take the step of forfeiting share holdings. When the company was formed it was the only fertiliser company outside the combine. It still was the only co-operative fertiliser company in Australia. It could confidently be claimed on its behalf that the fact that it was in the field had benefited producers enormously by preventing an increase in the cost of superphosphate. The works had been designed under the supervision of the general manager on the latest American and German systems of mass production, and would be operated with a minimum of man power.

General satisfaction was expressed by visitors, and cheers were given for the directorate and management.

Geraldton Guardian 2 December 1926


130 MEN CEASE WORK Melbourne, Dec. 1.

One hundred and thirty men struck at the North Shore Phosphate Company's works at Geelong to-day, the trouble being over the rates of pay for laborers waiting on tradesmen

engaged in building operations. Unless a settlement is reached, 200 more men will be thrown out of work.

The Argus Melbourne 3 December 1926


Parties Reach Settlement.

At a conference between representatives of the parties in Melbourne yesterday a settlement, was affected of the strike of the employees at the works of the Co-operative Phosphate Company of Australia, at Geelong. More than 100 men were involved, embracing carpenters, lead burners, riggers, and labourers. Following upon the decision of a meeting held on Wednesday night the dispute was extended to the engineers, boiler-makers, and, fitters, 54 of whom ceased work yesterday.

Representatives of the Geelong Trades Hall disputes committee and the unions concerned met members of the board of management at the Melbourne offices of the company yesterday afternoon, when proposals for a settlement of the dispute were agreed to, subject to confirmation by the men affected. The terms of settlement were not disclosed by the company.

Union officials last night stated that the terms of settlement agreed upon at the conference covering the employees at the works of the Phosphate Company at North Shore, Geelong, were as follows:

“That the classification of all labourers be submitted to arbitration, in terms of the company’s letter to Mr. Brownbill, M.L.A., on November 29, the arbitrator to determine what amount was underpaid by the company, if any, in each case, his decision to be retrospective in the case of men employed in the sulphur burner house to July 1, 1926; and also in the case of men assisting lead burners, and men engaged in sorting and grinding bricks, but no others. These terms of settlement to be subject to lend burners and all other men now on strike resuming work on Monday, December 6, and also subject to the acceptance by the men concerned at the Geelong works.”

Meeting of Men Called.

GEELONG. Thursday.- A meeting of the men on strike will be held at the Trades Hall tomorrow morning, at half past l0 o'clock, to consider the result of the conference deliberations. Union officials expect that the strike will be called off and that the men will return to work on Monday.

The Horsham Times 10 May 1927


There was no auspicious opening of the Phosphate Co-operative Company's works at North Shore, Geelong, not even the breaking of a bottle of champagne to mark the commencement of the manufacture of the first ton of superphosphate, says the Geelong Advertiser. One of the acid plants was completed, and as stocks of raw material were on hand and the plant ready to proceed with the manufacture of the commodity for which many share holders have waited for a long time, the management went to work, and are now storing the superphosphate so that stocks can be built up before the pro duct is placed on the market. At a meeting of shareholders on Tuesday in Melbourne it was decided that only shareholders who had paid up their calls, should have voting power. The constitution will be altered to that effect. It is intended to build up a stock of 1000 tons, and already a large quota of that total has been manufactured. Owing to delay caused in having a wharf erected, and to avoid double handling charges at Geelong, a large quantity of raw material is being discharged from ships in Melbourne and sent by rail to Geelong. This policy is causing a loss in revenue to the Geelong port.

The Courier-Mail Brisbane 19 June 1941


MELBOURNE, Wednesday.— The British Phosphate Commissioners have advised the Australian Red Cross Society that 32 members of the crews of the Triadic, Triaster, and Triona, which were sunk last year by Nazi raiders off Nauru, were prisoners of war in Germany.

They are at Stalag (prisoner of war camp). Other members of the crews of the Triadic and Triona were included in 333 people marooned by a Nazi Pacific raider on Emirau Island, north of New Guinea, who passed through Brisbane on January 4 on their way to Sydney. These people were first sighted on Emirau Island by New Zealand planes searching for the lost Rangitane.

Next-of-kin have been advised that the following are prisoners at Stalag:

TRIADIC— C. E. A. Bliss, second officer, 4 Moore Street, Hawthorn, Vic: S. R. Young, third officer, 43 Barker Street, Maryborough, Vic; W. J. C. McFarlane. chief engineer, 70 Prince Albert Street, Mosman, N.S.W.; D. H. Singleton, second engineer, 13 Dallas Avenue, Oakleigh, Vic; G. N. Kersey, fourth engineer, 706 Neal Street. Ballarat, Vic; E. H. Dennis, chief steward, 43 Queen Street, Alberton, S.A.; R. J. Swann. wireless officer, care Amal gamated Wireless, 47 York Street, Sydney; J. Charlesworth, fifth engineer, 14 Lynden Street, Camberwell East, Vic; V. G. Marks, sixth engineer, 44 Cheltenham Road, Cheltenham.

TRIASTER.— A. Rhodes, master, 14 Sandham Court, Elsternwick, Vic; J. Stott. chief englneer, 3 Wells Street, Frankston, Vic; V. Wilson, second officer, 38 Normanby Street, Middle Brighton; J. Fowles, third officer, 9 Elm Grove, McKlnnon, Vic; S. Kersey, chief engineer, 320 Beaconsfleld Parade, St. Kilda; J. Douglas, second engineer, New Lyndoch Street, Greenock; K. W. Goodridge, fourth engineer, Morwell Bridge P.O. or 38 Elphin Grove, Glenferrie, Vic; A. D. McDonald, fifth engineer, 4 Albert Crescent, Surrey Hills; B. Spencer, sixth engineer, Ballan P.O., Vic; S. T. Dockendorf, seventh engineer, 10 Cochrane Street, Brighton, Vic; J. Armstrong, electrician. 3 Brandon Terrace, Belfast, North Ireland: W. P. Robinson, chief steward, 270 St. Kilda Road, Brighton; J. Fraser, member of Ocean Island staff, North Shore P.O., via Geelong, Victoria.

TRIONA - J. E. Hughes, master, Barwon Heads, Geelong, Vic; J. E. Semmens, chief officer, St. James Buildings, 539 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic; J. Bowran, chief engineer, 8 Collins Street, Essendon, Vic; G. M. Taylor, second engineer, Narooma Flats, Broadway, Elwood: A. McKinna, third engineer, 57 Maribyrnong Road, Ascot Vale: F. K. Sutton, third officer, care Dookie Agricultural College: A. W. Roger, chief steward, 4 Woodville Street, Hurstville, Sydney; R. M. Rees, wireless officer, care Amalgamated Wireless or 10 Craigmore Street, Darling.

The Argus Melbourne 9 October 1941



Mr. F. G. H. Ritchie, deputy coroner, yesterday held an inquest into the death of Thomas Stewart McKenzie, 50, railway shunter, St. Albans rd., East Geelong. On September 5 McKenzie was engaged in shunting operations at the Phosphate Co.'s siding at North Shore when he slipped and a truck went over his legs, both of which were amputated. He died in the Geelong Hospital a week later. A finding was recorded that death was due to injuries accidentally received when he slipped and fell under the wheels of a truck.

Phosphate Co-operative
Company of Australia

by Charles Demllo

More commonly known as Pivot because of the brand name of its product, this company has been part of the Geelong industrial scene

for over 60 years. In this account Charles DemIIo recalls the early days of the firm's existence and some of the men who worked for it.

A rural bias

Called by its brand name because of the fullness of its official title, Pivot has somehow managed to remain one of Geelong's least known manufacturing

concerns for over 60 years. Its products are for rural use and despatched in huge annual tonnages. Its advertising is minimal and

mostly confined to rural publications and sites, and its shares are in the hands of farmers and farming companies. Its annual dividends are not

paid out in money but in rebates on the cost of fertilizers bought by its shareholders.

A survival factor

The considerable significance of that last sentence is that the user gets his fertilizer at a price as near to the cost of production as it can, in

prudence, be made possible. This has been one factor in the survival of Pivot, that large sprawling plant that has sat not very ornamentally,

across the bay from the city for longer than most Geelongites have had eyes to see it. A survival, what is more, that is combined with a continuing

growth - growth that was at its most rapid during the depression years that followed the 1929 crash when so many other ventures were failing.

Yet the Company had very little time to consolidate and form a firm base.

When I joined the staff as a laboratory dogsbody in late l928, it had only been operating a few months and it was no longer than a year before the


New and modern

A major factor in its favour was that the plant was new and, by the standards of other manufacturers, unapproachably modern. Prior to the

Depression six plants operated in Victoria: Wischers, Nobels, Cuming Smith and Mt. Lyell in Melbourne, and Cresco and the new boy Pivot at

Geelong. Pivot could and did produce its output more cheaply, and within only a few of the thirties years had eliminated Wischers and Nobels

(Federal brand), and Cuming Smith and Mr Lyell had been driven to amalgamate as Commonwealth Fertilisers, later to be taken over by the

giant ICI (and at a much later date by Pivot itself). Geelong's Cresco survived, helped by plants in South and Western Australia out of range

of competition, until it was taken over by the American concern, W.G. Grace & Co., before it ceased production altogether after having built a

new plant at Portland. Pivot later took over this plant to aid its South Australian commitments.

Pivot had not only survived but had also annihilated its Victorian opposition.

An unusual performance

This was a most unusual performance for a co-operative. Pivot is a true co-operative, its shares are of no use for trading on stock exchanges - one

of the reasons for its low public profile. Co-operatives do not have a history of great commercial success, and even when enduring have

tended to remain small scale. Their Boards, particularly in rural ventures have tended to consist of quite able people, but ones whose skills were not

necessarily in the field of their co-operative's endeavour. Funding, too, was their problem.

Good management and equipment

It was thought by many that funding would be Pivot’s problem, since, in addition to shareholders' funds, it had needed to take out debentures

before it could begin to manufacture. That this problem was overcome seems to have been because of good management allied to ahead-of-its-

tirne equipment. The installing and modifying of the latter could only have meant that the management had foresight.

Production of super

During the period that these comments cover, the base product of Australian fertilizer producers was superphosphate. In tonnages this

would still be the case, but over the years the addition of phosphorus to our soils, deficient in this element nationwide, has greatly stimulated

growth and hence the demand on other soil-based nutrients. This has led to the use of more complex fertilizers, generally those containing nitrogen

and potassium along with phosphorus, to which has been added a host of minor elements as dictated by soil needs. Superphosphate is made by

treating phosphatic rock with sulphuric acid in order to render part of the calcium phosphate therein water soluble. The essential requirements in

manufacture were: a means of obtaining or manufacturing sulphuric acid; a mill wherein phosphatic rock could be ground finely; another within

which the mixing of the two was achieved over some chamber within which the mix could be left to set; and a storage space for the product. So

simple a recipe becomes considerably more complex when the target for production is measured in hundreds of thousands of tonnes per annum.

Pivot today could probably account for a million tons annually from its factories.

Augustus Wolskel

It might be interesting to make few comments about some of the early men on the Pivot scene and offer some observations on their successes.

Augustus Wolskel was General Manager and, I think, Managing Director when I began work in the laboratory. Rightly or wrongly

regarded by the staff as "a German chemist", and a man with a great deal of chemical expertise as well as driving force, the GM (as he was usually

called) was one of those people who are never quite satisfied with things as they are. He believed that machines and men could always do better

and, in the case of machines and systems, would usually have sorneone trying to find out how. In 1928 he was living with his brother Theo at

''Windhover', the old house on the comer of the North Shore Esplanade and Phosphate Road. The less relevant Theo garaged a glistening and

long-bonneted Diana Straight Eight there, but the Company car was a mid-twenties grey Hupmobile tourer. The GM and Pivot had a no frills

style typical of the Company at the time.

The acid plant

Wolskel designed the Company's first acid plant, adding elements of his own design to the 'chamber plant' typical of the times for the

production of crude sulphuric acid. Charnbers were huge box-shaped affairs made of lead sheeting, occupying about as much space as a good

sized dance hall; they stood between towers also made of lead sheeting but packed with bricks internally, whose function was concerned with the

introduction and recovery of nitrogen oxides used to convert the SO2 produced from burning sulphur to SO3 which with H2O became sulphuric

acid. Gases flowed through this system in wide lead flues, urged on by great leaden fans. Hot acid and cooled acid flowed around in lead-lined

flumes in great quantities, the hot acid being cooled in large lead tubs containing lead cooling coils. Add a whiff of sulphur and the scene

becomes satanic.

Wolskel stood his chambers on end, an option only made possible by the use of steel-frame construction. He added a tower or two of his own

design and eliminated an energy-wasteful process of producing nitrogen oxides by injecting solutions of sodium nitrate into the earlier and hotter

towers. His improvements worked, his plant was more efficient than others in use in the industry.

Matthew John Webb

The steel structures were built under the direction of the first Chief Engineer, Matthew John Webb, a vital personality known all over as 'Big

Jack', a nickname that in typical Australian fashion carried with it a good deal of affectionate respect. Big Jack had a capacity for sweeping people

along with his ability to sweep aside old notions. He had a splendid bent for invention and for the improvising of mechanical devices that would

cut manufacturing costs, most particularly in the field of materials handling. He constructed pumps for the acid plant which cut maintenance

costs by being both glandless and trouble free, and the comprehensive systems of mechanical handling during manufacture and in the packing

and dispatch of product were very much to his credit. These were advances that cost jobs and in an era of massive unemployment, but they

kept the Company going and growing, actually adding to its staff. Pivot's firm base owes a lot to Big Jack.

The works managers

The first works manager was Dan McGruer, who inevitably became 'Dangerous Dan'; he was supplanted fairly soon by the efficient and

Highly motivated Harold Morgan. Morgan was to ride to the top, taking the Company with him, and when he became General Manager, his place

was taken by A. Trevor Davies, a peppery personality with a lot of charm and a motorcycle inflicted limp.

The chief chemist

The position of chief chemist was pioneered by Carl August Schache, who sprang from a Wimmera family at Jung and whose brother, Bernie,

was chief chemist at the same period with the now defunct Barnet Glass Rubber Company. Carl came to Pivot from the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of

Risdon, Tasmania. He became very well known and popular among Geelong's garden enthusiasts and presided, I think, over their association

at one time. He had a seemingly infinite capacity for work, something that sustained him rather than otherwise. I met him in Geelong in the seventies

after not having seen him for 30 years, and all that work had not changed him a scrap.

John Lawson Paterson

Schache’s second in command became well known in another field altogether. This was John Lawson Paterson, son of the Jack Paterson who,

with his brother, had a plumbing business at the city end of Mercer Street, and was Captain of the Geelong City Fire Brigade c.1930. John L. was,

in his year, dux of Geelong College, and furthered his studies at the Gordon. He was both popular and mildly eccentric, upsetting the conventional-

minded management by leaving Pivot in the risky thirties to begin a suntan oil business in Sydney, using mutton bird oil as the major

ingredient. He went on to operate this on the Gold Coast, where, with his avian topee and his yellow Rolls Royce, he became very well known



The major foremen were, in manufacture - J.H. (Jack) Flett, and in the super shed where the recovery and packing out operations were performed

- Phil Wildman, who later had the store and post office in Shannon Avenue, West Geelong. These days, men with the responsibility these

men carried would be regarded as middle management and dissuaded, I think, from the hands-on style both had to employ at times. Foremen they

were, but the word meant a good deal more then than it does in these days of garbologists.

Transport and pollution

Most employees rode bikes to work, a few used motorbikes, a very few had cars and these always carried a few passengers to meet the costs. The

Melbourne Road and the North Shore Road carried enough bicycles to give an impression of Holland at the rush hours. While the industries

around them were doing a bit of polluting, all that these cyclists were emitting was a little sweat. Now we have the industries working under

strict pollution control, but we also have 90% of their employees laying miles of exhaust twice a day instead of faint auras of sweat. Well, that's

progress, at least it is in one sense, but Pivot's progress in the business sense goes on, and in its curiously secretive and unnoticed way.

Northern industries

At the time Pivot started, our northern industrial development was only in the early stages of all that happened following the establishment of the

Ford Geelong plant. The large woollen mills, those that did the whole job through from greasy wool to fine worsteds, were still, if the pun can be

forgiven, Geelong's staple industry. These, of course, were almost all on the river, but girls from the 'Fed' were a part of that busy bicycle scene

mentioned before. A vocal part too, many of them, having spent eight hours in rooms filled with clattering machinery, would still be yelling

interesting comments at the top of their voices as they rode.

Rise and fall

To those whose lives have been long enough to have known of these flourishing industries to the south, their decline to nothing more than a

wool museum is all the more regrettable for knowing that the industries to the north, Ford and Pivot in particular, not only survived but also grew.

Home manufactured clothing and textiles would seem to be almost a vital requirement for a nation that calls itself proud. Pivot supplies something

vital, just think of our old and not so rich soils, so this is a blessing; but Ford? Do we really need all those cars? Perhaps we'd be better off in many

ways without them, but if we must have them, at least let them be built here.

Published in “The Investigator” 1993

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