Industry in Our Backyard
Residents of North Shore discuss their memories of growing up in a time of major industrial growth between the 1920s-1950s.
This period saw the development of businesses including: the Phosphate Cooperative Company of Australia (the ‘Phossie’), Corio Distillery, the International Harvester (the ‘Harvester’), Ford Motor Company (‘Fords’) and the Shell oil refinery.
Residents grew up with these companies literally over the back fence and many of their stories depict childhood memories of mischievous exploration. Many residents were employed by the industries, some hopping from job to job, whilst others spent the majority of their working lives at the likes of Ford or the Phossie.
It was a very industrialised area because there was Ford, International Harvester, Phosphate, and it was, you know, quite rapidly populating.
[Black-and-white photo of land]
North Shore resident & local historian]
Ford's built their factory in 1926. Marvellous. An American company finding a base here in Geelong to build their motor cars here and the utilities.
[Bryan Power Former North Shore resident & local historian]
I remember selling papers, Heralds, at Ford after work and the number of people that came out for the buses - incredible.
[Black-and-white photo of Ford's]
[Della Mitchell North Shore resident]
Mum worked in the canteen there. I worked in the canteen at Ford's too. You had to get on your hands and knees and scrub the floor with a scrubbing brush and a bucket. When no-one was looking, I tipped the bucket over so the water went everywhere and then you just wipe it over and they didn't know whether I'd done it or not.
[Val Gibbons North Shore resident]
Good for an education in more ways than one, I can tell you. There were a lot of things I'd never even seen. I didn't know what a multi-lit master was, I didn't know what vellum sheets were, but they were very good to work for.
[Intersection of The Esplanade and Phosphate Rd]
What we refer to as the Phossy was actually the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia, and the big sign on their roof, the long roof, was 'Pivot'.
[David Gibbons North Shore resident]
The Pivot phosphate company was the largest shed in the Southern Hemisphere.
It was begun by a man named Gus Wolskel and they were actually experimenting in the best way of converting phosphatic rock into superphosphate. When they finally got it - they thought they were on the right trail - they established the works down here at North Shore.
At the side of the Phosphate, they had big sulphur pits. Like a hill of sulphur. So us kids used to get up there with a bit of corrugated iron and sit on the top and slide down to the bottom. Ahem. Did it all the time.
And they let you do that?
Mmm. They didn't have much choice. They couldn't catch us!
I remember our bus used to go round past the Phossy, the Phosphate, and anybody who was out of town, you could hear go, 'Cough, cough, cough.' And all the North Shore people, 'Snigger, snigger.' 'Cause we were used to the fumes.
[Car drives down long road]
The International Harvester was here when they built combines and tractors and assembled tractors and that sort of thing.
It was a very big construction. A big long building. Dad used to use my Meccano set and make a duplicate of this big building as it was going up, until he ran out of money and couldn't afford the Meccanos.
There was a big stormwater drain out the other side into the bay and us kids used to get in there and open the hatches inside the factory and go inside the factory and around. And, uh... Until we got caught and they put a lock on all the lids, so that kept us out. Distillers is another one of those industries which was very successful. They made whisky. They also made gin.
Dad was a boiler attendant there. They used to get a little bit of whisky at the end of the shift. I don't know how much and how strong, but it was one of the perks of the business.
[Two white houses]
There was my cousins who lived down there. They lived in one of the houses, the very first one as you're going up there. He worked in the distillery, and they used to have a lot of nice parties and things at their place, and they always had the whisky and that sort of thing there, and there were some very hectic nights.
[Intersection of Shell Pde and Foreshore Rd. Street sign pointing to Limeburners Bay]
Before the war, Shell had a refinery at some place in Indonesia. I think it was on Java. Indonesia was on the verge of becoming independent. They thought we'd better play it safe and take that refinery away, and the best place to put it was in Australia, Corio, because there was a port for shipping, which ports usually are, and it was the first time that, in the British Commonwealth, there was a non-British company to build this refinery, which was the company I applied for and got a job.
[Black-and-white photograph of three men]
There was a lot of gases, which were the residue from refining... ..and to get rid of those, they erected an enormous, tall pipe. The flame came on and the flame still goes.