Almanac Life: Recollections of a Garbo



In a chance meeting with Jim Connor, president of the Eltham and District Historical Society, I mentioned that I used to work for and briefly ‘run’ garbage for the Shire of Eltham back in the early 1970’s and he urged me to commit my memories to paper.


This is the result.



Frank Taylor, January 1974.
Running garbage full time at that time in his life.



The Council Works Yard and general labouring.



At the end of 1972 I finished Form 6 – Year 12 – at Eltham High School and took a year off before university. After a number of short term jobs – mud brick making, truck jockey moving new furniture, spray painting new trailers, etc. – on a tip from a mate, Roy Web, mid-year found me up at the Shire of Eltham, Pitt Street Depot at the top of the hill from Bible St. There is now a plaque marking the site.


The yard housed a large workshop building and a couple of offices. All of the outside work crews and machinery were run from there. The works supervisor was American. I don’t remember his name, but everyone knew him as ‘The Yank’. He was the archetypal American of the time, loud – very loud – with a thick New York/Bronx accent – and bossy. Sergeant Major military sort of bossy. He used to address us briefly when we assembled at eight o’clock every morning before we went off for the day. He had a tough job, which I thought he did very, very well all things considered. To his credit, he would constantly remind us that we were employed by The Shire FOR THE RATEPAYERS’ BENEFIT. We were public servants in the very fullest sense, regardless of our position.


I don’t know what category I fell under, probably general labourer. I was assigned initially to a storm water draining crew of four or five blokes, however that could change on the day depending on circumstances or a ‘special needs’ job. For example, if we had had heavy rains overnight pretty much everyone would be assigned to a road patrol and we’d be clearing drains and digging out drainage pits for the next couple of days. A large proportion of Eltham Shire’s roads were unmade and heavy rain always meant this kind of work.


I also clearly remember one time I was assigned, along with Les Castledean, the Shire’s backhoe operator, and one other, to have a good look at the foundations of the concrete road bridge on Main Road down by Lower Eltham Park. The Shire engineer (I forget his name unfortunately, he was a good bloke) closely oversaw the work. He had with him the original plans, they were dated 1927 and beautifully and clearly drawn. I was told that it was actually constructed in 1929/30 as a ‘Suso’ (Sustenance) project for the unemployed. Eltham was growing pretty quickly in the `70s and traffic was growing as a result and they wanted to widen the roadway if possible using the existing substructure and avoid the huge cost of replacing the bridge entirely. It is a concrete pier and beam structure. The engineer very carefully checked for ‘concrete cancer’ and had separate reports from other experts. The concrete columns rest on monolithic concrete pediments which are founded on huge mountain ash piles about 1.2 – 1.5m in diameter, driven down I assume to the bedrock. Our job was to inspect the condition of these wooden piles and see how they were standing up over time. We dug down beside two of the column pediments as far as the backhoe could reach to expose the piles as they were fully buried. They looked as if they had been in the ground a week or two and not 44 years in 1973. Interestingly, every time a truck would cross, the ground would noticeably tremor a little with the live load. As I write this, it is 47 years later and the bridge is still standing – widened – and is as serviceable as it was built. A standing testament to its designers and builders.


Pretty much most of the time I would work on a storm water drainage crew and we would work along a line of back yards installing plastic piping and connection pit along a rear, or sometimes side, easement. These were all works carried out in early, older subdivisions where these works did not form part of the original subdivision requirements in the early years of Eltham Shire. There was a lot of properties within the Shire that required them. Luckily, PVC piping had just been introduced and we didn’t have to deal with the old terracotta and mortar (‘compo’) piping which was much more labour intensive. I learnt a lot from my older, fellow workers.  How to use ‘boning rods’ to get a really accurate fall on the bottom of a trench. Proper material proportions for mortar and concrete. How to ‘knock up’ (mix) concrete in a barrow by hand easily and without injury. The value of a proper shaped and length trenching shovel. Dividing labour to increase site efficiency. Respect for individual talents. Operating as a team. This experience was invaluable to me a little later in life when I became a carpenter and later a builder and ran my own teams and businesses.


A lot of the men had ‘issues’. Today we know that it is known as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Disorder. Three of my regular loose crew of six were returned servicemen. Fighting Rommel in the Middle East, then a protracted jungle guerilla war in New Guinea, Borneo and Pacific Islands, then as occupying troops in post-war Japan in their young, formative years did not do them any favours, believe me, poor bastards. They all had trouble with alcohol as it was then widely accepted as a self-medication strategy. None had a driver’s licence as I’m sure they knew that they could not be trusted behind the wheel of a car, and they probably couldn’t afford to run and maintain one. I used to pick up one bloke – Scotty, the only married one – on my way to work and he used to drink a long neck in a paper bag by the time we got to the yard – at most four minutes away. He and his family lived in the council-owned red brick house at the corner of Bridge and Susan Street. It is still there. ‘Smoko’ – morning tea – saw me take a trip down to the LG’s – Licensed Grocers to buy three long necks. After work it was straight down the pub. They were great blokes but all were a bit buggered in some way.


Another was about 35, too young to be a returned soldier, and was a lovely bloke and for a while I wondered why he was working there as he struck me as pretty smart. He was the first grown man in my life that freely admitted that he suffered from depression. I didn’t know what triggered it (his depression) because I never asked, and, as a callow 19 year-old, I didn’t know how to ask. However he was very refreshingly open and candid about discussing it which I appreciated at that time, and certainly modelled mature male emotional behaviour which was not usual in those times. His example certainly helped me personally many years later. He needed an uncomplicated job to survive and manage his life properly, and council work provided this. They all had massive flaws of varying degrees, and generally their world was pretty narrow, however as I mentioned earlier, they were great blokes and taught me a lot about mateship.


They also had, as they say, finely tuned bullshit detectors.


Payday was Friday from memory and we were always paid in cash – right down to the last cent. We all got back to the yard a tad early, 3.45 thereabouts and two people from the payroll section would be there. One would call out our names and when we stepped forward we would be handed a paper envelope with our wages inside. The other would be ticking a list and checking things generally. Then we were free to go for the weekend.


We received the basic wage, which was not large by any means, but was enough to live on with dignity. Some, probably – almost certainly – would not have survived in today’s workforce. These blokes were definitely productive for the amount of money that they were paid. The Shire and rate-payers did well. I am sure that the Federal and State Governments had special funding agreements with local Shires to employ the war-damaged and other unfortunates. A very large percentage of politicians in those days were returned servicemen who had grown up in The Depression and witnessed first hand the appalling long and protracted suffering of returned men and their families from the World War I, and were determined not to repeat the ham-fisted mistakes of the past – post World War II – regardless of political parties or leanings. Unlike so many politicians today, these were people with real life experience which fully formed their views, opinions and actions.


Society is much poorer today without these men and women of vision and compassion in politics and leading professions.




Becoming a garbage runner, a ‘garbo’.


Anyway, one morning I turned up at 8am and in front of the workshop was the garbage truck, which was unusual. As household garbage collection started early, the only time that we saw the truck was either on the round – rarely – or parked away when we got back at 4pm to knock off at the end of the day. Soon as I walked in, I was told that as one of the regular runners was crook, I was to run garbage for that day.


Starting immediately.


I was probably selected because I was the youngest.


A domestic garbage truck in those days had a crew of three – one driver and two runners. Our driver was Billy who was in his early 40s, skinny, an ex-runner, and a chain smoker. I was told that when runners had had enough, typically they would become the drivers as they knew the job. The permanent runner that I worked with was Johnny who was 35 at that time, had been a runner all of his working life. A little shorter than me – probably 5’7” or 5’8” – and despite being a light smoker (everyone smoked in those days), was the fittest bloke that I had ever seen in my life. Not an ounce of body fat and you could see every muscle in high definition in his legs and arms through his skin. His thighs and calves were probably double the average size for his stature. He would have made a great life model for anatomical studies a la Leonard Da Vinci I thought at the time but never mentioned. Tommy Hafey – Richmond and Collingwood VFL/AFL coach – later said that running garbage or brickies labouring was his preferred paying day job for his players and I knew why. It certainly got you fit.


And that is how I became for a while, the relief runner. The other regular runner I never got to know as he was always the runner that I filled in for even though he was considerably younger than Johnny.


(About mid-October 1973 thereabouts I ran garbage full-time until the next February, when I briefly went to RMIT.)


I must admit, I loved it. We started at 6am and we finished when the day’s round was done. It was best if I had at least 24 hours notice say, when a runner had an injury or holidays as I found that you had to have a substantial breakfast and take a good smoko as well which meant rising at five. Just in case, I always ate a good breakfast from then on.


Garbage was collected every day of the week regardless, barring two exceptions, Good Friday and Christmas Day. It was then collected the next day instead. The daily round differed depending on the weekday. Monday we finished at about 12.30, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at about 1.00, and Friday we were supposed to finish about 11.30ish, however it was usually later than that when I started, more like 12.30. Eltham Shire was growing quickly then with new homes and households coming in every year. (For example, as a teenager, if I wanted to go to a friend’s house, I would often – usually – just cut across paddocks to take the quickest route. The older I got these paddocks began to fill with houses and the foot journey became longer.) Later on, just before I left the job, one of the senior staff joined us for a week to survey our workload. He was shocked and amazed at what we did every day. We just thought of it as a job that had to be done and we did it. Each runner averaged well over 1,000 bins a day and we ran 20 miles – 32ks, the truck doing approximately 40 miles, 64ks in total. A month after, I left, the Shire put on two trucks full-time for the same round.


For this we were paid normal hours plus one hour’s overtime. We also had a few perks of the job which earned us a bit more. In those days, everything that could be recycled, was. All bottles and glass included. Bottles we collected in big hessian bags which when full, we hung on big hooks welded along the back door of the truck. Two staggered rows, four across from memory. We stored them at the current tipping site, near the office. Bottles were mostly sorted when collected and stacked carefully back at the tip. Different types and sizes of bottles were for example, long necks – normal beer bottles – were a cent apiece (stubbies didn’t exist then), wine bottles the same, flagons, five cents, soft drinks like Coke-a-Cola and Fanta, 5 cents etc.  We collected any scrap metal – usually copper and aluminium – I think we made 2 or 3 dollars on this each a week. Tea brands like Lipton and Lan Choo, had tear-off vouches that we collected and then cashed in, again about $2 or $3 a week. We’d keep an eye open for the empty packets and scrap etc as we emptied the bin – plastic bin liners  weren’t in use then and refuse was lose except for items wrapped in newspaper. Bottles were the biggest earner by far with about, from memory, $20 or more per person, per week. It doesn’t sound like much today, however putting it into perspective, one gallon (3.8 litres)  of petrol cost 40 cents, the same cost as a 20 packet of Marlboro or Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes. Including my pay, I probably netted around $110/week thereabouts all up. It didn’t matter, I loved my job and this was just a bonus.


I loved being properly strong and fit for the first time in my life. I was very conscious of my food and I ate a lot of it so I researched my diet. I ate well with a lot of fresh food and cereal.


The truck was set up with a compactor on the back. It was a Bedford, I’m pretty sure. It’s exhaust ran up behind the cab just in front and above the compactor on the left hand side. It had a not unpleasant, but particular smell. (Very, very occasionally a truck will smell just like that and I am instantly transported back to 1973 – 74).  The compactor had loading openings at the front on both sides. There was a solid, long vertical handrail at the front that you could swing off, another along the bottom of the loading opening and a long, solid running board on both sides. To load it the rubbish was emptied into the front of the compactor by jumping onto the running-board on the side, and upending the bin(s) into the front, often banging the bin on the handrail. A large percentage of the time – at least 50% – we carried a bin on each side of our body, carried at shoulder height. Our run was Eltham, Montmorency, Briar Hill,  Parts of Lower Plenty and Research. We did not do outlying townships like Wattle Glen and Hurstbridge. From memory, another truck did those along with the commercial and shop premises garbage.


How many bins we carried each time often depended on the socio-economic area – you truly could write a book about a garbage round. In the older, more established areas, around stations and main roads – Montmorency, central Eltham and Briar Hill for example – the typical collection was a single bin made of tin with a tin lid, and inside was a quarter to half filled with burnt cans and sometimes briquette (compressed brown coal bricks) ash carefully wrapped in newspaper. Nothing else. Combustion stoves and compost heaps – nothing was wasted. These people grew up in The Depression.


Around the newer areas – often just the next road –  it was a vastly different story. Two bins were usual, often newer and made of plastic, although steel bins were still very common as they were more robust (more about that later…) however three, four and even five bins were not uncommon. Milk was just starting to be sold in cartons – more single-use refuse – and the milkman, with his bottles and aluminium foil tops and horse and cart clip-clopping along doing his daily round, his days were ending. The houses were bigger, the households more affluent and food packaging was beginning to gather pace. These houses did not have compost heaps and wood and briquette stoves and heaters so everything went into the bin. I had a chat to some friend’s parents who regularly put out four or five bins about my observations, and within two weeks after creating a compost bin and sorting their rubbish, they had reduced their refuse to one bin. Bottles were usually left next to the bins, separately and usually in a cardboard box or other container but not always.


On quiet, residential streets – the vast majority –  a runner would run each side of the truck and we would pick up both sides of the street. This meant that as the truck would slowly travel down the street, the runner would run to the bins, knock off the lids, pick up the bins, run to the truck, jump up the side, empty the bins, run back to the property, put the bins down – usually upside down next to the lids – run to the next house and repeat. Also pick up bottles if there were any there and put them directly into the bags on the back or, if we had run out of room, on a shelf underneath the rear of the compactor. Everyone would be on high alert for traffic, particularly if you were running the right hand side of the truck. Billy, the driver, was right onto it if you had bottles or were delayed for any reason. He had eyes in the back of his head. Busy, main roads we would load one side only with both runners on the left hand side. This meant that although the truck travelled approximately 32ks on our run, the runners would run at least half of that again. If we had to go across a main road or travel further than say 30m, we would just stand on the running board and hang on to the handrails.


Talk about a combined cardio/weight training! As I said before, I loved it.


When the front compartment became full, periodically the driver would activate a hydraulic ram at the front, pushing the collected rubbish into the rear to a determined pressure to make more space and we continued on until it was full. We typically would empty the truck three times during the round. Emptying meant removing the bags of bottles, unlocking the rear re-enforced door from the bottom, then pushing the garbage out the back. We would usually snatch a ten or fifteen minute max break for smoko somewhere in between.


The tip site at that time was the large block of land on the north-east corner of Bridge and Susan Streets bordered by the Diamond Creek and railway line. The entrance was where the skateboard park is now. It was just about full and The Shire was beginning to transfer tipping operations to the old sand quarry at the end of Graham Road in Kangaroo Ground.


We dressed pretty much the same. Shorts, footy shorts or cut-off jeans – I always wore cut-off jeans with leather belt. Also shirt – short sleeved or cut-off, open-front, drill or checked. No shirt if it was hot. Strong leather gloves. No hat (I had plenty of hair then) and solid leather work boots like Jenkins or Blundstones. We were all very, very brown with contrasting white hands and wrists and white feet and ankles. If you got sunburn you just put your shirt on – the sun didn’t have the sting it has today.


The constant stopping and starting was extremely hard on the truck, particularly as the load increased during the run. Very, very hard on brakes and clutches. Required constant servicing.



Some recollections and observations.



When I started to run full-time I thought that if I could use sports shoes, it would be less tiring. So I bought a pair of Dunlop Volleys. It was less tiring for sure, but I destroyed them in one day. Soles peeling off and the stitching coming apart. Took them back 24 hours after I purchased them and got a replacement and did the same the next day. One day. I was – rightfully – refused a refund on that pair. So, boots it was – they lasted about two months thereabouts from memory.


Every week, I’m fairly sure that either a Monday or Tuesday we always stopped outside the Dattner’s house in Lavender Park Rd. We even turned off the truck – very, very  rarely did that – had a long smoko and loaded all of their weekend’s parties rubbish (considerable) and bottles (huge amount of every variety) onto the truck before resuming our day. They owned a big store in Punt Road, Collingwood/Clifton Hill selling furs – furriers – and were obviously big party throwers – I would have loved to have gone to one of their dos.


On a summer morning, it can be freezing – really, really cold – first thing. On the running boards just after six and you are just about frostbitten. Seriously cold. By nine o’clock it is stinking hot and you’ve got the shirt off and you are checking out the taps in the front yards up the street grabbing a drink or a splash when you could. I remember one day it got so hot so quickly that I had trouble adjusting. I threw myself under a tap in the front yard of a place in Monty, top end of Rattray Road, with my head under for about five minutes before I could get going. I was lucky not to come down with heat-stroke. Taught me a lesson about ignoring warning signs.


Strangely enough, generally you got used the smell and it mostly did not bother us. However a couple of things did. Two things that we really hated were, firstly, briquette dust. Yellow and extremely fine. Chokingly fine. If it was not wrapped up properly in newspaper and just dumped directly into the bin, when emptied it was diabolical. Unwrapped dust from vacuum cleaners was nearly as bad. Result was that that bin was kicked as hard as possible from the truck in the general direction of its owners and left at that. If it was a plastic bin, we tried to split it. A financial penalty (new bin) for their inconsideration for the health of their rubbish collectors. Luckily this was pretty rare. Also, seafood leftovers in hot weather. When you lifted the lid to be confronted with the sight and smell of the entire top of the bin swarming in pink maggots from unwrapped prawn and crayfish remains is something to behold, believe me. Unforgettable. The bin also generally got the foot treatment as well as did any bins that had other really, really foul items inside.



The week before Christmas (the season started slowly about a fortnight out) really was a special time for the garbos (and milkmen too). It was the only week of the year that we didn’t collect bottles or anything for that matter, it all went into the truck. Didn’t have time or the inclination. A lot of people left out presents in appreciation. As a background, people at that time supplied their own bins depending on their needs and although there was (loosely) a standard size, they all varied. Steel bins were usual in times past, however mass-produced large plastic bins had come in recently and were commonly available. This represented a cost to the owner. So, a small Christmas gift was seen by a some – a minority – I’m sure, as a small insurance policy against a destroyed bin later in the year. Plastic bins were naturally much more susceptible to damage even in normal service. Christmas gifts usually consisted of a couple of bottles of long-neck beer in a paper bag placed last on top of the rubbish when it was put out. A half dozen bottles were also common, placed on top of the bin in a cut-down cardboard box. Also money left in envelopes – taped to the lid – $2 was standard, $5 was common and very occasionally $10 – all notes in those days. $5 or ½ dozen always meant that the lids were placed back on the bins and put neatly back outside the house. A $10 tip meant the lids went back on and the bins were carefully and neatly put back inside the yard where they were stored all week. Any tip usually meant that your bin wouldn’t be drop-kicked from the truck unless the contents were particularly disgusting. We all remembered who gave what. Johnny, the ‘senior’ runner, was right on the ball with this, particularly with me as a new runner. He always handled the $10 people and always let me know if I was handling a big-tipper’s bin. Yep, Christmas was great – I was lucky to be a runner over Christmas during my short tenure as a garbo. The cabin was awash with beer bottles, we had trouble fitting it all in at times. All gifts were equitably divided up amongst us and the tip workers by Billy and Johnny.


When I started running, I was pulled aside a couple of times and told very, very clearly that if I had any – ANY – cut or injury that I was not to go back to work under any circumstances until it was fully healed and recovered. I had to be examined by a doctor and given his clearance before I resumed work. Luckily I never hurt myself running garbage. I never saw Johnny hurt or injured either.


I cannot remember exactly when garbage collections became more automated and less labour intensive by the introduction of standard-sized Sulo bins, I think sometime in the late `70s thereabouts – certainly by the mid `80s – however I could see then that the garbage runner’s days were numbered. Increasing traffic hazards – Australian households were becoming more affluent and two-car families were becoming the norm and more sealed roads increased traffic speed to compound the dangers. Also, similar to elite athletes, a runner had a finite working life. Injury I’m sure could take a massive toll to a runner’s future working life with Worker’s Compensation costs escalating. I would reckon that 30 years old would be about it generally unless you were exceptional, like Johnny the runner, who was really on the ball with his diet and rest. Being young, I loved going out and being social anytime I could. However, Sunday night through to Thursday I made sure that I got eight hour’s sleep minimum. If I didn’t, I knew all about it believe me.



Final reflections


I am writing these recollections in June 2020, many, many years after my last stint working on the council in 1974. On 1st of July 2020  the Shire of Nillumbik has contracted a private company to ‘outsource’ its rubbish services, for the first time in Eltham’s history.


I believe that this is a tragedy.


I note that the majority of councillors have welcomed this as it: ‘..follows a best-value review of the in-house service through an open tender process ensuring a high-quality, value-for-money service to the community’. (Nillumbik News, winter, 2020)


Employing local people by Local Government goes well beyond just a ‘value-for-money’ service. Local people employed by The Shire enhance and enrich our community as they have a close, vested interest in their job, however small, because they are a part of ‘us’. They are an integral part of our local community.


‘Value-for-money’ is code for government – any government – abandoning their social obligations to corporate interests where their employee’s ultimate interests lie with their employer and not their ‘client’ – that is, us the community.


The creeping privatisation of these basic services will result in everyone becoming poorer as we become more like Trump’s America. The myth of Australian Mateship and looking after one another is becoming just that, a myth. As the practical, proven leadership of looking after one another by directly employing local people is ‘outsourced’, we all – the whole community – become poorer over time. The privatisation of Victoria’s Electricity is a case in point. It was touted as a win-win for ‘consumers’ – us, the Victorian populous. Twenty-five years on, the price of electricity is now a massive burden to most Victorians and businesses, let alone the catastrophic and tragic Black Saturday’s fires which started by the failure of an under-maintained, privately owned, transmission network. Our country is becoming littered with similar corporate – ‘privatised’ – examples where the taxpayer is left later to pay the price in one form or another.


Ideology instead of careful, considered pragmatism.


‘Value-for-money’ indeed………..


All Councillors must truly represent ALL of their ratepayers and their families and not just the bottom dollar. It is just that – the bottom. ‘Outsourcing’ and ‘value-for-money’ is a demonstrable lie and ultimately ends up both more expensive and impoverishing to the general community.



I hope that the reader enjoyed my recollections as an employee of the Shire of Eltham nearly 50 years ago. My last comments regarding the regrettable sub-contracting of Government services are mine and mine alone. They are made after long and deep reflections of my life and how our society has changed to what it has become today. If you detect a note of disappointment and regret by some recent decisions by Council, you are right.



Frank Taylor




After a lot of searching, this is the closest picture that I could find of the type of truck that we used. (This one is from SA)



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  1. High Mark says

    Wonderful Frank. Really enjoyed the stories and the observations.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Terrific read Frank, thoroughly enjoyed it.I remember visiting Eltham many times around 72 – 74 or so. My wife and I liked the idea of building a mud brick house there eto, Found a block, but thought the asking price of $4000 was a bit high. Hate to think what it would be worth now!

  3. Really enjoyed this Frank. So much of which I was unaware like runners doing 20 miles a day! Great social history right across your story. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. G’day Frank. So many memories here. You would have collected our bins. I grew up in Montmorency. Lived at the Rattray Rd end of Reichelt Ave. Mum’s still there. I remember the old tip very well. And I remember Susan Street vividly. When I took up running we used to train on the open grass area of Susan Street. Soccer ground now I think?

    I agree about local councils employing local people. The Montmorency/Eltham area was a real community back then. Now councils are just another money making conglomerate. Sad really.

    Enjoyed the read.

  5. Love it Frank.

    I love your eye for social history through your own experience and an awareness of others. This is going into the Almanac Classic folder.

  6. bowchamp says

    So glad you included the Xmas period, Frank.
    Not from your area, but I can remember my father doing the whole $10 p.a taped envelope & a few bottles for the lads … apparantly once the alert-eyed local boys noticed some questionable early morning ‘suspicious activity’ so decided to do each side of the street slowly & seperately, just to confirm … then tipped off the authorities at the phone box round the corner.

    The intended target was a single very elderly widow who kept an firm eye on we boisturous neighborhood kids when needed .. so the fathers in that street made a collective promise to those garbo-boys in appreciation.
    It was certainly a different era.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I really loved this Frank. Plenty of detailed observations to remind us of the importance of community. Thanks for this. I hope to read more tales like this from you.

  8. Adam Muyt says

    Thanks Frank, great story-telling.

  9. Shane Reid says

    Really enjoyed this Frank, thank you

  10. Hamish Knox says

    Frank. Fantastic stuff. You took me right back to those days. The old shire yard, the garbo’s. the longnecks the mateship, wonderful memories. Thankyou Francis

  11. Chris Rees says

    Thank you Frank, this has revealed a world to me that has vanished.

  12. richard agar says

    cracking story Frank..thanks for sharing..!

  13. A wonderful yarn, Frank.
    And pertinent observations at the end also.

  14. E.regnans says

    Thank you Frank.
    For this gift.

    I feel humbled to have shared your trip.

  15. Chris Weaver says

    Thanks, Frank – more of this recollection writing, please!

  16. Marcus Holt says

    Never expected to read about garbo runners on the Almanac but glad I did, such great recollections and observations Frank. I was waiting for the section about the smells! Top stuff.

  17. Tony Johnston says

    A great story Frank, thanks for writing.. I lived in Fawkner then. I can still remember the Milkos horse clip clopping up the street at 4am, followed by the Garbos a couple of hours later.. such a different time… the values of society – beautifully captured Mate.

  18. Great read Frank. That’s elite running for sure. Thank you.

  19. Don Robertson says

    Frank – I remember back in the 80’s when the then City of Waverley wanted to change its garbage collection from day labour to contract, the City Engineer had an axe planted in his office door. Also, a friend worked in the payroll section of the then City of Moorabbin when they wanted to change the garbo’s pay from cash to bank transfer. The garbo’s demanded, and received, a significant pay rise to cover for the fact that their wives would now find out how much they actually got paid! (I understand the normal practice was for the men to receive their pay packets, take out the housekeeping money for the misses, and then pocket the rest.) The garbo’s carried a lot of sway in those days. And, yes Marcus, I too never expected to read about garbo’s in the Almanac. A great piece.

  20. Jill Fitzsimons says

    Fantastic piece, Frank. So detailed. Love the ‘for the ratepayers’ benefit’.

  21. Lisa Jones says

    Fantastic read Frank, really enjoyed hearing about the good old days!

  22. Frank Taylor says

    Thanks everyone for all of your comments, I do feel humbled.
    They were different days indeed, good and not-so-good.

    Col, pity you didn’t have a crack at building a muddie, today they are very sought after and command top dollar

    Dips, my family home was at the Sherbourne Rd, Eltham end of Rattray Rd. You would have known the McDonalds and possibly Honeyman’s just up Olympic Ave. A small world. (Can’t remember your bins though…Sorry)

    Bowchamp and Swish – community. Yes.

    Don, an ugly, shameful, unequal and ultimately demeaning common practice of the time. I saw a bit of that in my own family. Still happens I am sure unfortunately.

    JH, thanks for the opportunity., we are all indebted to you.
    Tall Man, ditto.

    Marcus, same here. Gotta thank JH and his team.

    Once again, thanks everyone for your comments, Very much appreciated,


  23. Chris Weaver says

    Frank – did you ever keep in contact with Johnny? What sort of life path could someone like him expect? Did the council look after those men?

    Thanks again – I find these forms of social history fascinating.

  24. Peter Fuller says

    Loved the story Frank. Although I’ve lived mostly in the far east of Melbourne, I’m familiar with the Diamond Valley, as my wife was from Watsonia, and a married son now lives in that suburb with his family (his wife is an Eltham girl, though a bit young to be contemporaneous with your account). I also spent ten almost fifteen years working in Bundoora, and as a keen runner often headed towards your territory. I also had an undistinguished season playing mostly reserves in the DVFL.
    Exceptional memories, and like many other commentators, I found your social commentary illuminating and right on target.
    Great work.

  25. Good stuff Frank. Always enjoy my history.

    I had relations move out to Greensborough circa 1974. As a kid i remember going for drives from there with my Uncle Jack out past Eltham, and Diamond Creek. Still very rural in that time.

    Was the Lower Plenty hotel around then? I was far too young to go there, though have popped in a few times this century.

    As blue collar workers I’d imagine you’d have been MEU members.

    Yes, your closing section rings sadly true. Council amalgamations, cost cutting, austerity, all the ‘weasel words’ of corporate speak used to decimate these services, these workforces once such a vital part of the local communities. That grub Jeff Kennett certainly played a role with Compulsory Competitive Tendering etc, etc.I remember growing up in the West and for many a job with Sunshine Council was truly something to aspire for. working for, with and on behalf of your community was highly valued. Ditto in the rural shires, but those days changed as we were told to be ‘more competitive’, code for making $$$ for corporations.

    Thanks for the article Frank. The fact mine is the 25th comment indicates how well received it’s been.


  26. Steve Fahey says

    A great read Frank and thought-provoking reflections re public service and employment versus outsourcing, especially relevant given the quarantine hotel fiasco.

  27. Hayden Kelly says

    A great read Frank . I remember the set up at Keilor was the same . Council workers were all locals and the garbos were identities particularly John Occa OKeefe who still resides in Keilor Village . Occa was more than partial to a beer in any weather and i suspect he was lucky drink driving laws were not enforced as strongly then as he drove the truck .
    Occa decided to get off the grog one day and has been off it since . We all got a message 3 weeks before Christmas that Occa was off the grog and he would appreciate cash in lieu of beer for his tip . The majority of residents obliged and he was cashed up for Christmas .

  28. Terrific read Frank. I’m old enough to remember bread, milk, fruit & veg being delivered by horse drawn carts in SA up to the mid 60’s. Mum & Dad leaving longnecks out for the garbos & council workers at Xmas. As a teenager in rural Yorketown in the early 70’s we would rush down the snooker hall (behind the barbers) after school and try to finish a frame before the 4pm council worker knock off. As soon as they arrived we automatically dropped the cues and gave over the tables. We knew they’d be off to the pub after one or two frames so we hung around to “get our moneys worth” after they left. Learned a lot listening and watching.
    Your final sentiments are very well made. Contracting out is all about price as quality is rarely demonstrable in advance; and both parties have a vested interest in being seen to make it work. Fertile ground for kick-backs and corruption at many levels as the current Victorian CV19 outbreak sadly demonstrates.

  29. Luke Reynolds says

    Superb read Frank.

  30. Frank Taylor says

    Thanks for the further comments folks, again, much appreciated.

    Chris – no I didn’t although I kept in touch with Scotty, the returned vet, as we took a shine to one another for some reason, he was always interested in what I was up to. I also knew his son and daughter. Sadly he died early by today’s standards from a heart attack in his late 50’s or early 60’s I guess.

    Glen, the Lower Plenty pub has been there a long time although it has moved. It used to be closer to the Plenty river, just up from the old iron bridge which was bypassed when they straightened the road sometime in the late ’50’s or early ’60’s. The iron bridge is probably a 100m’s further downstream from the wide, concrete bridge now. I can remember the 1st pub – it was a classic Ettamooga(?) pub – verandah right on the edge of the unmade road, weatherboard I’m reasonably sure with cars pulled up alongside and blokes leaning on the hitching rails outside. My old man used to drop in for “a gargle” and leave his long suffering wife and kids in the car to wait……. standard practice in those times and something that put me off public bars for life.
    Re union membership – I wasn’t a member of any union and I can’t think of any who were, although that said, I’m sure that there must have been some members. They flew well under the radar at Eltham Shire Council.

    Steve and Peter B – as I was writing this piece the “Private-enterprise-is-much-more-efficient-than-Public-service” security guards fiasco was unfolding and I was tempted to use this as a current example. I didn’t, however most who have read this have certainly made the link.
    Just another example of Chicago School Economics failing the average punter yet again.

    Hayden and Luke – thanks fellas

  31. Long for the simplicity of life you’re describing here brother. Still a lean mean machine today too.

    I think there’s something about country living that keeps us in touch with the era you’ve described here. You’re place now is a perfect example.

    Thanks for a great read, bro.

  32. Kevin Densley says

    This is a beauty, Frank, in all sorts of ways!

  33. Terry Riordan says

    Hi Frank , this is a great article a retrospective view of a past life and reminds me somewhat of my past youth. I was bought up in Richmond the other sie of town but in many ways the parallels are there especially the damaged servicemen from WW2 and the l suppose working class solidarity of working on the council garbage run.
    I trust there is more to come

  34. Frank Taylor says

    Thanks Clint and Kevin and thanks for your comments Terry, much appreciated.

    Yes, I find it very distressing that we continue to ignore the lessons of the past, particularly in our Western Democracies.

    On this, a very poignant comment by one of the panelists today on Insiders (08/11/2020), who reflected on his own father’s lifetime – born in1920, brought up during The Depression, fought in WW2, returned with PTSD (as SO many did and you and I lived through the knock-on), had a family of 5 kids….. – and today’s economic, intellectual and cultural climate.

    I’m with him. You probably are to.

    There will be more stories, (many thanks for your interest and appreciation), however I am still working as a builder on-site, and as such i find that writing has to be “fitted in” as time and energy allows, of which there seems to be less of nowadays……

    Thank you, once again.

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