Still king of the road at 86

He started at 13 and is still be­hind the wheel

Big Rigs - - NEWS -

THERE is a say­ing in Kingston, South Aus­tralia, that Dick­ers are born with a steer­ing wheel in their hands.

Per­haps that is why Howard Dicker started haul­ing loads for his dad’s busi­ness when he was just 13 years old back in 1945.

It wasn’t le­gal, but it was a dif­fer­ent world then, with World War II caus­ing a labour short­age.

“Then, when I was 16, I went down to the po­lice sta­tion to get my li­cence,” Howard says.

“The po­lice­man said: “I be­lieve you have been driv­ing with­out a li­cence. I could put you in the lit­tle rooms out the back (the cells)”. Oh God, I was pet­ri­fied,” he re­calls with a smile.

Howard didn’t need to worry; the po­lice­man was just wind­ing him up, at his dad’s in­sis­tence.

Now 86 years old, Howard was re­cently re-tested to make sure he is still com­pe­tent be­hind the wheel. He passed, eas­ily.

His old 2233 Mercedes-Benz is in good con­di­tion too and has just clocked up an amaz­ing 3.5 mil­lion kilo­me­tres.

Howard re­tired in 2003 to spend more time with his wife, Shirley. When she died last year, Howard got be­hind the wheel again to keep him­self busy.

“I can’t just sit around and mope,” Howard says.

He is happy in his old Mercedes-Benz truck.

“It is a ter­rific truck,” he says. “It just sits on the road beau­ti­fully.”

Howard has two sons who took over dif­fer­ent parts of the busi­ness. Colin runs an earth­mov­ing busi­ness and An­gus farm, while Gary runs the trans­port and con­crete side. Gary has now been joined in the busi­ness by his sis­ter Pam, his two sons Nathan and Ti­mothy, as well as two neph­ews, James and Marc. Now that’s what you call a fam­ily busi­ness.

The Dicker driv­ing tra­di­tion started when Harold Dicker drove buses to Port Lin­coln be­fore the Great De­pres­sion and then, when the econ­omy tanked, did ev­ery­thing from trap­ping rab­bits to break­ing up rocks for road­works.

In 1935, he bought a sec­ond-hand Fargo truck to run fish to Ade­laide and bring fruit and ve­g­ies back to the coastal towns of Kingston and Robe.

Howard mar­vels at how much things have changed since then, from the trucks they drive to tech­nol­ogy in gen­eral.

“Our phone num­ber was 32. That was how many phones there were in Kingston,” he says.

It’s a lot dif­fer­ent now in the era of the smart­phone, but H.F. Dicker and Sons is still haul­ing freight to the area from Ade­laide.

The 1926 Fargo, how­ever, is rest­ing in the shed while a fleet of larger rigs, in­clud­ing a brand new Freight­liner Ar­gosy, does the work now.

Back when Howard started out, road freight was heav­ily re­stricted to pro­tect the painfully slow rail­ways.

“It would take three days to get cargo from Ade­laide to here,” says Howard, who also ex­plained that the load had to be swapped over at Border­town be­cause the track gauge var­ied between the states.

But the Dick­ers partly got around the re­stric­tion by open­ing a gro­cery store to sell the cargo, thanks to a loop­hole al­low­ing peo­ple to cart pro­duce they sold di­rectly to the pub­lic.

Dur­ing the 1950s, the rail pro­tec­tion was rolled back and road freight thrived, while the rail­way line to the area was pulled up.

The com­pany de­liv­ered pro­duce all over South Aus­tralia and Vic­to­ria, in­clud­ing wool to Gee­long and wat­tle­bark to Mel­bourne.

PHO­TOS: COVEN­TRY STU­DIOS

STILL TRUCKIN’: Howard Dicker started haul­ing loads as a 13-year-old in 1945 and is still go­ing strong 73 years later.

When his wife died last year, Howard got back be­hind the wheel to stay busy.

Howard loves his old Mercedes-Benz truck.

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