End of golden era
WHEN Ian Philpott took on a boilermaking apprenticeship at Isis Central Sugar Mill, Harold Holt had been Prime Minister for just three weeks.
Mr Philpott started his apprenticeship on February 15, 1965, beginning a trade that was in its first year as a four-year, rather than five-year, course.
It was an interesting first few days in the job for Mr Philpott.
Not only did he have to adjust to the new Australian dollar, which was introduced a day earlier, he had to learn how to use the tool of his trade: a welder.
When a young Mr Philpott welded the floor of an evaporator station using a petrol welder for the first time in his life, little did he know he would spend 46 of the next 48 years teaching others to do the same.
The mill would be unrecognisable if you were to step back through time with Mr Philpott.
Workers lived on-site in several barracks, they ate their meals in a cookhouse and diner, and a large hall hosted regular dances where the current office is situated.
“There used to be a big pine tree that would go up near the tennis court,” Mr Philpott said.
“We used to have little competitions to see who could be the first to the top to put up the star.”
Times have changed immensely since those early days when Mr Philpott learned his trade under the tutelage of Graham Coleman.
Mr Philpott covered various roles in his time with the mill, including working in the milling train crew and in the boiler station.
In 1982, he was promoted to leading hand boilermaker, a position in which he remained until his retirement last week.
Mr Philpott taught more than 60 apprentices during his time as supervisor, the first being Alan Roser who still works with the company.
Retirement is never easy for long-term employees but Mr Philpott said it “had been a big weight off his shoulders” now the time had arrived.
“Just the fact you don’t have to get out of bed is good enough,” he said. “I’ll miss the place, especially the blokes and the camaraderie.”