How the Leech fam­ily ended up in truck­ing

Big Rigs - - TRUCKIES I’VE KNOWN - TRUCKIN’ IN VIC­TO­RIA GRA­HAM HARSANT con­trib­u­[email protected]­

IN THE years I’ve been writ­ing about trucks and the men who drive them, I’ve been lucky to come into con­tact with some won­der­ful char­ac­ters.

They are blokes who have dozens of great and of­ten funny sto­ries, in­ter­spersed with the odd very sad one.

In Part 3, the fi­nal in the se­ries for now, we meet yet more char­ac­ters of the in­dus­try.

Some 77 years ago, at age 17, Jack Leech started a truck­ing busi­ness in Castle­maine, Vic­to­ria, with a Maple Leaf Chevro­let.

Af­ter the Chevro­let came a Dodge. What­ever needed cart­ing, Jack carted. From those early days, Jack built up a fleet of 20 trucks.

Mar­ried to Dot, the cou­ple raised three boys who all even­tu­ally moved into the busi­ness. The el­dest, Jeff, was the quiet one, fol­lowed by Gra­ham, the mouth, and lastly Owen.

Jeff didn’t im­me­di­ately fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps, in­stead tak­ing up a trade as a fit­ter and turner.

“Three years of that was enough for me, so I got my li­cence and that was it.”

Gra­ham worked for a lo­cal wool mill for six months and then told the boss to get stuffed be­cause he wasn’t pay­ing him enough. The boss rang Jack and told him that his son had abused him.

Jack replied, “If he did, he must’ve had a good rea­son.”

So it was into the fam­ily busi­ness for him as well.

Owen, hav­ing watched his broth­ers fail in other ven­tures, wisely de­cided not to fight fate and, leav­ing school at 14 and a half, joined them in the com­pany, serv­ing petrol at the fam­ily- owned Golden Fleece servo (now a Shell) be­fore jump­ing be­hind the wheel – like his broth­ers, be­fore he had a li­cence.

“I fig­ure the statute of lim­i­ta­tions is long past, so I don’t mind ad­mit­ting it,” he said. “As I re­mem­ber, the cop­pers never paid me too much at­ten­tion.”

Jeff’s first driv­ing was at 15 from Castle­maine to El­more to Shep­par­ton where he hand-loaded canned fruit.

“The old man was in the truck with me. Com­ing out of El­more, a cop­per pulled us over and de­clared I was too young to be driv­ing. ‘No he’s not,’ replied the old man, ‘he is learn­ing,’ for­get­ting that we had no L-plates on.

“We man­aged to get away with it, only be­cause I had al­ready started shav­ing and Dad sort of con­vinced the cop I was 17.

“They must’ve found out my real age be­cause a month later an of­fi­cial warn­ing in bold red print ar­rived in the mail not to do it again. Back then the gov­ern­ment didn’t re­alise how much money they could make out of fines. Wouldn’t hap­pen these days.”

“We had a big fleet of In­ter­na­tion­als,” said Owen.

“They were the truck of the day. We bought the first R 200 that In­ter­na­tional in Bendigo sold. We had a few prob­lems with it. It would grab a pis­ton at 75 miles an hour so you would have to pull up and wait for the mo­tor to cool down.

“The stan­dard line was: ‘But Dad, I was only do­ing 40.’ ”

❝ They must’ve found out my real age be­cause a month later an of­fi­cial warn­ing ar­rived in the mail not to do it again ... Wouldn’t hap­pen these days.

— Jeff Leech


GREAT MEM­O­RIES: Jeff Leech re­mem­bers his first trip driv­ing in the truck.

Gra­ham Leech started out at a wool mill be­fore trucks.

Owen Leech started work­ing for the fam­ily busi­ness at 14.

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