Apprenticeship in the Fifties
Regular reader, Ron Schofield of Baulkham Hills contributed this story (His second contribution)
At the commencement of my third year at Belmore Technical School I was doing very well with my woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing. So well in fact that my manual arts teacher met with the school principal and they agreed that I should be advised to leave school and obtain a building apprenticeship.
Fortunately for me, my dad was a paymaster for a building company and they offered me an apprenticeship as an indentured carpenter and joiner.
The building company and myself were committed to each other for 5 years. I had just turned fifteen and on the 13th March, 1954 I commenced working and attending technical college at Belmore. At that time I had not had any experience of public transport. My first job was working on a five storey apartment block on Wolseley Rd, Point Piper. I would wake up at 10 minutes past 5 and with my mother’s help leave at ten minutes to six and ride my bike to my local church which was near Punchbowl train station and leave my bike in the cleaner’s room. I would catch the train and get off the train at Central Railway Station and walk to Eddy Avenue and catch a double decker bus or a tram to Point Piper to start work at twenty minutes past seven.
My first duties were cleaning the office and making the morning and lunch cups of tea and buying everybody’s lunch at Double Bay. I was also looking after the storeroom and marking the time sheets for all the workers. If a worker was five minutes late, I would “dock” them ¼ of an hour. The worker’s called me “dockum”.
After some months the workers had a meeting and said as I was an indentured apprentice, I should learn how to use the tools and get experience in working in the trade. I went with the foreman to the tool shop and the company bought me a basic carpenter’s tool kit which to this day I still have. In my first year of working I attended technical college at Belmore two hours a week at evening and one whole day a fortnight. The second year of college was at Bankstown Technical College which was a new building in Chapel Road. The Tech course lasted four years and consisted of practical woodwork and tech drawing as well as theory with two exams per year. In my fifth year I was being paid for public holidays and sick leave an allowance of ten days per year which in those days tradesmen did not receive.
I was with the building company for eight and half years and in that time I worked on two high rise buildings at Wolseley Rd,Point Piper and a high rise building at Elizabeth Bay and also on an office and factory at Fairfield.
After leaving this company, I worked with builders for another eleven and a half years and then for ten years I had my own building business extending people’s homes in the Hills area. In that time I was awarded a “Pride of Workmanship” award from Carlingford Rotary Club.
After 30 years in the building trade I had the pleasure of twenty years as a building maintenance officer at a girls’ private school at Gordon. For the past twelve years I have been enjoying retirement with my wife and family. Hope you have enjoyed reading my story. -Ron Schofield, Baulkham Hills