His own man

“My dad was working down at the ER&S [Electrolytic Refinery and Smelting] for a while [during the Depression] but he always wanted to be an electrical contractor. It was a really hard job just as an ordinary labourer at the ER&S. So he went to night school and did his electrical contracting papers and got his licence, and of a weekend he’d help someone put a power point in or do something like that. But somebody reported him to the Electrical Board for working two jobs.  And that really upset him terribly. They went to his boss down at the ER&S and said, ‘he’s got two jobs, that man of yours has got two jobs’. He didn’t know really what he was going to do and the man in charge down there said, ‘Well what would you like to do?’ He said, ‘I’d like to keep my licence’. His boss said, ‘Alright, but that means I can’t have you working for me. But, I’ve got a house that needs rewiring. I’ll advance you the money to go and buy the material and that’ll be your first job’. And dad never looked back after that.  He became self-employed. Never made any money, when he died he never had any money but he never owed anybody.

“When he went to his work, he had a pushbike and he used to put the wire, the conduit and wire in the ball, and he put those on the handlebars and his tools in a bag around his neck and he worked really hard. He was his own man.”

– Kathleen Catterall, 16 June 2016

Photo of officers and staff of the E.R. & S. Company of Australia Ltd, July 1911, from the collections of the Wollongong City Libraries and the Illawarra Historical Society. (P13858)