Did someone in your family own a small business? Was there a favorite clothing store, ice cream shop, shoe store, restaurant, gas station, etc. that your family frequented? Did you operate a lemonade stand when you were a child? This time around we are going to be researching small businesses and recording family memories of such.
Unfortunately in spite of all of their toil none of my ancestors was rewarded with wealth from commerce. Rewards came in the form of happy lives and healthy families.
Frank Duncan, my maternal grandfather, was the subject of a post in 2009 for the 75th Carnival of Genealogy. I cannot go past Frank and his efforts at making a quid for this post.
Frank's first job was in the copper mines in Cobar , in outback NSW. I don't know how successful he was at this venture because he left the mines fairly soon after World War I broke out to join the Australian Army. After an unremarkable tour of duty in Europe Frank returned to Cobar.
On his return Frank was able, through the Soldiers Settlement Scheme, to gain a grant of Crown land on which he built a house for his bride, Ethel. This plot was a station (very large farm) of 32,000 acres, Elsinore, outside of Cobar. Elsinore was 40 miles west of Cobar NSW. In 2012 this is a remote area, nearly 90 years ago it was extremely remote. Cobar, the nearest town, was a long carriage ride over rutted, red, dusty roads. Sydney and the coast was 700 km away. Life was tough, there were droughts, bushfires and loneliness.
|Frank Duncan at Elsinore|
Frank ran sheep on his large property. In 1924 there were 3 horses, 2 cows and 916 sheep ; in 1926 there were 3 horses and 1200 sheep. From photos I have of the farm I can see that they also kept chickens. Life was challenging on the property; my mother says her father wasn't suited to the hard work required "he was basically lazy". By the time my mother was old enough to go to school in around 1930 my grandmother and the girls moved into town and Frank worked the property and came to town on weekends. Some time after 1936 Frank gave up on being a grazier and gave the property away!
|Elsinore wool being carted to town|
|Poddy lamb and chickens at Elsinore|
An interesting venture of Frank's was his catering van, he was the Mr Whippy of the outback. He drove this van around the countryside to feed the crowds at race meetings and other gatherings. From this van he sold his home made pies (I imagine that my grandmother cooked these - I remember that she made pretty good Cornish Pasties) and the ginger beer he brewed. Mum enjoyed the trips she made with her Dad to these far-flung events.
|Franks catering van with Aunty Lil (now 83) behind the wheel|
Together with my grandmother, Ethel Jane Pusell, Frank ran a cafe in Cobar; the family lived in a flat above the shop. I am not sure how long this venture lasted or if it was successful. On my recent visit to Cobar I noted that the shop is now an antique store.
Frank certainly didn't make a killing from any of his business pursuits. When he and the family moved to Sydney in the early 1940s he took a job driving a van for the Kensington Post Office.
This post first appeared on the Geniaus blog http://geniaus.blogspot.com