Thursday, May 23, 2013

End of an Australian automobile era

As a boy in Grafton, I grew up in the shade of the celebrated Ford motor company, founded in Detroit (Michigan) in 1903 by the legendary industrialist Henry Ford [1863-1947].

In Australia, the Englishman Charles Bennett, a bike-rider of the penny-farthing era [see], had become a New South Wales champion cyclist in 1883, and he went on to create the highly successful Speedwell brand of bikes [see]. But times were changing due to the arrival of the automobile. Charles Bennett moved into this field, starting up an Australia-wide automobile affair whose branch in Grafton was known as the City Motor Garage and Engineering Company. Around 1920, in Sydney, my London-born grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] met up with Bennett, who persuaded his young compatriot to take over Bennett's Grafton business.

That soon became the dominant preoccupation of my grandfather. And, throughout the years that followed, the latest model of the Ford automobile became a standard feature in family photos.

On the left, that's my wonderful grandmother Kath Pickering [1889-1964]. The little boy is my father Bill Skyvington [1917-1978], and the little girl is his young sister, my aunt Yvonne Tarrant, who celebrated her 94th birthday in Taree a few weeks ago.

As soon as he acquired land, enabling him to become a beef grazier, my father (a mechanic in his father's business) was so faithful to the Ford story that he chose V8 as his cattle brand. Click here to see my blog post on this subject.

I learned yesterday that Ford has decided to abandon Geelong.

Why not? After all, these days, nobody rides a Speedwell bike. In any case, another fragment of my childhood Australia is crumbling away.

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