Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Industries of Yester-year

As I watch the latest updates about the precautions the government is taking for corona virus and the safety of our residents, and listen as each day businesses are forced to shut with these new regulations being implemented, I find myself thinking of past industries and businesses that are gone but not forgotten.

My grandparents were both in industries that are largely forgotten in today’s world. These industries still exist, but in a much smaller or different footprint. 

My grandfather was a wool classer. This was between the wars and the job he resumed after returning from the 2nd world war. It was the days when Australia was “riding on the sheep’s back” and was taking its early steps into what it is today. He worked in some of the Brisbane wool stores located in Teneriffe and where in my early 20’s my first design office was located. Back in those days the timber floors were soaked with the lanolin oil as the classers threw the large fleeces and examined them with expert eye to determine their market worth. Wool classers still exist today but not in the numbers of my grandfather’s era.

After beginning her career as a dressmaker to a high-class couture workshop in Brisbane, my grandmother trained further to become a milliner. She learnt her trade alongside many other women to service the fashion industry where women always needed a hat to meet the formal dress codes of the day. The wealthier women had multiple hats to suit more of life’s social appointments. As technology in looms and knitting machines grew and dress codes became more casual, handmade hats became a luxury bespoke item with a price tag to match.

Even as recently as my mother’s own high school years the girls not wishing to pursue a university degree were taught typing because women predominantly went into nursing or secretarial jobs. Very few people now lack the ability to type their own documents, whether it’s a 2-finger fast stabbing effort or the proper touch typing. The traditional secretary who would type everything for their boss is long gone.

In the past 18 mths or so I’ve watched with fascination as a particular business was virtually wiped out in front of my eyes. You may have also noticed that shopper dockets are no longer used by the major national grocery outlets. I used to love checking my shopper dockets. There were a couple of local restaurants and pubs who advertised frequently, and they had great deals with sometimes a 2 for one meal. Great for those nights when you felt like some pub grub, but also felt a bit guilty as you’d been out for several meals already that week. A half price meal deal on a shopper docket could clinch the decision for you.

I thought it was interesting and sad that almost overnight their 2 biggest customers stopped purchasing from shopper docket and the business almost varnished. I don’t know the reason for this, and my investigations have not gleamed much insight for me.
As I listen to the latest round of business closures and restrictions due to corona, I keep thinking back to shopper dockets and how 1 or 2 decisions can have a huge impact for a business.

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