IPSWICH DISTRICT IDENTITIES.
MR. GEORGE PERKINS. Packed for Half Century. 59 YEARS WITH CRIBB AND FOOTE. To have served the one firm continuously for 50 years was the splendid record of Mr. George Perkins, who recently relinquished his association with Messrs. Cribb and Foote, Ltd. He began as a boy of 13½, and although he served in several sections of the business, most of his time was spent in the packing department. Mr. Perkins was recognised as one of the best packers in the State, and for over half a century he arranged goods, for transhipment to centres al over Queensland, the Northern Territory, and New South Wales. The oldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Willam Perkins, he was born at the Five-Mile (near Amberley) in October, 1864. His father was well known as a blacksmith in Ipswich in the early days, and after working for several 'smiths, Mr. Perkins, sen., eventually acquired a business near the Burnett-street railway cutting. Young George first attended the Church of England School, under the direction of Mr. Kensett: but subse- quently he transferred to the West Ipswich State School. Mr. Brady was in charge of the institution when he started, and Mr. Baines when he left. At the age of 131/2 he left school and secured employment at the firm of Messrs. Cribb and Foote. Even in those days Cribb and Foote were one of the largest business places in the State, and although the building in Bell-street was not as pretentious as the present structure, it was by no means small. The firm employed over 100 hands in the seventles; to-day they have about 350. Mr. Perkins's first contact with the enterprise came through the boot shop, where the late Mr. William Payne was then the superintending official. Later he entered the crockery department, which was under the supervision of Mr. Joseph Rose, and Mr. William J. McCulloch. In 1885 he was transferred to the back store, which was in charge of Mr. J. North. After a period of sir months there, he was allotted to the grocery depart- ment as a packer, and he continued to serve as a packer until two years ago, when he was transferred to the lift. At that time Mr. Ambrose Foote was in charge of the grocery. Mr. James McGill was manager of the ironmongery, Mr. J. Foote the drapery, and Mr. Gregson was chief clerk. BUILDING ALTERATIONS. Mr. Perkins speaks enthusiastically about his association with Cribb and Foote from the outset of his experi-
MR. GEO. PERKINS.
ence, and has a big fund of stories about pranks in the old days. When he joined the staff, the main building was in Bell-street, and the Nicholas- street section (recently sold) was built a few years later. The big building in Brisbane-street, which now contains the ironmongery, crock- ery, sporting goods, grocery, boot de- partment, &c., was built by Messrs. Worley and Whitehead in 1884; and the latest addition (in Bell-street) in 1911. The latter was not occupied, however, until 1914. He well remembers the great fire in December of 1914, and speaks in- terestingly of the excitement that at- tended the conflagration. The fire started in the cellar when a young employee was ceiling down bottles of turpentine. One bottle caught alight, and the fire spread alarmingly. Ef- forts to smother it with bags failed, and helped by a draught through the main passage in the cellar, it shot right through the front of the building. One man, Mr. C. Gordon, had been killed, when a large iron door separ- ating the old building from the new one had fallen on him, and the dam- age from fire, smoke, and water had been considerable. The 1893 flood also found Mr. Per- kins and other employees working under great difficulty. There was 5ft. of water where the present back store is situated, and the grocery cellar contained about three or four foot of water. The flood caused total disor- ganisation of business in some con- cerns nearer the river, but Cribb and Foote's did not suffer as much as other companies. The cottages in which employees of the firm slept, however, were covered. They were situated somewhere in the vicinity of where the Christian Brothers' Col- lege sports ground now stands. WORKING CONDITIONS. In 1899 Cribb and Foote celebrated their jubilee with a picnic at Hill- side, on the Fassifern Valley line. "A special train was chartered for the occasion, sports were held and we had a wonderful time." Mr. Perkins said, "On other occasions we had trips to Redcliffe, Southport, and Tweed Heads, but the practice has been dis- continued in recent years." When a question was put to him about industrial conditions, he mur- mured thankfully: "Things are a lot better now then what they used to be. When I started we had to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 9.30 p.m. on Sat- urdays. Later on, however, hours were reduced somewhat, and we were given a half-holiday. Cribh and Foote were the first firm to agree to the half-holi- day; although some favoured the holi- day on the Thursday, it ultimately was
agreed to have it on the Saturday of each week. I received 10/ a week in the first place, and thought it was 'all right.' Great improvements also took place progressively in the working conditions. When I went to 'C. and F.'s' we had kerosene lamps, which often were not very satisfactory. With the establishment of the Gas Company, however, the firm installed gas lights, and about a quarter of a century ago the firm set up its own electric gen- erating plant. Cribb and Foote's were among the first premises in Ipswich to be lit with electricity, and they con- tinued to use their own plant until a few years ago, when they sold the machinery and came in with the Ips- wich Electric Supply Co.'s system. Subsequently portion of the power house was converted into the produce department." FAME AS PACKER. In the old days Mr. Perkins has had to pack all sorts of things-from grand pianos to bedroom jugs. Forty and 50 years ago Cribb and Foote did a tremendous mail order trade, as they were one of the few departmental stores in Queensland which catered for practically every requirement of the people outback. Some of the cattle and sheep stations at Yeulba, Surat, Cloncurry, Thargomindah, Eromanga, Camooweal, and other western and northern centres, purchased the whole of their supplies from Cribb and Foote, and many of the things that Mr. Perkins led to pack would "make a parson swear." Mr. Perkins also has sent things to Darwin, Cooktown, Richmond, and other places in the Gulf country, apart from occasional con- signments to the Northern Territory and New South Wales. Mr. Perkins is rather modest con- cerning his own ability, but work- mates are lavish in their tributes. On one occasion (an old hand stated) Mr. Perkins packed 50wt. of goods for a station at Yeulba, and when the consignment arrived, the only item affected was a basin, which was cracked. The station manager was so pleased that some time afterwards be visited Ipswich and thanked the packer personally. He said that he had offered £5 to anybody on the station who could put the goods back again in the cases, but the challenge was not accepted. Mr. Perkins told the interviewer that at times he has seen four men going their hardest packing for distant centres. As many as 26 baskets of goods have been lined up ready for transport sometimes up to six baskets for the one person. He has packed for three generations of station people. For the last two years Mr. Perkins has been in charge of the lift, and when he left the firm's employ in September, he was presented with a lowboy and rug. TRIP TO ENGLAND. When a youth of 19, he secured leave of absence for six months from Cribb and Foote and took a trip to England on the John Elder, a P. and O. boat. He made contact with rela- tives in England and had a really good time before the call of Austra- lia gripped him again. He has been a member of the True Blue Lodge, P.A.F.S.O.A.. for 51 years, and has been a regular adherent of the Central Congrega- tional Church for over half a century. On March 14 he married Miss Eliza Elliott. second daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Elliott, well known residents of the Amberley dis- trict. The ceremony took place at the the Ellenborough-street Methodist Church, the celebrant being Rev. Spence. Next year they will cele- brate their golden wedding. Prior to her marriage Mrs. Perkins was em- ployed in Crihb end Foote's dining room. She has been a great worker for her Church. the W.C.T.U., and benevolent institutions. They have a family of three daughters and two sons.