EIGHTY YEARS AGO.
Mr. G. J. Cohen's Memories.
GROWING UP WITH A CITY.
It must be a fascinating thing to grow up with a city; to watch the big white sails of the old freighters grow fewer and fewer in the harbour and the little white sails of the racing boats multiply like flocks of birds; to see the grass growing in now busy streets replaced by cobbles, and then wood blocks, and then concrete; to have ridden, perhaps,
in the first tram.
Perhaps that is why Mr. George J. Cohen looks with such a lively eye on the city of stone and cement that has replaced the charming old village of his boyhood. On Sunday he celebrated his 88th birthday, and still every day finds him hard at work in the office of the firm with which he has been associated for 69 years.
Mr. Cohen's memories must be rich with historical associations. He was born in 1842, and strangely enough within a stone's throw of the office he now occupies in Spring-
street. Few men surely reach the pinnacle of success on the spot where they once played marbles. He was 10 years old when the Tank Stream began to cause concern to public- spirited people, who complained that it was being choked by refuse. The very tanks, and the spring from which Spring-street got its name, must have been visible from the door of his home. He must, too, have known of the estimable Mr. Hamilton, who achieved a measure of immortality by agitating for the bridging of the stream, and for his pains had his name perpetuated in another of Sydney's streets. He knew Australia so far as an eight-year-old boy can know his country, before Hargraves made the first discovery of payable gold at Ophir. With what wonder he must have read of the rushes from field to field that followed.
Mr. Cohen was a grown man when the whole of Sydney held a population about equal to that of North Svdney now. Not so many years before that, and at a time well within his memory, Bridge-street was a sort of suburb. He has clear recollections of the activity at Miller's Point, where all the business of the community used to be transacted. He must have accepted as everyday matters the arduous journeys the teamsters made with provisions brought from his firm for stations outback. But in those early years even a journey up the Parramatta River was something of an adventure. When Mr. Cohen was 18 he could have booked a passage up the river on the Pelican or the Black Swan—cabin fare 4/, steerage 2/6—or to Manly for 1/ on the Brighton or Phantom. What recollections he must have of palatial city residences where towering hulks of concrete now stand, of states- men who are gone, of lost theatres and dead newspapers, and all the fascinating things that can now only find a place in the memoirs
of men such as he.
Despite his 88 years, Mr.Cohen still holds his remarkable position in Australian busi- ness. His firm, David Cohen and Company, began operations at West Maitland in 1836. It Is said to be the only wholesale firm of that remote date bearing its onglnal trading name and remaining in the same family. After an education at the University College London, Mr. Cohen succeeded his father, the late Mr Samuel Cohen, in the business. That was in 1861, and from then onward he has been continuously in harness. In addition to supervising the affairs of his own firm, he is chairman of the Commercial Banking Com- pany of Sydney, of the Australian Gaslight Company, the United Insurance Company, and several other companies. His grasp of busi-
ness affairs, his shrewdness and foresight are as keenly attuned to the needs of to-day as they have ever been. In 1868 he married Rebecca, daughter of the late Mr. Lewis Wolfe Levy, M.L.C. In 1928 they received the con- gratulations of the King and Queen upon the celebration of their diamond wedding. Mr. Cohen makes no secret of the fact that he attributes most of his success to his wife.
Few people know of Mr. Cohen's many activities or of his munificent bequests to charity. He is not well known to the general public; indeed, his dislike of publicity is almost a byword in business circles. Meeting him, the stranger is struck at once by an impression of force, by the keenness of eyes set in a head that is almost leonine. "I am too busy to be interviewed," he declares, not brusquely, but definitely, and waves his hand towards a pile of correspondence awaiting his attention. "You know," he adds with a smile, "I get too much publicity already."