& Newell were renowned for their range of stock, their willingness
to supply anything a
customer wanted, and their long running practice of delivering groceries
to even the most
business practices were developed in the early decades of the Herberton
mining frontier, when access to supplies was the difference between a
settlement folding and a community – of Jack & Newell customers
& Newell’s willingness to service customers in small mining
camps and outlying farming settlements created enormous loyalty to the
Jack & Newell brand, as did the firm’s policy of supplying credit
to cane and tobacco farmers, even in the worst of seasons.
loyalty enabled the firm to survive long after most family-owned general
merchants had faded from the retail landscape in Far North Queensland,
and indeed throughout Australia.
Everything from a needle to a haystack
• Now that’s service
Going the extra mile
your Jack & Newell story
from a needle to a haystack
of the most common recollections of Jack & Newell is that “you
could get anything” at
those of us used to having a choice of speciality shops, it is hard to
imagine one store that supplied everything. How did they fit it all in,
for one thing!
trick is that the firm would source anything that it did not have in stock,
and with a century of purchasing and transport networks, it could pretty
much gets its hands on anything – with one exception.
firm stuck by Willie Jack’s 1880 decision not to stock alcohol.
Otherwise, you name it, Jack & Newell would pretty much get it for
Galvin from Mareeba used to work preparing orders for Jack & Newell.
to Robert Galvin --- or simply read the text below
see the orders come in and there’d be drums of flour and saddles,
and what we didn’t have we used to buy in … I don’t
remember seeing it myself but someone tells me they had on an order
one day 'a Land Rover', so someone had to go and get a Land Rover, they
had to organise it”
This station order from Highbury Station in 1973 includes everything from
cartons of Asparagus Tips to Hobble Chains and Bedourie Ovens.
at Highbury’s original order
back in time, Dave Headrick’s recollections of Jack & Newell
in Cairns, in the early 1900s, provides a staggering snapshot of the capacity
of the firm to get hold of and transport large quantities of raw materials.
I was managing Jack & Newell, we brought in all the railway material
to build the line right to Mungana. We handled all the material to build
the Chillagoe Smelters and the OK smelters. And we also handled all
their slabs of copper. We handled all the material to build the line
from Lappa to Mt Garnet At that time Mt Gannett had three or 4 hotels
and a couple of banks. Later we handled all the material to build the
line to Stannary Hills for John Darling and later again all the material
for the line from Biboohra to Mt Molloy, and for the smelters there.
- Cairns Historical Society Bulletin #26, Feb 1961
someone coming to your house and picking up your shopping list, then delivering
groceries to your kitchen table!
precisely what Jack & Newell did for their customers who were not
able to come into town to shop for themselves, or who were too busy at
home with small children.
It is interesting that some online retailers are reverting to this model
of doing business, but it is hard to match the intimacy of small communities
where the delivery man (or boy) was known to everyone.
Joyce Anderson, in Mossman remembers deliveries in the 1960s.
to Joyce --- or simply read the text below
in those days they used to have an orderman who went around to the houses,
took it back then it was made up and it was delivered to you. That was
once a week I think. Plus they used to go to all the outlying areas
and get orders and deliver out there as well. I remember the chap across
the road from me, Phil Townsend – this was after I got married
– he’d come and we’d sit on the back steps and have
a yarn, I’d give him my order and away he’d go”.
Dorrie Day from Herberton recalls …
they’d come around .. Billy Drysdale, Ledlie’s had Allan
McKenzie and Davie Day .. they’d all come and write your order
out and have a cup of tea”.
Bill Byrne who grew up in the isolated mining towns of Bakerville and
Irvinebank in the 1920s and 30s, wrote in The Northern Sun about Jack
& Newell’s delivery service …
week my mother posted her list to Jack & Newell in Herberton, and
each Thursday the truck, then driven by Mr Bill Ezzy, detoured in, and
delivered our order to the door – at Herberton prices. On one
occasion the order seemed all wrong. Mr Ezzy explained that they hadn’t
received the usual order, which had apparently been lost in the post,
so Mr Harry Ashfield, the head grocer, had sent what he considered to
be a near enough order for our week’s needs. That’s service!”
Read his full article
Walter Mullavey, from Mossman, remembered earlier days of the firm and
a delivery man with an artistic bent …
the wet weather they had a cane truck from the Mill and they would put
all the goods in that and had they everybody’s name on it. A chap
named Jack Keane*, he was an artist and he drew everybody on all the
cartons - or nearly all boxes in those days - he drew everybody’s…person.
The person…was on their boxes.
a little portrait?
Its amazing … and you could pick everyone!”
O'Donoghue remembers Jack Keating as the man who used
to sketch people while their orders were being delivered.
wasn’t only customers that were loyal to Jack & Newell.
Many of their staff spent their entire working life with the firm.
Brown worked for Jack & Newell for 28 years; and can recall a long
list of former colleagues who worked for the firm from the time they left
school until they retired.
“Alf E, he had a family of 13 and he worked there to the best
of my knowledge for 40 years. Jack C, hardware manager, it was the only
job he ever had, as far as I know. Jim B, drapery department manager,
worked there for 20 or 30 years. Lenny K, shop assistant, only job he
ever had was in the grocery section. Billy J, hardware shop assistant,
left school worked there until he was 60 odd. Bernie S, shop assistant,
who worked in crockery, glassware and hardware. He transferred from
Mossman to Jack and Newell at Mareeba, worked there for 20 odd years,
plus whatever service he had in Mossman. Rupert S, brother of Bernie,
also transferred from Mossman, he was in charge of checkout and the
checkout operators in grocery section. He was there in Mareeba for 20
years until they closed. Archie H, brother of Ray, country order section.
He worked there when I started in 47/48 until Jack & Newell were
taken over in 75. Only job he ever had. Roy B, country order despatch.
The only job he ever had.”
is worth noting that Norm can’t recall women with the same longevity
to the 1970s, it was expected that women would leave their jobs when they
were married, in order to run the household and look after the children
when they started arriving.
course, many Jack & Newell mangers were married men, and their wives
worked alongside them in the store. Cassie Todd worked beside her husband
Bob at Jack & Newell’s store in Chillagoe from the mid 1960s
until the store was sold in the early 80s.
Marsh met her husband Kevin, while working at Jack & Newell in Mt
Molloy. Kevin had been sent there to manage the store, after working for
Jack & Newell in Mossman.
they ran the Mt Molloy store, and then were transferred to Mt Garnet in
remembers crying when she learnt that they were to be transferred from
Mt Molloy to Mt Garnet, and also how hard they worked.
used to scrub the floor to keep it clean, the old wooden floor …
you knew nothing else. You worked and worked hard too. I often think
how hard we used to have to work down there. It was really hard."
in those days too you lived next door to the shop and it was nothing
to be dug out of bed early in the morning or on the weekends and that
for people that forgot something or wanted it urgently, you know, can
they come and get it.
we always did it.
Myrteza from the Mareeba branch also remembers the hard work, but she
says she loved her job at Jack & Newell.
the girls, like I said, we were friends inside the shop, everyone got
on really well, and friend’s outside the shop, and 30 odd years
later we’re still the same. We are still the same … we’ve
changed as we got older but we’re still the same. And the bosses
were so nice. We use to have parties, get togethers and it was just
beautiful. Just family, all family.”
says she is still proud of the Rotary Courtesy Award she received in 1969,
for her work at Jack & Newell.
the extra mile
Jack & Newell were an important business in all the small towns they
meant they were called upon to support everything from the Tobacco Festival
in Mareeba to the May Day parades in Mossman and High School sports at Herberton.
Myrteza says the staff at Mareeba used to have a lot of fun decorating
a float for the Tobacco Festival Parade, while Colleen Simms at Herberton
can remember the Herberton High School naming their school houses 'Newell'
and 'Ledlie', after the two big stores in the town.
Mossman, Cathy Jack and Jack Crimmins recall the firm stepping in when
the local news sheet was about to go out of publication.
& Newell needed a paper to advertise in, and if that meant taking
over the local news service to ensure their specials got to the householders
around town, then so be it!
Crimmins remembers 'The Jack & Newell News' very well.
had to print the damn thing. Mr Coburn (Secretary of the Mossman Sugar
Mill) printed one up at the Mill, it just looked like a heap of foolscap
pages and then he gave it away and Charlie Jenkins said we’ve
got no medium of advertising - we’ll print it. So people used
to bring in their little notes in, you know when the golf club was having
a do or whatever was happening ... it used to be all typed on stencils
and put on the old duplicator which you wound the handle. I wound the
handle for the first one of those – don’t ask me what year
it was but we did it for quite a few years then … and all the
clubs and that could advertise for nothing, as a community service.”
Cathy Jack hung on to one of the old ‘Jack & Newell News’,
and she says the manager was not very happy when some wag in the firm
changed the title of the Disney film 'Million Dollar Duck'.
Click here to see Cathy’s copy
of the Jack & Newell News.