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Mackie's Store

The Mackie Store 

This was a very prominent store in Walla Walla.  During an oral history interview, resident Keith Churches talked about his working life there.  Below is a partial transcript of that interview. Follow this link if you would like to read about delivering the groceries.


17TH October,  2010
Interviewed by Merv Wegener, Transcribed by Trish Anderson


Working at theStore

From there did you come back to Walla, to Mackie brothers? This was a very prominent store in Walla during that period, especially during the war years.  My dad was the manager there for well over 50 years.  He told me that people used to come out from Albury to buy stuff at Walla because they couldn’t get it in Albury, like the top dog shirts and that sort of thing.  Mr Mackie was better than the bank during the depression and people wouldn’t leave him.  It was surprising where I would go when I was doing the country deliveries.


Mr Mackie must have been a very clever sort of a guy to start a store?  He was very good with figures.  To see him walking along you’d think “He doesn’t know much” but he could add the three columns of pounds, shillings and pence.  He was a very clever man, and a very fair and honest man.  Dad told me a lot of things about him.  Long after the depression there were still people paying him back.  They’d come in and pay something off and he’s say “how many children have you got?”  He used to speak very slow and quiet and they’d say one or two or three and he’d say “Come around here” and he’d take them to the lolly counter and he’s fill up a bag and say “That should see them through for a while” and he’s give them a bag of lollies to take home to the kids.  He was a champion bloke!

Your Dad would have worked very closely with him?  Yes, towards the end of Mr Mackie’s life, he built the house there next to the shop, Dad more or less nursed him right until he died.  That seemed to be Dad’s calling because he nursed my grandfather because Mum was very sick all the time.

I remember your Dad, he was a very nice man, a very understanding man.  He knew that shop back to front.  He’d be over serving at the grocery counter, somebody would want something over the other side of the room in hardware, put your hand up – right, right, right, there it is, there!

One of the great things was how they would send the money across to the office.  The flying fox, that was terrific.  Put the money in and the docket and away she goes.  It would go to the office, they’d put in the change, no running over, backwards or forwards!

It’s a pity we haven’t got a video of that, it was magnificent!  At Mates the office was upstairs, it was all done by air, put the capsule in and up she go


Delivering the Groceries

You had a unique job, delivering the groceries, they used to phone in their orders?  Yeah, I’d do two trips.  I’d go around in the morning and collect the orders,  I knew just about every man, woman and child, dog and cat, now I wouldn’t know half the people in Walla.  When Mr Benrowan(?)  retired from doing the country run I took it over and they were good times.  Many different types of people.  They’d phone the orders in, we’d get them ready and I’d take them out the next day.  We’d take drums of fuel, cement, cement sheets.

What was the furtherest out you would go? Out to Harry Gleasons at Urangeline East, nearly to Rand, a lot of experiences on that trip, some good and bad.  One day the first place I had to pull up were new Australians with lots of kids, they used to pay cash.  So I collected the money, went out and I was just sitting in the truck making sure I didn’t make any blues and something told me to get out and have a look behind the truck and out I get and there was a little toddler sitting right behind the wheel.  I shook all the rest of the trip.  I saved farmers a fair few quid too cutting sheep out of fences.  I cut a cow out one day.  One day on the Alma Park trip I just left a place near the Alma Park church, I glanced out the side of the truck and saw these sheep, a mob going down through the creek, two dogs running around.  I couldn’t see anyone there.  I thought “This is funny, I always had the shot gun with me, so I got the gun and I out a cartridge in and I went out into the paddock.  There was no-one there, the two dogs came running up to me.  I picked up a clod and let them have it.  Away they went and I let them have the gun.  You’ve never seen sheep dogs take fences like that!  The poor sheep they’d just about had it! Their mouths were open! 

Just practising, the dog’s were!  The roads would have all been dirt? Yeah.

What sort of vehicle?  The first one was an “Inter jolly go natural” an International!  The last one was a bright red.  First trip out to Urangeline East, Mrs Leadon, she had a lot of turkeys.  I took the groceries in, looked out the kitchen window and you couldn’t see the truck for turkeys.  They love colour!

Did the trip take up the whole day?  Yeah, if it didn’t you made it!  Usually they took the whole day. When we used to go out to Gleesons that was the last place, they were all mad keen tennis players, so I’d take my tennis racket and out we’d go.  I’d go like billeo to get out there, have a couple of sets of tennis and then come home.

Another hairy experience – I had to do the Alma Park trip.  I had to sing at a wedding, my sister-in- law now. The last place was Ron Ellis’ who lived right up on top of the hill – Mullumblah.  The wedding was in the afternoon so I started early that day, I was coming down the hill about 500 yards from the corner. I thought I’d better start easing off, it was a sharp turn to the left, then another sharp turn to the right and then another sharp turn to the right to get back onto the main road.  When I did the first turn to the left, right in front was a big gum tree.  I put my foot on the brakes and had no brakes.  I had to pump like billeo.  I thought “here we go”.  I got around luckily.  When I got into town I went straight to the pub and had a whisky.  I don’t drink whisky, but I did!  I could see myself splattered all over that tree! Someone must have been looking after me!

They were good days.  I met a lot of nice people, I’d take my lunch with me.  I’d get to some places right on dinner time and they’d say “come and have dinner with us”. I’d say “but I’ve got it with me”. “Well have it for afternoon tea”.  I could never get out of it.

You were there ‘til Mackie’s closed?  No. We were married in 1958 and we bought the paper shop.

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