TIME FOR A BREAK: Mildura auto electrician Geoff Munn has called time on a 50-year career with Murray Valley Electrics, a company he and his business partner both worked for before purchasing it three decades ago.
By JOHN DOOLEY
AFTER a lifetime working as an auto-electrician in Mildura, former part-owner of Murray Valley Electrics, Geoff Munn, has called time on a career that has seen him serve continuously in the one job for 50 years.
Geoff’s career with Murray Valley Electrics commenced in November 1968, when the company was part of Auto Replacements, a local conglomerate operating multiple businesses.
“Auto Replacements had Braidie’s Mowers, Dynamic Motors, a paint shop and Murray Valley Electrics, and lots of other things,” Geoff explained.
Murray Valley Electrics eventually separated from the parent company in the early 1970s, and after moving to a number of different locations over the years, about 15 years ago relocated to Pine Avenue, where it remains today.
In the interim, Geoff and his business partner, Ralph Kemp, who worked together at Murray Valley, eventually became owners.
“Ralph and I bought the business 30 years ago in 1988, and we’ve been running it ever since, but now I’ve decided to call it a day,” Geoff said. “It’s been a long haul.
“I did all my training as an apprentice with Auto Replacements, and once I finished, I was out in the field servicing equipment.
“I went all over the region to Ouyen, Balranald, Robinvale, anywhere I had to go, fixing up wheat farmer’s headers so they could keep going at all times of the day and night.”
Geoff recalled stories from his years working in the industry, including when the Mildura Water Trust (as it was then known) had a major fault when all their electric motors stopped working.
“One Christmas in the 1980s their electric motors blew up when the pump house flooded after a pipe burst, and the whole lot went under water, and we spent just about all the Christmas break rewinding the motors to get things back in working order,” he said.
“We spent the best part of a week almost non-stop working on them, and I also took one motor to Adelaide to have it rewound over there – we had four motors we had to fix.
“All they had left was a bloody old diesel which was battling to keep the sewage treatment system running!”
New joint owner and long-serving auto electrician, Gary Rogers, is now stepping up to fill Geoff’s shoes, taking over the day-to-day management of the business.
“I’ll now spend more time out the front serving customers and running the day-to-day things,” he said.
Gary commenced his apprenticeship with Murray Valley Electrics in 1984, having joined the company in the latter part of the previous year.
“I’ve been with the company for almost 35 years, and when I started we were in Langtree Avenue and working with Geoff all these years has been rewarding, he’s good to work with and he’s always looked after us,” Gary said.
“It’s going to be a challenge moving from the workshop to the front of house, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Manager of administration and finances, Bronwyn Lockwood, has worked alongside Geoff for five years, having replaced a lady who had been with the company for 23 years, further testimony to a company that has a track record for keeping its employees.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with Geoff over the years, he’s a great guy who will be missed by everyone in the business,” she said.
Geoff said that Murray Valley Electrics has been responsible for training a lot of apprentices, many of whom have gone on to a variety of careers both here in Sunraysia, and other parts of Australia, including as far-afield as Karratha in WA.
“We’ve probably put through eight or 10 apprentices over the years, but it’s hard to find people who are interested in doing this apprenticeship these days, but we do have two going through at the moment, so that’s encouraging,” he said.
In recent years Geoff has been managing the business and looking after his customers, and as much as he has enjoyed it, after 50 happy years, he said it was time to call it a day.
“You wake up in the morning and you don’t have to go to work, and then you wake up a bit later in the day and you still don’t have to go to work, it’s great!” he said.
Geoff intends to spend more time with his wife Linda and his family, including six grandchildren, who are all based in the district.
He also has family in Darwin who he enjoys visiting, and will get up there in between fishing and relaxing around the house.
Asked if he thought there was any danger of him getting under his wife’s feet now he is at home more, Geoff replied with a laugh, “Yes, it’ll be ‘see you later, get out of here, go and buy yourself a boat!’”
Geoff said his choice of vocation had been a good one, and he had particularly enjoyed his time looking after his customers.
“You meet a lot of people, that’s the thing I’ll miss, meeting the farmers who used to come in,” he said.
“You might chat for five minutes about how much rain they’ve had, and then the next one walks in… you meet a lot of people, and that’s what I’ll miss the most, that contact with the public.”