Delving into the Archives

Walking into the Mitchell Library I think can be very daunting. No I don’t know what a microfiche is, no I don’t know how to print, wait, what – my library card has expired! (Surely library cards don’t have expiry dates).
Initial hurdles, it turns out, were easily overcome. I didn’t really think that my research would take me into the depths of an archive. Mostly, I’ve been chatting to my family, and destroying any sort of order that mum had the photos in. But when Dad said that Schenk & Co got most of their business from a huge half page ad in the Yellow Pages, I thought that I probably would be bad historian if I didn’t follow that up.
Actually, Dad said the White Pages. Companies don’t really advertise in the white pages. I did not know this, being a child of the twenty first century. After about an hour of fiddling around and trying to make the microfiche legible, I did find my family listed, and the company, but it was no half page ad. It was only after that that I thought maybe it’s the Yellow Pages that does company adverts. Turns out the Yellow Pages didn’t exist in the 1960s and 1970s. It was called the Pink Pages. But actually, there was no ad in that either. What Dad was actually thinking of was the Western Sydney Buyers Guide.
The actual struggle of finding it I can only blame myself for. I tried smash repairs, repairs, wreckers, cars. It was actually under motor. But once I had figured that out I was set. Schenk & Co had a small ad, not really the half a page that Dad seems to remember, but still quite significant for a small family business.
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I feel like my project is a little more valid now. I know that family histories are valuable, but compared to all the fabulous projects being undertaken by my peers, I feel that I really have taken an easy road. Definitely a great experience feeling like an actual historian, looking for actual sources in an actual archive.

Club VeeDub – A history closer to home

I decided to approach Club VeeDub at the recommendation of my Dad. It’s really my dad’s fault that I’m here. You see my dad has the gift of the gab and a dysfunctional appreciation of cars that don’t (or won’t) go. So all my life I have been inundated with story after story after story of car after car after car (I never complained though, not once). It’s not terribly difficult to imagine that Dad has a network of likeminded people who are also obsessed with cars that don’t go. But Dad will tell you that it’s actually Grandfather’s fault, and Uncle Al and Uncle John would definitely tell you that it’s Grandfather’s fault (This car thing is genetic).
My Dad has had Citroens for years (Grandfather did too). The collection is mostly the same each year. But about two years ago now, Dad crossed the border. He spent $100 on a Kombi that doesn’t go. Dad recently joined Club VeeDub in an attempt to meet some people who knew a few things and had a few parts that might help get the Kombi off the lawn.
It is from this context that I contacted Club VeeDub to see what I could do for them. It turns out they have a lot of history going on. Phil, the editor of the Club’s monthly magazine, the Zeitschrift, tries to put an historical piece in each edition. He offered to let me edit the next copy of the magazine. Then Dad started talking, and now I am also writing a piece for the magazine.
I’m not going to be writing anything I thought I might write. I am going to be writing about my history. Grandfather owned a panel shop in Lidcombe that wrecked and fixed up Volkswagens. So thanks to Dad I am going to be trawling through family photos and interviewing my uncles to help inform the article. I think it should be really interesting because I really don’t know a lot about the wrecking days of the shop – although I’m sure I’ve been told on numerous occasions. What I have been told already, is that they used to use a Kombi Ute to bring in parts and that Dad got run over by a Beetle without wheels – but that’s a story for another blog.
And thanks to Dad, he is after all, the reason I am here, I have my first source.
This is a picture of Uncle John, Dad and Uncle Al on Schenk & Co’s last day of business, on the 18th December, 2014. Dad’s caption reads
“Schenk & Co Smash Repairs closed its doors today after 54 years of trade.
In its heyday we used VW Kombi utes as our workhorse. We collected parts In them. We took beetle bodies to Sims metal In them and they did countless trips to the tip.
Today we did our last ever tip run from Schenk & Co.
It was only proper that it be done in a Kombi.”
I really have no idea what happened during Schenk & Co’s Kombi era other than that. But I think that Dad, Uncle Al and Uncle John will have plenty of stories to tell. The only trouble will be fitting the stories into the article and getting them to stop talking. I think that some of the stories may not make it into the article, but I think they still are important in telling the story. I hope that I’ll be able to figure out how to do a blog for it myself, and hopefully I can do them justice there.