For more than 50 years, Western Australia’s pastoral industry was driven by shearers from all over the country, filling the big sheds up north season after season.
And while those sheds are ingrained into our state psyche, the lengths those shearers went to cover the huge expanse of the state and arrive at the sheds has been relatively undocumented.
The trips, in which a team would embark from Perth – or further south, like Mandurah – would circuit the wool centres of the state’s north, in a gruelling uncomfortable trip that could take more than a week.
To celebrate it, a group of professional, semi-retired and retired shearers and pastoralists have teamed together to ensure the history of WA’s “truck days” is not forgotten.
Bouvard resident Peter Letch, along from his mates from the Shearers and Pastoral Workers Social Club, recently commissioned local film producer Ron Reddingius – known for his work on Home in WA – to put together a short film which captures the trials and tribulations of the long-running centrepiece of Australian industry.
“The ‘Truck Days’, as we called it, went from about 1910 to 1969,” Mr Letch said.
“Now the people who travelled on the back of the trucks are gradually disappearing – we’re getting older.
“So our group – we meet in Perth and the Ravenswood Hotel – we thought it would a good idea to capture these memories before we’re not around to share the story.”
So it was that members of the social group – Mr Letch and family members Felcity and Noreen, along with president Douglas Kennedy, Darryl and Joan Grey, Geoffrey Hogbin, Valerie Hobson, Valerie Humphrey, and Marc Synnot – teamed together, pooling their photos, letters and memories.
“The truck would pick us up, one by one, and then we would just start the big trek up,” Mr Letch said.
“It was difficult. It was cold, tiring and you didn’t have a lot of cover. But we did it for our families.”
Mr Letch, 77, a retired wool classer and contractor, takes a large part in the film, passionately reminiscing on the Truck Days.
“I was still working until about 2010,” Mr Letch said.
“I was helping out the younger guys around the place. Classing is a skill you pass down, it’s important to have the skills passed on. It’s important, because it’s this state’s history. As much as things change, it’s important to remember the past.”
Anyone who would like a copy of Truck Days is asked to contact Mr Letch on 9582 1943.