FRANK JARVIS (1883 - 1964)
Frank Jarvis, the second son of Henry James Jarvis and Ida (nee Faulkner) was born at Beechworth on 6th November 1883. He grew up one of a family of four children - Henry Herbert, Frank, Alice Gertrude and Allan Edwin - the eldest child Ida having died soon after birth.
His father owned and operated a blacksmith's shop in Albert Road Beechworth, their home being just around the corner in Spring Creek Rd., now renamed Lower Stanley Rd. When Frank was ten years old his father retired from business and acquired "Nithsdale", a large home in Melbourne Rd., Newtown, Beechworth, where the family took up residence and obviously enjoyed a very comfortable life style.
Frank was educated at Beechworth State School No. 1560, a large red brick building, which when opened in 1875 had an enrollment greater than a thousand. It is still operative in 1991, the sole external physical change being the shortening of the bell tower. Upon completion of his state school education, Frank was sent to Germantown in N.S.W. (renamed Holbrook after the 1914-18 War) where he was apprenticed to learn the trades of wheelwright, coachbuilder and decorator. In those times, it was customary for one son to "follow in his father's footsteps" whether it be his choice or that of his parent. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he worked for a time at Bowna near Germantown. Sometimes he would ride a bicycle home to Beechworth to spend the weekend with his family - a distance of approximately fifty miles (80 km). However he soon acquired a job at Beechworth in a coach-building shed behind the Star Hotel in Ford St., which in 1991 operates as a Youth Hostel.
Partly due to his resentment at being the only child in the family who did not for some time attend a private school, he had a very strong determination to prove his ability to be a success. He took his first definite step towards that goal about 1905 when he purchased a shop in Ford St. in which he opened a grocery business. The business began in a modest way, Frank making home deliveries using a hand cart or a bicycle. Buying commodities such as flour, sugar and vinegar in very large quantities, he realised he could undercut his competitors.
He soon acquired horse drawn vehicles - a spring cart and a covered wagon and for many years he had four horses, two very strong horses to pull the wagon, one cart horse and one saddle hack. They were stabled behind the shop but were regularly moved to one of several grazing paddocks nearby. "Dolly" and "Ginny" ( the latter lived over thirty years) were needed to pull the wagon that conveyed the goods from the station to the shop, all of which came by rail.
As the business grew so did the area to which weekly orders were delivered. To the outlying districts of Wooragee, Stanley, and Three Mile it was necessary to use the wagon and the stronger horses - the cart horse and spring cart being suitable for all town deliveries which included fringe areas such as Silver Creek and Newtown. Home deliveries played a large part in the business, for by 1930 one employee (mainly Clarrie Ellen) was fully occupied collecting orders using a bicycle for around the town and the saddle hack for Stanley, Back Creek, Hurdle Flat, Little Scotland and Mount Stanley Road.
From the early twenties, Frank employed at least four men, one having the status of manager. His managers included two brothers-in-law; in the early years Bert Harvey who resigned to open a grocery business in Albury and Roy Harvey who later operated the local newsagency. His son Max also held this position.
He also employed a bookkeeper, one of whom (Daisy Peach) held this position for the best part of forty years. A very small percentage of customers paid cash, all receiving an itemised hand written docket, the duplicate being passed to the bookkeeper who duly copied each unpaid item by hand into a ledger. At the end of each month the customer received a hand written itemised account of his debt and on paying the bill (hopefully before the next one was due) he was given a small bag of boiled lollies or a larger bag of broken biscuits. Farmers accounts would often include credits earned by trading eggs, dairy butter, pumpkin or other produce collected from them when orders were delivered. This also helped maintain strong ties with the clientele from the outlying districts.
Very few commodities were packaged for sale - those such as flour, sugar and oatmeal were bought in large sacks and tipped into bins. Dried fruit came in large light wooden boxes, biscuits came in large tins as did tea. Many man-hours were spent weighing and bagging the required quantities. Cheese blocks were cut into the desired weight with a large knife. Eggs purchased from district farmers were generally packed in chaff or wood shavings in a box for the journey back to the shop, the desired quantity then repacked in the same chaff for the customer. All very time consuming exercises.
The business became mechanised about 1935, when Frank's Austin car was converted to a truck with wooden sides, a metal roof and canvas blinds. For about eleven years it was in constant use and then a new Bedford truck was purchased. This vehicle also had a metal roof, wooden sides about two feet high with heavy mesh wire to the roof and canvas blinds on the inside. It boasted a sliding door between the driver's seat and the back section. This was an excellent vehicle ruined by inefficient driving and was replaced by a Dodge Utility with a fixed canopy.
About 1945, Frank bought the adjoining shop which had for many years been the property of Mr. Oliver Gilpin, the owner of a chain of clothing and haberdashery shops. This new acquisition then became the grocery store while the old shop now housed only the hardware, which had been located in a small area of the original shop. The very large storeroom behind the old grocery shop remained the storeroom for foodstuff and fodder.
Frank's son Max had been managing the business for some years before the 1935 - 45 war, during which time he was a member of the R.A.A.F. and on his return continued to do so until 1956 when Frank sold the grocery business to him and his wife Jean.
The grocery was not his only business venture; he also owned the adjoining shop on the Camp St. side which he purchased soon after the first World War. This was known as "The Bike Shop", in which he sold new bicycles as well as rebuilding and repairing others. He did likewise with baby's perambulators. Here he was in his element, applying some of the skills he had learned, bicycles and prams being adorned with finely painted designs at which he was adept.
He hired bicycles to the local lads for threepence per half-hour or sixpence per hour, but rarely were they returned on time, in which case the defaulters would leave them in the lane beside the residence rather than return them to the shop. At the rear of the bike shop for many years there stood a penny-farthing which in his younger years Frank rode in town processions. When the grocery shop was sold, he retained the bike shop which he continued to operate until his death.
The third area of his business was the taxi service which he provided from about the early twenties. His first car (not used as a taxi) was a Ford, then known as a "Tin Lizzie". His son remembers the terror of driving home to Beechworth from Yackandandah after dark when the carbine lights were almost useless. His second car was a Flint with which he began his taxi business. His cars were his pride and joy. He had many different models, always purchased new and always kept impeccably clean and shining. Those his family remember were bought in the following order: - Firstly a Ford, then the Flint, a Durant, in 1929 an Austin followed by a Hudson, two Packhards ( the second being a "super" car with all modern conveniences, but not a success). Two Oldsmobiles came next, then a very big black Ford, and lastly two Holdens. The big Ford in 1991 is still under cover at a residence in Stanley where for many years it was used to transport the mail.
Soon after setting up his taxi service he installed a petrol bowser on the street in front of the bike shop. This was a Caltex bowser with a glass tank on top into which approximately four gallons (about 17 Lts) of fuel was pumped. It went from there, through the hose and into the car's tank, the hose being held high and shaken to drain every last drop. This acquisition had a double advantage; not only was Frank able to sell petrol but he thereby obtained his own petrol at cost price.
His businesses were interlaced. The commercial travellers journeyed by train to Beechworth, where they would find accommodation and from that base used Frank's taxi to convey them to nearby towns such as Myrtleford, Stanley, Whorouly and Yackandandah to obtain their orders. They provided a reliable and constant clientele.
Whenever possible he would meet the train from Melbourne which arrived in the afternoon six days a week, and on many mornings he would be booked to drive a client to the station to catch the train departing for Melbourne. His constant opposition was one of Beechworth's memorable characters; Nicky Dowling - who for sixty-four years transported people in his black horse-drawn cab, never failing to meet every train. Frank was in his seventies when he sold his taxi right to Mr. Noel Collie, realising the wisdom of conceding to this rather than having it taken from him ere long. Such is the outline of his business life.
On November the 21st. 1907, in the local Methodist Church, Frank Jarvis married Lillie Gentle Harvey, a twenty-one year old local dressmaker. They had met some years before at a church picnic and on that day he had decided she was the girl he would marry. He described her as "the girl with the beautiful curly hair".
During the first years of their marriage they resided in a rented house in Finch St., between Camp and William streets and "just around the corner" from Lillie's parents home. While there two children were born: - Maxwell Alan in 1911 and Roma Gentle in 1915. Before their youngest child Verna Ingrey was born in 1917, Frank purchased Wongrabel, a large home in Finch St. The previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Armstrong were ardent gardeners and the house being on a large area of land they had much scope for this interest. Thus when Frank acquired this property it not only had a beautiful garden but also a large fern house and glass house. The property included two blocks of land on Finch St. and three on the Last St. boundary but he soon acquired two more blocks on Last St. and much later another adjoining property. Between 1928 and 1931, working during their college vacations, his son Max with the help of his friends built a "dirt" tennis court on Last St. which afforded much pleasure for the family. Today in 1991, there are two houses on the Finch St. and five on Last St. boundaries.
Frank loved the garden but his wife was the gardener. He would bring commercial travellers to the house for a cup of tea and always proudly showed them the garden. Inevitably they would lavish praise on him, but never did he admit his wife was the gardener, not him.
By the time the family were settled at Wongrabel his business must have been quite remunerative. His youngest daughter cannot remember a time during her growing years when they did not have a "live-in" maid, nor any time when the doors were not open to visitors for meals and hospitality. His family grew up in a very happy, friendly home.
Frank was a very undemonstrative man but he was very proud of his children and a very good father. He was also a very faithful son taking full responsibility of his mother and her affairs, through her eighteen years of widowhood.
He had been raised in the tradition of the Independent Church but following his marriage became a member of the Methodist Church. He possessed a very deep rich bass voice and during most of his married life he sang regularly in that church choir. Every Sunday night he would set off for church in a dark suit, his fob watch in the pocket of his waist coat and a flower in his button hole (a very tiny rose whenever he could find one to pick). He was also a very good whistler for which reason his commercial competitors referred to him as "Birdie" in their advertisements in the local paper.
He did not lead a public life as had his father; business consuming most of his time. Although always eager to succeed he allowed customers to accrue large debts knowing they would never have the ability to pay. If any comments were made on this matter he would say, "People must eat!". This of course applied in particular to the sad days of the 1920's depression. Many poor old pensioners lived in huts in the surrounding bush, often quite a few miles out of the town. He would drive them "home" with their meagre supply of goods and charge them no more than two shillings. He wasn't quite "tough enough" for a businessman.
After all the family had married and left the home, Frank and Lillie, with the help of a daily maid and an itinerant gardener, continued to live at Wongrabel. Frank passed away in his sleep on the 8th of August 1964 at the age of eighty-one years. He is interred in the Beechworth Cemetery.
ARMSTRONG, John 3
Beechworth State Sch.No 1560, 1
COLLIE, Noel, 3
DOWLING, Nicky, 3
ELLEN, Clarrie, 1
GILPIN, Oliver, 2
HARVEY, Bert, 1
HARVEY, Lillie Gentle, 3
HARVEY, Roy, 1
Independent Church, 4
JARVIS, Allan Edwin, 1
JARVIS, Frank, 1
JARVIS, Henry Herbert, 1
JARVIS, Jean, 2
JARVIS, Maxwell Alan, 1, 2, 3
JARVIS, Verna Ingrey, 3
JARVIS, Alice Gertrude, 1
JARVIS, Roma Gentle, 3
Methodist Church, 3, 4
PEACH, Daisy, 1
Wongrabel, 3, 4