HIDDLESTONE ELECTRICS, 100 NOT OUT. A Century of Service

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NOT OUT CELEBRATING A CENTURY OF SERVICE ROSS ADDISON

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Pictured: L-R Vera and Vern Hiddlestone, with Vera's family. Young Beryl Hiddlestone sitting on knee far right. Sitting in front of 2 old Hiddlestone Bros Fargo ute.


“Hiddlestone Electrics has become an iconic Subiaco business, less talked about than the district’s pubs, restaurants and cafes, but no less significant. It is a commercial success story – but it’s also about community and family, imbued with themes of loyalty and service. Early in the 21st century, Hiddlestones remained firmly plugged into the circuitry of the City of Subiaco and were shining lights in its history.” From Ken Spillman’s ‘Tales of a Singular City: Subiaco Since the 1970s’

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HIDDLESTONE ELECTRICS, 100 NOT OUT. A Century of Service First published in 2020 Published by Hiddlestone Electrics Pty Ltd & Story National Pty Ltd National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Author: Addison, Ross Title: HIDDLESTONE ELECTRICS, 100 NOT OUT. A Century of Service Project Manager: Matt Cowan Graphic Designer: Jess Griffiths Photographer: Josh Wells ISBN: 978-0-646-81497-1 Copyright Š 2020 Hiddlestone Electrics & Ross Addison This work is copyright to Hiddlestone Electrics Pty Ltd. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher. The right of Ross Addison to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000. Disclaimer: The author and publishers have used their best efforts in preparing this book and disclaim liability arising directly and indirectly, consequential or otherwise from its contents. All reasonable efforts have been made to obtain necessary copyright permissions. Any omissions or errors are unintentional and will, if brought to the attention of the publishers, be corrected in future impressions and printings. Printed in Perth by Vanguard Press. hiddlestonelectrics.com.au

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CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

W

ithout the foresight and courageous commitment of three determined brothers, Hiddlestone Electrics would

not be here today celebrating 100 years of service to the fledgling little Perth settlement, whose name was taken from a small order of Benedictine monks, from Subiaco in Italy, who settled the area in the early 1850s. When Howard, Albert (Bert) and Cecil (Cec) formed H. Hiddlestone Electrics in 1920, the last thing on their minds would have been the creation of a 100-year family dynasty, that would remain forever faithful and steadfast to its local roots. Subsequent generations continued to maintain and grow the family business by never losing sight of the core values of loyalty, service, quality and value that determined the company’s enduring success in an environment where many larger, more high-profile business endeavours came and went. Despite rapid advances in technology and digital innovation, Hiddlestone Electrics will continue to remain successful and relevant in years to come by focusing on the delivery of the ‘good, reliable service’ promised by company stalwart, the late Vern Hiddlestone, to all customers in his beloved Subiaco and surrounding area.

Pictured: Albert and Esther Hiddlestone with two of their children, Albert (on knee) and Howard standing

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FAMILY TREE ROBERT BEL L ERBY = MARY

SAR AH W HIP D ANI EL WA LT O N H I DD L ES T O N E = ALICE JANE WHIP

JAMES R HOWARD = I SABEL BEL L ERBY

B. Newcastle on Tyne, NBL M. 1874 VIC

B. STS M. 1868 VIC

B. 1856 Melbourne VIC D. 1907 Prahan VIC

B. YKS

ALB ERT EDWA R D WALTON HIDDLESTONE = ESTHER F R ANCI S HOWARD B. 1875 Emerald Hill VIC M. 1896 Perth WA D. 31 August 1950 Perth WA

B. 1872 Sandhurst VIC D. 12 August 1970 Perth WA

D ANI E L = AM Y VI O L ET WALT O N HO WAR D H ARL EY HIDD LE S TO NE

AL BERT = F RAN C ES H I DD L ES T ONE

DOR OTHY DUXB URY

CECIL = F OR R EST HIDDLESTONE

VER A MILLER

B. 22 November 1897 M. 1928 D. 9 August 1971 Perth WA

B. 1903 Fremantle WA M. 20 Aug 1935 D. 30 December 1980 Perth WA

B. 1910 D. 16 May 1967 Perth WA

B. 1909 M. 1935 D. 15 April 1984 Perth WA

B. 30 June 1914 D. 26 April 2005 Perth WA

B. 30 May 1902 Rutherglen V D. 9 April 1997 Perth WA

VERN O N THOMAS HIDDLESTONE = B. 29 November 1940 M. 1964 Perth WA D. 30 June 2014

D O NN A = L EE HI DD LE S TON E

JO H N W I L L I AM S L O AN

B. 1 December 1966 M. 20 September 1992

K ELLY = PETA H IDDLESTONE

EDWI N = AL I CE AMEL I A WALTON SI MMONDS HI DDL ESTONE B. 1913 M. 1936 D. 19 July 1997 Perth WA

B. 1914 D. 11 October 1998 Perth WA

B. 16 October 1945

B. 6 July 1943

B. 12 March 1970 M. 15 February 1992

B. 1915 D. 30 December 1979 Perth WA

BERY L JOY HI DDL ESTONE =

K AY ELLEN MATHEW S

STEVEN F R EDER ICK GUELF I

I SABEL M AY HI DDL ESTONE

NATALIE = KAY HIDDLESTONE B. 3 January 1973 M. 18 March 2000

CAS JOHN MUNT Z

BROOKE EL L EN HI DDL ESTONE

SEAN = R AT CL I FFE

B. 19 April 1977

AL AN GOODFI EL D B. 7 January 1943

WARREN L ESL EY GOODFI EL D

NAREL L E SANDRA GOODFI EL D

B. 7 November 1967

B. 27 February 1971

M. 24 May 2015

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G R ACE VE R N O N S LO AN

RUBY EL L EN S L O AN

REEC E S T EVEN G U EL FI

MATTHEW VER NON GUELF I

LOGAN F R EDER ICK GUELF I

B. 20 July 1997

B. 10 January 2001

B. 16 January 1995

B. 14 August 1997

B. 29 May 2002

B LAK E CAS MUNTZ

TOM VER NON MUN TZ

B. 4 January 2002

B. 12 December 2005

L EGEND:

SOURCES:

NBL Northumberland STS Staffordshire YKS Yorkshire VIC Victoria WA Western Australia

Family Information Karrakatta Cemetery BDM Indexes


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

CONTENTS F OR EWOR D

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A MESSAGE F R OM THE MAY OR OF SUBI ACO

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THE F IR ST 25 YEARS

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THE SECOND 25 Y EARS

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SIGNIF ICANT EVE NTS TI MEL I NE 50 THE THIR D 25 YEARS 56 THE F OURTH 25 Y EARS 71 ONE SIZE ‘ CLIPS-AL L’ 96 “ IF WE DON’T HAVE I T, HI DDL ESTONES WI L L ! ”

100

FAMILY B USINESS AUSTRAL I A 102 MEA VALUES HIDDL ESTONE ASSOCI ATI ON

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ACK NOW LEDGEM ENTS 104 W HAT CUSTOMERS SAY 107 A ‘ SPECIA L THAN K Y OU’ 109

Pictured: Kay and Natalie Hiddlestone

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FOREWORD It is both an honour and a pleasure to be asked by the

Cec’s son, Vern, joined the company in 1956 as a 15-year

We gradually developed a relationship, which evolved into a

Hiddlestone Family to write the foreword to a book that

old apprentice and together father and son forged a strong

friendship, from seeing each other and stopping for a chat

celebrates and commemorates the 100th anniversary of

alliance, taking the company forward as the City of Subiaco

on Rokeby Road. Vern was always up for a ‘chin-wag’ and

Hiddlestone Electrics, a Subiaco icon with a proud history

developed into one of Perth’s fastest growing retail and

had his finger on the pulse and knew what was happening in

of service and loyalty to the city where the business had its

commercial precincts.

‘Subi’. Over the years, I also got to know his family, Kay and

beginnings back in 1920.

In the mid-1950s, the company moved its operations to

the girls, and we are still close acquaintances to this day.

While my involvement and knowledge of the company has

new retail premises at 83-85 Rokeby Road. Later, when the

been restricted to just forty of Hiddlestone's 100 years in

company became the first telephone-approved contractors

business, I do know a little of the company’s history through

for Telecom, the company acquired additional space in

VERN WAS ONE OF THE CI TY ’S GREAT CHARACTERS AND WEL L KNOWN UP AND DOWN HI S STOMP I NG GROUND OF ROKEBY ROAD.

my friendship and association with Vern Hiddlestone, son of

nearby Rowland Street where they opened and occupied the

He tended to attract people to him because of his strong

one of the founding brothers Cecil, who, along with Howard

first of a suite of re-developed retail and business offices.

presence – he was a big, imposing man, but also had a

and Bert, established Hiddlestone Bros.

More moves

followed

in

2003

to

accommodate

wonderful, inclusive manner when he spoke to people. Vern was very active in the business association at one stage and

Over the ensuing years, Hiddlestone Bros established a

Hiddlestone’s expanding electrical business with new

well-earned reputation for reliability and service that was

premises in Denis Street offering easier parking for the

to become the hallmark and cornerstone of their business.

company’s growing vehicle fleet and parking access for

During his time on Council, Vern and Kay lived in a very well-

Their reputation led to the company winning prestigious

customers. Five years later, with the Denis Street premises

known historical property just across the road from Council

electrical contracting work on major projects like the

unable to adequately accommodate further growth,

Chambers, in Hamersley Road. Duffel House was formerly

Northam Army Camp, the Hollywood Repatriation Hospital,

Hiddlestone Electrics relocated to its existing site at 30

the residence of Mr. Joseph Duffel, who was a Mayor of the

Pearce Aerodrome, West Pictures and Coliseum Pictures in

Townshend Road, in the shadows of historic Subiaco Oval.

City of Subiaco many years before I assumed the mantle.

Subiaco (now the Regal Theatre). It is my understanding that a number of the builders who won these original contracts are still good customers of Hiddlestones to this day. Long-term residents of Rokeby Road in Subiaco, Hiddlestone Bros were well-known for their stunning Christmas lights window displays in their original premises at 138-140 Rokeby Road and years later at new premises not far down the road at 83-85 Rokeby Road.

THE DR IVING F OR CE B EHIND THE COMPANY’S CONTINUAL GR OW TH OVER THE PAST 5 0 YEAR S WAS, W ITHOUT DOUB T, ITS ‘ LA R GER THAN LIF E ’ LEADER , VER N HIDDLESTONE. I got to know Vern when my husband and I moved to Subiaco in 1978 after working and living in New Guinea. It was obvious from the outset that everybody knew Vern because he was the local electrician. If you ever had any electrical problems, Vern was the ‘go-to guy’.

served on Council for a three-year period.

In 1981, this stately residence was described by the National Trust as “one of the most original and distinguished houses of its period designed by a foremost architectural practice of the day, Hine and Selby.” It became almost a ritual to see Vern leave home of a morning to stroll across the park to start his day at council chambers and we always used to tease him about being ‘the second Mr. Duffel’. Being the humble, fun-loving man that he was, Vern took these friendly jibes in the same good humour in which they were offered.

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CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

And that was one of Vern’s most redeeming features - he

He knew this man’s entire family history and that’s just one

I salute the outstanding contribution to the city that the

was always up for a laugh, ready with a joke and, of course,

of the reasons he was always so highly thought of within

Hiddlestone Family has so faithfully and loyally represented

always up for a chat. He was the pulse of the city and, if you

the community for the way he conducted himself and his

and supported.

wanted to know what was happening, you just had to ‘ask

business.

Vern.’

I was fortunate to have the pleasure to officially open

In his later years, right up to his passing, Vern was still doing

Hiddlestone Lane on July 29, 2016 - two years after Vern

a lot of the work himself, which was absolutely amazing.

Hiddlestone passed away.

And his office in Townshend Road was something else. You would walk in and the space was crammed from floor-toceiling with all manner of things. There would be post-it notes everywhere and paper piled high on his desk. But Vern actually knew where everything was.

foundations of the community we enjoy today in Subiaco. The names were approved by the Geographic Names Committee within Landmark in Western Australia and, in Vern’s case in particular, are a fitting and poignant reminder of the valuable contribution the Hiddlestone Family has

going on up and down the street.” And then he would tell

made to Subiaco over three generations.

Council.” He was someone who dearly loved Subiaco and was fiercely proud of everything associated with ‘his city.’

I VI VI DLY R E M E M BER V ERN ’ S O F F ER O F H EL P IN M Y C AM PAI G N TO RUN F O R M AY O R. W E W EN T DOOR KN O C KI NG TO G E T H ER AN D I WAS AM AZED AT JUST HOW M ANY PE O P L E H E K N EW BY N AM E A N D T HEIR HI S TO RY. We did Hay Street one day and he knocked on one door and as it opened he shook the fellow’s hand and said, “Hello Joe. Look, I just want you to meet Heather Henderson. Joe’s been

Mayor, City of Subiaco, 2005-2017

named after families who were responsible for forming the

all about.” He was a most welcoming person. “Tell me what’s

or advice. He would say, “Heather, I’m not really happy with

Heather Henderson OAM

Hiddlestone Lane was one of seven laneways in Subiaco

He would say to me, “Come and sit down. Tell me what it’s

me - and he certainly never held back in terms of criticism

Heather Henderson

The laneway runs parallel to the family-owned properties running from 79-85 Rokeby Road and links Rokeby Road through to Rowland Street between Hay Street and Forrest Walk. This hundred-year milestone is even more laudable for Hiddlestones in that the company adopted a strategy very early on to dedicate itself to servicing just the Subiaco and immediate surrounding area. For a company to not only survive but prosper for one hundred years and not diversify, is an incredible achievement. And one which the family, and everyone in Subiaco, should be justifiably proud.

here forever Heather and he is a good man to know.”

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A MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR OF SUBIACO Congratulations Hiddlestone Electrics on a century in

Astute investment in property, as additional security for

business. It is a pleasure to be asked to contribute to ‘100

the business’s ongoing profitability, has been another

NOT OUT’ as Mayor of the City of Subiaco.

cornerstone of Hiddlestone's unique success.

Hiddlestone Electrics is an industry leader and a champion

Hiddlestone Electrics is an excellent example of a company

within our business community. Family business is like a

with a long and proud history in our community. Their heritage

game of cricket, no game ever relied on one or two players

is a heritage the City is proud to share. It is little wonder that

– it takes a team.

they have long-time faithful employees and many loyal

The organisation strives for excellence in an oftenchallenging environment and has innovatively turned its stepping-stones into milestones. There is a lot that can be learnt from this dynamic and resilient organisation. Hiddlestone’s success is based on three pillars: reliability, trust and quality of service – the perfect hat-trick. Businesses of this acumen enhance the City’s sense of identity, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Hiddlestone’s success as a family owned and operated business that has passed seamlessly from generation to generation, supported by the community, demonstrates this connection. A century is a significant landmark, revered in

can trust. The fact the company has largely confined its business operations to in and around the Subiaco, Shenton Park, Perth, West Perth area is testament to its ability to win and retain customers over an extended period. On behalf of the City, we thank you for choosing to work, invest and live in the City of Subiaco and look forward to the next awe-inspiring innings. We honour and ‘raise the bat’ to the Hiddlestone Family for their 100 years of service to the City of Subiaco community. Congratulations on making it to ‘100 Not Out’ and here’s to many more years to come!

the world of cricket and here in Subiaco.

Penny Taylor

We are committed to the future growth of Subiaco, to

Penny Taylor

building a thriving economic community that treasures

Mayor, City of Subiaco

and supports its history and people. The level of growth, investment, construction and confidence in the area are indicators of the exciting future of Subiaco.

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customers who return time and again for that quality they


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920 -1945 AN E L E CT R I F Y I N G T I ME H O WAR D ' S CLAI M TO FAME H IDD L E ST ON E B R OS POWE R ON L IG H T S , CAME R A, ACT I ON ! M O VIN G ON A H IS T ORY OF H AR D WOR K AND SACRIFICE A S UB I BOY, B OR N & B R E D PE R S IS TE N CE R E APS R E WA R D S H IDD L E ST ON E ’S WARTI ME WORK ON ROTTNEST PR E PAR I N G F OR B U SI N E SS POST-WAR H IS T O RY OF TH E H I DD LE ST ON E NAME

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AN ‘ELECTRIFYING’ TIME T HE YEAR WAS 1920 AND 22-Y E A R O LD HO WARD HI DD LEST ONE, A YOUNG E X-S O LDIE R NO T LO NG RE TURNE D F R OM T HE GR EAT WA R... ...with big dreams and a vision for the future, slowly

Howard was the only qualified electrician in the

pushed his rickety old push bike in a southerly

family. After starting his working life as a technician

direction up Rokeby Road in Subiaco towards King’s

with the Post Master General’s Office (the ‘PMG’

Hall, where his newly opened business was based.

as it was known), he volunteered to serve in the AIF

His trusty pair of pliers and wooden-handled screwdriver rubbed uncomfortably in the back pocket of his overalls, adding to his feeling of

Western Australian men, who signed up to defend King and Country.

weariness after a long day on the tools. Distracted

Fortunately, Howard and his father returned safely

by the irritation in his back pocket, he nearly

from the war and, under the auspices of a Federal

dropped the old step ladder that was balanced

Government scheme to help veterans integrate

precariously on his shoulders, as he steered his

back into the workforce, Howard decided to try

bicycle up the hill.

his hand as an ‘electrical wireman’ in this relatively

The modern wonder of electrification had not long come to households and businesses in Perth and the town of Subiaco, itself a fairly recent

new industry, no doubt seeing the opportunities that would open up as electrification gained popularity with local residents and businesses.

incarnation, just a stone’s throw from the city

He had plans for his younger 13-year old brother

centre down along Hay Street, the recently sealed

Cecil, to join him as his apprentice and other

road that linked Perth to Subiaco.

brother Albert, who everyone called ‘Bert’, was

Young Howard had seen the potential to service this exciting new utility and had initially established H. Hiddlestone Electrics in the hope of building a successful business.

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with his father, Albert, and the other brave young

Pictured: A young Howard Hiddlestone posing for the camera on his dispatch rider’s motorbike in Egypt during WWI

already on board handling the walk-in trade to their King’s Hall premises.


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

HOWARD’S CLAIM TO FAME ACCO RDING TO HO WARD’S DAUG HTE R E UNICE , HIS O NE BIG CLAIM TO FAME FRO M HIS S E RVICE IN E G Y PT DURING WWI WAS THAT HE ME T CO LO NE L T.E . LAWRE NCE , ‘LAWRE NCE O F ARABIA’. The story goes that Howard encountered Lawrence coming out of the desert on a camel while Howard was in the process of delivering a message as a motor-bike dispatch rider. Lawrence hailed Howard and asked if he could escort him to the battalion HQ, which Howard, not knowing who he was, did as instructed by his superior officer. As a thank you, Lawrence then invited Howard to join him for a drink and took him into the Officer’s Mess. Being an ordinary rank soldier, Howard declined, saying that he would get into trouble. Colonel Lawrence apparently didn’t stand on ceremony and said to Howard, “They wouldn’t dare do anything to you. Not when you are drinking with Lawrence of Arabia.”

Pictured: Father & son posing in WWI in AIF uniform (Albert Hiddlestone, left & son Howard, right)

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Young Cecil, or ‘Cec’ as his name, like his brother Bert’s,

“When he returned from the war, he used the radio repair

would also be shortened to, didn’t care too much for school

skills learned in the Army to add a radio repair service as

and spent all his weekends and spare time helping his older

part of the electrical business he opened in 1920.

brothers out in the shop and on job sites. He was keen to join Howard and Bert and would, in years to come, play a major role in shaping the future of the family business.

‘luxurious’ transport to their work fleet – a Model T Ford and an old Chrysler. Apparently, the place was always pretty

Even back then, the idea of a ‘mixed business’ outlet was

busy. In response to growing demand from automobile

taking root - with Howard running his growing electrical

drivers, they also set up a battery business that proved very

business from premises that would later also house an

popular.”

automobile tyre and battery service. One half of the shopfront was for the range of car batteries, tyres and a retreading and repair services and the other side was for their electrical wiring and contracting business, with Bert overseeing the smooth running of both businesses.

The tyre business followed, with a retreading service proving to be a smart move due to the high cost of new car tyres, which they also stocked. They used steam boilers in what was called ‘recapping’ and, even though the equipment was quite primitive by today’s standards, they must have done

In an interview Vern Hiddlestone, Cec’s son, gave to the

a pretty good job, because they had customers in their cars

Subiaco Historical Society in the late 1980s, Vern recalled

lined up around the corner that unfortunately led to the odd

memories of the business related to him by his father:

traffic jam.

“Howard, Dad’s oldest brother, was interested in radio and

E V E NTUA LLY THE BRO THE RS

was quite the pioneer, building some of those early valve radio sets. The brothers all loved their sport and always used to listen to the cricket broadcast from England. Howard built these major towers, at least 50 metres high, with all these insulators and wires hanging off them that he would feed into the shop so they could listen to the cricket. “His interest in, and knowledge of radio, led him to serve as a motorcycle dispatch rider in the Army during WWI. He was a Sapper who was attached as a signaller in the famous 10th Light Horse, while his father and my grandfather, Albert was a Corporal who served in Egypt.

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“Dad said that, as the company grew, they added more

S HIFTE D THE BUS INE S S TO BIG G E R PRE MIS E S WITH MO RE O PTIO NS WHE N THE Y PURCHAS E D 83 RO KE BY RO AD, O N THE O PPO S ITE S IDE O F THE IR O RIG INAL S ITE , CLO S E R TO HAY S TRE E T.

Pictured: Young Cec with sister Isabel holding radio aerials built by brother Howard, listening to early radio


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

The new premises were in the middle of the very busy Rokeby

After a bit of a sleepy start, Subiaco had gone from initially being

Road. They solved the log-jam created by customers waiting on

the site for a Catholic orphanage for young boys, established by

the road for their tyres and batteries to be changed by parking

a group of pioneering Benedictine monks from Subiaco in Italy,

them in the laneway, now known as ‘Hiddlestone Lane’, beside

to a burgeoning settlement.

the shop where the drivers wouldn’t get ‘pinched’. (Apparently the ‘grey ghosts’ were already out and about in the 20s.) Vern takes up his story again: “Because the electrical business was going so well, and growing so fast at that stage, the tyre and battery side was ‘put on the shelf’. Besides, there were a number of other bigger tyres

Later, with the advent of a rail siding in 1883 and the introduction of an electric trolley service, running along Hay Street from the Perth CBD, it would become a bustling little working-class village that would attract the eye of struggling settlers - some coming back disillusioned and destitute from the Kalgoorlie goldfields, looking for somewhere to put down roots in Perth.

companies opening up in the area. So, they switched their focus

Along with new residents, fledgling businesses were emerging to

to the electrical business, which boomed because of the close

service Perth’s, and Subiaco’s, growing population. Ironmongers,

relationship the business had with Subiaco and its people.

timber yards, shops, stores and the ever-present pubs like the

“Dad said that he was pretty glad to see the back of the tyre and battery business because of the smells. They would vulcanise the rubber to patch the tyres and recap them and the stench of burning rubber would fill the air. “And then there were the batteries, bubbling away with their harsh acid-smell they created while they were recharged. Combine that with the steam from the boiler and unbearable heat of the furnace, all confined within the walls of a solid brick property, originally designed as a shop, with no ventilation, it was not only unpleasant but also a fire trap.” The Subiaco of the 1920s was a vastly different landscape to the one it is today. With electrification of the town less than a decade old, driven by a new stand-alone power station, located

Subiaco Hotel, resplendent with its towering Victorian era style cone and ornate verandahs, started springing up along Hay Street and on the corners of the growing network of packedearth cross streets. With the pain and loss from the Great War in Europe now receding in people’s memories, Australians focused their efforts on nation building. Federation had taken place two decades earlier and there was a distinct, emerging sense of national pride that was being felt strongly by West Australians, even though the state was so geographically isolated. It seemed to inspire the pioneering spirit of the rapidly growing working-class of Subiaco that embodied that quintessential Aussie trait of ‘having a go’.

in Wellington Street, East Perth (that is still there to this day), the little township experienced rapid growth and development.

Top: Original premises, 140 Rokeby Road Middle: Original Bakehouse, Corner of Hay Street & Rokeby Road Subiaco 1905. Image supplied courtesy of Subiaco Museum Bottom: Subiaco Fire Brigade circa 1920's. Image supplied courtesy of Subiaco Museum

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HIDDLESTONE BROS POWER ON E LE CTRICITY WAS THE S PARK THAT WO ULD IG NITE THE G RO WTH O F S UBIACO AND HE LP S HIFT IT FRO M ITS VE RY HUMBLE BE G INNING S AS A S E TTLE ME NT AND TRA NS FO RM IT INTO A BUS Y LITTLE PO CKE T O F PRO S PE RITY. Work for the young company in that initial decade of operation would come from an interesting mix of commercial, residential and industrial clients, who also saw the opportunities and benefits that this modern miracle could offer. Factories were opening up and hospitals and commercial and residential premises were being built as more and more people embraced the luxury and practicality electricity brought to their day-to-day lives. Howard Hiddlestone was literally run off his feet peddling his trusty bike from job to job, connecting newly constructed more affluent households, who could afford it, to the growing grid. Wiring up new electrical appliances in homes also kept him busy as did supplying power for electricity-driven machinery on factory floors. The company even provided power to the latest attraction to the town, the Coliseum Picture Gardens, so that it could screen the latest silent movie offering, or the ‘flickers’ as they were affectionately known at the time.

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Pictured: Early Trams on Rokeby Road, Subiaco. Image supplied courtesy of Subiaco Museum


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

Younger brother, Cec, wasn’t too fond of school, preferring to hang around the shop and give his older brother a hand. By the time he turned 14, with him spending more and more time working in the business than on his studies, the decision

Cec recalls how he used to have to travel to outside jobs:

“AT T HE T U R N OF T HE CENT URY,

“It used to cost us tuppence to get to West Perth and it was the same procedure on the way back. You’d wait until you got another friendly conductor who would let you get on the

T HE T R AM LI NE T HAT HAD

tram. Of course, if you were lucky enough to find a tram with

apprenticeship within the family business.

OR I GI NALLY OPER AT ED F R OM

would let you put your steps in there and also throw in your

In the interview Cec gave to the Subiaco Historical Society in

PERT H T O T HE R OKEBY R OAD

was made for him to quit school and take up an electrical

August 1983, a year before he passed away, he talked about some of the work Hiddlestone did and the local shops and businesses they shared Subiaco with during the first two decades of operation. His recollection of names and places was quite vivid and provided a real insight into what life was

a catcher on the front with a basket, some of the conductors bag of tools before getting on the tram.”

COR NER D OW N HAY ST R EET, HA D

“With the heavy, bulky steel conduit we used at the time, we’d have a building of four or five storeys and we would

BEEN EXT END ED F R OM R OK EBY

have to lug bundles of five lengths of it upstairs on our

R OAD AND T HOMAS ST R EET OU T

to lift the conduit – and it’s now all PVC.

shoulders, up narrow sets of stairs. Today, they’ve got hoists

like in the ever-expanding suburb of Subiaco:

T O NED LANDS AND WAS NOW A

“The old brickies had it just as bad too. They used to carry

“My older brother, Howard, suffered badly from malaria,

D OUBLE- LI NE.

stacks of heavy clay bricks upstairs, balanced in wooden

which he caught during the war, so he was sick quite often. That forced me to work on my own a lot at just 16 or 17 (192526). When Howard was ill, I used to have to do more than was required, working jobs on my own.

hods.”

“Whenever we had a job in West Perth we used to jump on a push bike, tie the metal conduit onto the bike and loop the electrical wire through the handle bars. We would then

“There was a chap by the name of Reg Downs, who used

throw a pair of wooden steps over our shoulder and peddle

to work for Subiaco Council. He would come and give me a

off down to the Rokeby Road junction, the corner of Rokeby

hand over the weekend on difficult jobs that I wasn’t able to

and Hay Street, and wait for a friendly tram conductor to let

handle on my own.”

you get on the tram with your step ladder.

This was a period just before Australia was to experience the flow-on from the Great Depression that spread its tentacles worldwide, with Perth not being exempt from its disastrous effects. Work became harder to find and Hiddlestone Bros took every job that was on offer.

Pictured: Early window decoration celebrating King George's visit to Perth in 1927

17


LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! One of the more high profile jobs Hiddlestone Bros took

Sometimes, it just wasn’t possible to get these electrical

on that really tested young Cec’s capabilities and patience,

components set in place in advance. The boys would have

was the wiring for the new Regal Theatre that would take

to use a star drill bit, which they would hit with a hammer,

the place of the old Coliseum Gardens. Work on the

turn a bit, hit and turn, hit and turn until they had chipped

theatre proved to be quite an arduous project.

out enough space to house the electrical wiring. It might

Under Howard’s guidance, Cec, now almost an ‘old hand’ in the electrical game, set about the task of running the allimportant electrical wiring throughout the building. The urgency of the task was compounded by the fact that there was a second rival theatre, West Pictures, under construction in Subiaco at the same time, for which

take you up to 15 minutes to get a plug in and fix a power point into the wall. While it’s not known which theatre opened first, the brothers successfully completed their work on both theatres. The Regal Theatre, now an icon, still operates in Subiaco a century later.

Hiddlestone was also handling the electrical work. There were two different builders, working for two owners, each wanting to open their theatre before the other. Howard, Cec and their team of electricians had to divide their time between the two venues vying for bragging rights. The work was hard and slow going as both the floors and the extra thick walls were formed from solid concrete. Back then they did not have the luxury of impact drills with diamond-tipped chisel bits. Everything was done by hand. If you didn’t get your steel channel conduit, power point outlet or switchboard space set in the wall before the concrete was poured, you’d be in big trouble.

18

Pictured: The Regal Theatre has been an iconic landmark in Subiaco since the 1930s Background Image: Coliseum Picture Gardens - outdoor theatre. Images courtesy of Subiaco Museum


MOVING ON

HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

As the Great Depression of the 1930s took hold and continued

“Before they relocated to Rokeby Road, they were originally

to further strangle the Australian economy, Howard decided

called ‘Williams and Scully’ and were in Hay Street. Mrs

that the business could no longer support three brothers

Williams always kept her eagle eye on the business.

working together and left to take up a salaried job as an electrician with the Public Works Department (PWD).

“Kelly’s were the drapers, with Southey’s the Chemist next to them. Munyard and Kenworthy’s were one of the local

By stepping away from the business and joining the PWD,

grocers and the other was Armstrong’s, who were on the

Howard was also able to keep his ear to the ground and alert

corner of Barker and Rokeby Roads. Miss Newton’s millinery

his brothers when big government contracts were coming

shop shared one side of King’s Hall with us as well.”

up for tender. The move would later prove to be a boon for future business.

Despite the downturn in business, Cec and Bert somehow managed to struggle through and keep the company going.

Young Cec, by that time in his early 20s, was left with no

Some weeks, work was so scarce that there would only be 3

alternative but to assume the mantle of ‘chief cook and

or 4 shillings left in the till at the end of the week to share as

bottle washer’, ably supported by his older brother Bert, who

reward for their combined efforts. During those hard times,

continued to take care of the front counter and organise job

it wasn’t unusual for Howard to give his brothers a helping

rosters.

hand with money to keep food on the table.

In that same interview with the Subiaco Historical Society,

The brothers persisted and, eventually, the work became

Cec recalled some of the local businesses operating in and

steadier as the Hiddlestone name and reputation, driven by

around Subiaco back in those early days. With traders and

Cec’s willingness to work, grew in Subiaco. That reputation

retailers of every ilk plying their wares in Subiaco, it was a

was based on service, quality and value for money, principles

time when every penny counted:

on which the company has always and continues to abide by.

“Even though times were tough, Subiaco was a pretty

This has led to a loyal client base that has established long-

busy little place back then. We were initially in the Kings

term relationships with Hiddlestones, some of these with

Hall building at 140 Rokeby Road and then there was

origins dating back to the turn of last century and still doing

Hetherington’s; they were tailors and Kailiff, the fruiterer.

business together a century later.

He was opposite the two stationery shops, Whitlocks and Cadmans. Then there was a basket maker, Mick Devine, and down the bottom of Rokeby Road, Williams Brothers. They were hardware merchants.

Pictured: Early electrical contractor's licences

19


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

A HISTORY OF HARD WORK AND SACRIFICE Hard work and persistence were already well-

But it wasn’t all work. The Hiddlestone boys were

entrenched family traits for the Hiddlestones.

always heavily involved with local sporting clubs

During the Great War, while Albert and Howard

in the community. They were active members of

were off fighting overseas, Albert’s wife Esther ran

the Jolimont football and cricket clubs and played

a smallgoods and grocery shop from premises in the

basketball for Subiaco. They even donned the gloves

front of their original family home on the corner of

to go a few rounds with the local hopefuls on a Friday

Barkers Road and Denis Street in Subiaco that they

evening at George Thompson’s Boxing School in the

moved into from Cottesloe in 1915.

makeshift canvas-floored ring under the Subiaco

A young Cec remembers making ice cream in a churn

Football Club’s grandstand.

at night. Word would get around the local community

Bert, who was born with a spinal deformity, didn’t

that, “the Hiddlestones had ice cream” and people

let his disability stand in the way of getting involved

would appear at the door to the shop with billy cans,

with the community either, serving as Club Secretary

scooping up the delicious treat as quickly as it was

for both the football and cricket teams his brothers

made as there was no way to keep this little luxury

turned out for every weekend.

frozen back then.

Esther was also very active as a social worker in

Cec always hoped that there would be leftovers

the community through the ‘Friendly Union of

so he could share in this special offering; no doubt

Servicemen’s Wives’. The group was established to

accompanied by a cool glass of sweet cordial that the

help families in need and, at one time, was responsible

shop also used to sell for a penny a glass.

for building two homes in Tighe Street, not far from

Upon his return from the war, Albert Snr decided not to resume his position as a Station Master with the WA Railways, a position he had held since 1899.

Hiddlestone’s original Rokeby Road premises. Both properties were built with voluntary labour and donated materials.

Instead, he opted to join the popular Perth-based

The family eventually sold the shop where they

Boans Department Store as a Dispatch Clerk.

also lived, in premises at the rear, and moved to a property at 72 Nicholson Road. It would remain the family home until it was sold in 2002.

20

Top: Unknown early Subiaco fire brigade members Bottom: L-R (back): Bert, Edwin, Cecil, Howard, Albert (father), L-R (front): Isabel & Esther Hiddlestone (mother)


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

A SUBI BOY, BORN & BRED EVERYONE I N SU BI ACO

Cec’s closest mates were Subi boys too. They had

KNEW T HE HI DD LES TO NE

young men, did all the things young men of that

all grown up and attended school together and, as

BR OS. . .

era did, enjoying the odd beer or two at the football

...not just for their sporting prowess, or

the Jolimont Football Club and King’s Hall where it

involvement in administration in Bert’s case, but

cost two shillings to get in.

because they were larger than life characters. In today’s vernacular they would probably have been called ‘knockabout blokes’. A big man with an equally big presence, Cec Hiddlestone, carried himself well and always projected an air of confidence. While he was confident, he was never cocky. People who knew

and races and going to local dances at places like

It proved to be a very popular night spot and was always so packed that patrons would have to wait for someone to leave before they could go in. Cec’s imposing presence must have been noticed because he was said to have also worked parttime as a doorman out front of some of those local dances!

him commented that he ‘had his head screwed on

Cec’s larger than life presence no doubt also

the right way’.

caught the eye of many a young woman in and

Cec, like his brothers, was a ‘born and bred Subi Boy’, and had been raised in a working-class suburb where family values and the capacity to work and

around Subiaco but it was an eligible young English girl, Vera Miller, who would win his heart and eventually marry him.

play hard were the principles by which everybody

It might have been one of Vera’s exotic hats that

lived. As the youngest of the brothers, Cec was

first caught Cec’s eye at Belmont, Ascot or the

determined to be his own man from an early age.

other racecourses regularly frequented by Cec

He now had his own clear vision for the family business, whose destiny had been foisted on him by default, and it was very much based on

and his mates. Vera was also a regular at these meetings and, as a milliner, she no doubt sported the latest fashion style in hats on race days.

adhering to those working-class values instilled in him through his own life experience. Pictured: The Hiddlestone brothers were active members of local cricket and football teams Top: Cec second from left, second row Middle: Cec fourth from left, back row, Bert second row, first right Bottom: Cec standing fourth from right

21


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

Vera was also known to be a handy tennis player and,

“Dad loved his fishing and built and owned a couple

with Cec also being a sportsman, their paths may have

of boats in his time. In fact, that’s where he got

also crossed at the local Onslow Park Tennis Club in

his nickname, ‘Drake’. One of his mates, Freddie

Shenton Park where Vera was a regular.

Storen, who was a house painter and a bit of a wag,

When Cec and Vera married, Cec decided to put down roots in the area and purchased a large parcel of land in Murchison Street, Shenton Park, which would become the site of the Hiddlestone family home and remain in the family for many generations to come. Cec and Vera would have two children together. A son, Vern, who was born in 1940, and a daughter, Beryl, born in 1945 just before the end of the war. The home at 82 Murchison Street was a comfortable, happy place and held many fond memories for all of the family.

Drake, because Dad was always on the water, fishing in a boat. Freddie was the one who came up with nicknames for everyone in their group, even christening Alan Goodfield, the man I later married, ‘Snips’, because he was a barber. “Along with Freddie, Dad’s close mates included local butcher Jack ’Pinky’ Hayes and Roy Mathews, who was a well-known bookmaker. Roy and his wife, Mary, were great friends with my parents because Dad’s other passion was the ‘Sport of Kings’. Dad owned

According to Cec’s daughter, Beryl Goodfield, her

racehorses and loved the thrill of watching them race

father purchased three blocks in Murchison Street

at both local and country race meetings.

in the late 1930s. He built a home across two of these sites and the third was offered to long-time Hiddlestone employee, Syd Johnson, who built his family home on the remaining block. “Dad had a lot of close mates who he grew up and went to school with, and they played football, cricket and frequented the local pubs for a drink together and always seemed to be in each other’s company. On weekends, if they weren’t playing football or cricket, they’d all head out fishing out of Fremantle, Scarborough or up the coast somewhere.

22

gave him the name after the explorer, Sir Frances

Pictured: Cec & Vera on their wedding day in 1935

“The connection between The Mathews and The Hiddlestones would become closer in later years, but that’s a story for later down the track. Dad was a larger than life character and he knew everyone in Subiaco on a first name basis. “He loved working with his hands too and I can remember him building two caravans in our backyard at Murchison Street, which we used to tow down to the old Peninsula Caravan Park on the waterfront in Mandurah. They were very happy days for my brother Vern and I.”


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

PERSISTENCE REAPS REWARDS Despite the disastrous effect on the country’s economy

Cec seemed to have a good head for business as

during the Depression years, which saw many lose their

well as considerable talent as an electrician. He

livelihoods, Cec and Bert Hiddlestone, with the help of

was always an innovator and this ability to provide

older brother Howard - who was able to help keep his

solutions to increasingly complex electrical projects

siblings afloat with his cash contributions - somehow

led to Hiddlestones becoming the ‘go-to’ electrical

managed to fight their way through the tough times

contractors when big jobs went to tender.

to emerge a little battered and bruised but still in business.

T HR OU GHOU T T HE LAT T E R PART OF T HE 1930 S AND INTO

Because they were considered to be an essential industry to support the war effort, Cec and the staff at Hiddlestones were all classified as ‘Reserved Occupations’. This led to them working on projects which included the building of the Northam Airport

T HE 1940 S, HI DD LEST O NE

where Cec and his boys had to make the drive to

BR OS BEGAN T O R EAP T HE

shortage of fuel. The vehicle was more than likely the

R EWAR D S OF HAR D W ORK AND PER SI ST ENCE AND,

Northam in a coke-powered vehicle, due to the old Model T truck that the company had purchased some years before. Hiddlestones worked closely with other local trades-

AS R ENEW ED CONF I D ENC E

based companies involved in providing essential

BEGAN T O GR OW AGAI N IN

Standard Tile and plumbers, Rance & Sons.

services for the war effort including Monteath Pipes,

T HE ECONOMY, BUSI NES S OPPORT UNI T I ES BLOSSO ME D.

Top: Cec beside Northam Army camp switchboard installation Bottom: Switchboard interior of gun emplacement, Rottnest Island

23


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

HIDDLESTONE’S WARTIME WORK ON ROTTNEST Anyone who has taken the ferry out to Rottnest Island for

Hiddlestone Bros was appointed to provide the wiring and

a day trip has more than likely visited the impressive gun

electrical work for the substantial switchboard needed to

emplacements on Oliver Hill and at Bickley Point.

facilitate the controls and operation of the massive guns and

These silent sentinels from the second World War are relics of an era when the threat of an assault from the sea was top of mind in

other buildings.

defending our country’s coastline. The installation of these guns

Remnants of the working switchboard are still in place on the

was a response to increasing global tension during the 1930s that

island to this day.

eventually led to World War II.

The other wartime work undertaken by Hiddlestone Bros was

The Rottnest emplacements were part of an Australian

the involvement with electrical wiring for the Northam Army

government three-year Defence Development Program that

barracks mentioned earlier.

commenced in 1933. Rottnest Island was identified as being critical to the defence of Fremantle. Guns located on the island could engage hostile ships well before they approached the range that would allow bombardment of Fremantle Port. In 1936, the government purchased land for this purpose and construction began later that year. It was a massive undertaking, with thousands of tons of raw material and equipment needing to be shipped from the port of Fremantle to Rottnest by barge. Local Leederville-based builders, Todd Brothers, were contracted to build the infrastructure to support the guns commissioned and installed by Australian Army engineers. According to records, the builder’s contract cost for the project (which included a series of external buildings and command posts to accommodate a garrison on the island) was a very precise £8,471.

24

the supporting nearby infrastructure for Kingston Barracks and

Pictured: Construction work on Rottnest Island, gun emplacements prior to WWII. Images supplied courtesy of Subiaco Museum.

Following the outbreak of WWII in September 1939, Northam Army Camp, previously no more than a tent city, suddenly became the focus of frantic building activity. A month later a total of 175 huts had been added to the site. Most of these, including the large mess hut, were timber-framed and clad with corrugated iron. The barrack buildings, each home to 48 servicemen, were serviced by a headquarters building, quartermaster’s store, cook house and ablution block. Providing the wiring, switchboards and lighting for this makeshift camp, built in record time under substantial pressure, must have been a challenging undertaking for Cec and his crew. Along with the Rottnest gun emplacements, they stood as a testament to Hiddlestone’s substantial contribution to the war effort.


HIDDLESTONE THE FIRST 25 YEARS 1920-1945

PREPARING FOR BUSINESS POST-WAR As the turmoil of the war years came to an end, Hiddlestone Bros now faced the unknown challenge of whether post-war Australia would recover from the years of austerity and trauma caused, first by the Depression and then six years of world conflict. The demands of World War II had dramatically upset established patterns of life in Australia, with hundreds of thousands of troops being demobilised and assimilated back into civilian life. This would necessitate the development of an orchestrated plan, at Federal level, for national reconstruction. Western Australia would play a major role in the implementation of those plans as the point of entry for the thousands of mostly European migrants who would be needed to provide the additional manpower required for growth of the economy and industrial expansion. It was against this ever-changing backdrop that Hiddlestone Bros would enter its 26th year in business. It would also be a time when another member of the Hiddlestone family would step up to assume the reins and take the company forward through an exciting new era of growth and transformation.

Pictured: A very young Vern Hiddlestone

25


HISTORY OF THE HIDDLESTONE NAME ‘Hiddlestone’ (or Hiddleston) is an old English

from that marriage with Howard, Bert and Cecil

surname that has its origins in a small parish of the

all destined to play a role in what was to become

same name in the West Riding of Yorkshire called

Hiddlestone Electrics.

Huddleston. In turn, the parish name is derived from the Old English family name, Hudel, which is of Saxon descent.

under the Hiddlestone umbrella after brother Howard’s departure during the Great Depression.

The Hiddlestone family crest bears the motto, ‘Soli

Cecil’s children, Vern and Beryl, would steer the

Deo Honor et Gloria’ ‘To God alone be honour and

company through its emerging years, with Vern

glory’ and it is a motto that the Hiddlestones, as an

taking control of what would become Hiddlestone

honourable family, have always stood by through

Electrics, and Beryl focusing her efforts on

generations.

managing the company’s impressive real estate

God played a key role in the family’s more recent history through their patriarch, The Reverend Daniel Walton Hiddlestone, born in County Durham, England in 1855. Reverend Hiddlestone sailed out to Australia and settled initially in Launceston in Tasmania, where he was a Minister at the Memorial Baptist Church. He later married Alice Jane Whipp and Albert Edwin Walton Hiddlestone was the only child of their marriage, born in Victoria in 1875. Albert moved to Perth where he met and married Esther Francis Howard in 1896, establishing the Hiddlestone name in Perth. Howard, Albert (Bert), Cecil (Cec), Edwin (Eddie) and Isabel resulted

26

Cecil and Bert were to carry on the family business

Pictured: Rev. W. R. Hiddlestone, the family Patriarch

portfolio, under the Hiddlestone Bros banner, in the latter half of the 20th century.


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946- 1970 B AB Y B OOME R S & TH E B I RT H OF THE NEXT GENERATION S U B IAC O B E COME S A CI T Y T H E S PORT OF K I N GS G R O W IN G U P A S A H I D D LE ST ONE IN SUBIACO AN O T H E R GE N E R AT I ON OF H I DDLESTONE L O VE IS I N TH E AI R A N E W HOME F OR TH E N E WLY W EDS A N AM E CH A N GE AN D A MOVE

27


BABY BOOMERS & THE BIRTH OF THE NEXT GENERATION T HE SECOND W OR LD WAR HAD BE E N FO UG HT A ND WO N... ... and the hundreds of thousands of servicemen

The department’s role under Coombs was to

and women, who had served their country, returned

coordinate Australia’s transition from a war

home and struggled to re-adjust to the rigours of

economy with the goal of achieving and maintaining

civilian life as they had following World War I. In

full employment. This reflected the Australian

Perth, Cec and his team at Hiddlestone Bros were

Labor Party’s strong desire to ensure that

getting ready for what promised to be a post-war

Australians’ standard of living was greater after the

boom in business.

war than it had been before it. The government also

Although it would take some time for food rationing on a range of household items to be lifted and an easing of restrictions on life in general, there was an

from WWI were forced to live in. All this increased construction and invigoration

residents might be able to get back to the easy-

of industry required a population to drive it.

going, relaxed lifestyle that everyone loved about

A population that Australia did not have to support

living in Perth.

an economy that was suddenly starting to buzz again.

and sailors, that had been so evident on the streets

In the immediate aftermath of World War II,

of Perth, disappeared as did lingering war-time

Australia’s Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, established

inconveniences like blackouts and curfews that,

the Department of Immigration. Its purpose was

even though few and far between, had intruded

to assist in dealing with a proposed large-scale

into and changed people’s lives.

immigration program between 1945 and 1954 that

It was time to rebuild and the Federal Government’s Department of Post-War Restoration, headed by its legendary Director-General, H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs, set about implementing the rebuilding plan it had initiated in 1942.

Pictured: Unknown people in front of Australian Embassy London window

under which many of the soldiers who returned

air of optimism in Perth and a sense that the local

The ever-present uniforms of the American soldiers

28

wanted to avoid a repetition of the poor conditions

resulted in over 180,000 immigrants, most from England, under what was known colloquially as the ’£10 Pom’ scheme, as well as thousands of displaced European refugees.


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

The Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, whose catch-cry of ‘populate or perish’ helped drive the immigration push, also coined the phrase ‘New Australian’ as the name for newly-arrived refugees. The term became part of the vernacular. With Perth as the first point of disembarkation for most of these ‘New Australians’ who arrived by ship, many chose to settle in Western Australia. A rapidly swelling population growth opened up building activity in Perth’s northern and western suburbs’ corridors. By now, Cec Hiddlestone, who in 1946, was in his 22nd year with the company, had well and truly warmed to the role of running the company as an established business.

HIDDLE S TO NE BRO S ’ RE PUTATIO N A S E LE CTRICAL CO NTRA CTO RS , WHO CO ULD BE RE LIE D UPO N TO DE LIVE R A PRO MPT, PRO FE S S IO NAL S E RVICE , HAD WO N THE M THE RE S PE CT AND TRUS T O F RE S IDE NTIA L CUS TO ME RS AND BUS INE S S E S IN THE S UBIACO AND S HE NTO N PARK ARE A.

Pictured: Cec Hiddlestone (third from left) at annual Racing Ball with friends. Roy Mathews, Kay's father (far left)

29


They included foundation clients like builder and developers

Bert’s

Fairweather and Sons and the Regal Theatre, which would

necessitated the move to bigger premises with laneway

soon undergo a facelift, as young post-war families eagerly

access a little further along at 83 Rokeby Road, was starting

sought the distraction of a night at the movies to bring back

to face increasing competition from the large multi-national

some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

tyre suppliers and manufacturers. It would eventually be

ON T HE HOME F R ONT, T HI NGS

tyre

recapping

and

battery business, which

wound down so that the brothers could focus their efforts more on their constantly growing core business of electrical

W ER E EXPANDI NG ALSO F OR CEC

contracting.

AND VER A. YOU NG VER N WAS

Cec had gained a reputation as an extremely capable and

NOW A LI VELY LI T T LE SI X- YEAR

demands on him to carry out electrical work for his growing

OLD AND I N HI S F I R ST YEAR AT

resourceful electrician and, as his popularity grew, so did the client base. One of the reasons for Cec’s popularity was his ability to think outside the square when it came to solutions

SCHOOL AND VER A WAS K EPT

to electrical issues.

BUSY T ENDI NG T O T HE NEED S OF

In the interview Vern Hiddlestone gave to the Subiaco Museum

HER ONE- YEAR OLD D AU GHT ER ,

an electrician:

BERYL.

in 2010, he referred to what he saw as his father’s prowess as

“As an electrical contractor, my father was the best of his time. His technical side was very good, which he thankfully

The family was happily settled into the new home Cec had

passed onto, and taught me. He was one of the people who,

built at 82 Murchison Street in Shenton Park. The hard work

during the war, built the mining masts, those big aerials. He

and sacrifice that had been made struggling through the

was the electrician who wired Pearce Aerodrome’s facilities,

Depression and then the lean war years seemed to finally be

that he had to access via a dirt road to Bullsbrook.

paying dividends.

“He was the electrician responsible for Northam Army camp

Some ageing homes in Subiaco - that had been quick to

and then he also worked on Rottnest, helping with the gun

connect to the electricity grid back in the 1920s - now required

emplacements on the island that only faced one way. Which

upgrading as advances in the delivery of electricity were

proved, as happened in Singapore, if they didn’t come by the

introduced. This kept Cec and his boys busy.

sea, we couldn’t get them! My father was the man that was able to do all these things.”

30

Pictured: Vern Hiddlestone with his younger sister Beryl outside the Murchison Street, Shenton Park home that their father, Cec Hiddlestone, built


1952 - SUBIACO BECOMES A CITY

HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

This focus on improvements was obviously good news for a company like Hiddlestones whose expertise and involvement in these projects was eagerly sought and, for a while, Cec and his growing team, were literally run off their feet.

CO UNCIL A CTIVITY G RO UND TO A HA LT WHE N IT WA S ANNO UNCE D THAT THE S TATE G O V E RNME NT WO ULD TAKE AWAY S UBIACO TO WN CO UNCIL’S CO NTRO L O F THE DIS TRIBUTIO N AND S ALE O F E LE CTRICITY TO INDIVIDUA L HO US E HO LDS AND BUS INE S S E S . Despite Council’s loud protests about the loss of revenue this would create, the State Electricity Commission’s acquisition of the Subiaco grid took place in August 1951. In 1947, Subiaco celebrated its 50th anniversary as a

were given a facelift and improvements were made to the

municipality, having been first gazetted as a town in 1896.

main commercial section of Rokeby Road along which

By this time, some of the town’s neglected buildings were,

Hiddlestone Bros was located.

unfortunately, starting to show their age.

Rather than fall in a heap at the loss of this seemingly large chunk of revenue, Subiaco actually flourished, particularly in its industrial area, due in no small part to the policies promoted in the Federal and State governments’ post-war

Rosalie Park was also levelled and re-planted and work was

In an effort to lift spirits and lead by example, the Town

undertaken to clean up and beautify Shenton Park Lake,

Council commissioned a modernisation of a range of public

which had, for many years, been treated as a dumping

and civic amenities. The municipal buildings at Civic Square

ground for rubbish by residents.

initiatives.

Pictured: Cec Hiddlestone (back row, second from left) & wife Vera (seated, second from left)

31


FR OM T H E L ATE 1 9 4 0 S

The lobbying activity paid dividends and on February 8, 1952,

T H R OUGH T O TH E 1 9 6 0 S , TH IS

Mayor, Joseph Abrahams hosted a number of activities in

INE VITABLE PHAS ING O UT O F THE

GOVER N M E N T- D RIVE N AP P RO ACH

the newly-anointed city. The most significant of these being

CITY O F S UBIACO ’S TRAMWAY S .

SAW E X I STIN G B US IN E S S E S I N

locals as well as others from around Perth and across the

SUB I AC O’ S I N D US TRI AL ARE A M AK E SU B S TAN TIAL AD DI TI O NS T O T H E I R P RE MIS E S TO AC C OM M OD ATE TH IS DE MAN D .

Subiaco was officially gazetted as a City. The City’s first

a large street parade, which was attended by thousands of state. An obviously proud Mayor Abrahams’ described it as, “the greatest assembly of citizens Subiaco has seen”. Subiaco’s new-found status as a city accelerated its popularity and not just as a prime residential location. Its close proximity to Perth, easy access to public transport and the opportunities available for redevelopment through

THIS RE S ULTE D IN THE G RADUA L,

THE ‘E ND O F AN E RA’ WAS MARKE D WITH CO NS IDE RABLE FANFARE WHE N THE LAS T TRAM TRAVE LLE D DO WN RO KE BY RO A D O N 19 APRIL 1958.

the demolition of old buildings, made it a logical choice for In the late 1940s, a group of ambitious Councillors began

modern business and retail premises.

the push to gain recognition for Subiaco as a City, under

New retail outlets, office blocks, banks and other financial

Those same old trams that he and his brother Howard had

the auspices of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1906.

institutions, and supermarkets began to spring up around

climbed aboard all those years ago, placing their equipment-

The rapid growth of Subiaco and its immediate environs in

the city, gravitating to the main thoroughfares of Rokeby

laden push bikes in the catcher on the front of the tram and

the first half of the twentieth century was demonstrated in

Road and Hay Street. In 1954, Mayor Abrahams commented

paying their tuppence fare to the kindly conductor as they

a local newspaper article that compared Subiaco’s growth

on the incredible growth the city had achieved in just two

headed off to a job in West Perth, were no longer.

from 1902 to 1952.

short years. ‘”Within just a short period, the appearance of

From a population base of just 3,542 in 1902 when the town’s number of dwellings was listed as 779, by 1952 Subiaco’s

both Hay Street and Rokeby Road has altered considerably and I might add, for the better.”

But time, and progress, wait for no man and after almost four decades in business Cec Hiddlestone and his brothers’ hard work, effort and sacrifice were finally paying off. This,

population swelled to 20,100 residents living in over 6,000

Cosmetically the city was changing subtly too. Cantilevered

no doubt, gave Cec a little more time to devote to enjoying

homes. The annual value of which had jumped from £26,816

awnings had replaced the traditional timber verandahs

the one pursuit he loved almost as much as his work.

in 1902 to £250,000 in 1952.

outside shops. Traffic and transport patterns were also changing in Subiaco. The public transport system too, was moving with the times, upgrading its fleet of buses to more modern and efficient vehicles that were being introduced across the metropolitan area.

32

It marked the end of an era for Cec Hiddlestone as well.

Photo Descriptions


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

THE SPORT OF KINGS While Cec Hiddlestone obviously loved his job and worked very hard at it, one of his other passions, as his daughter Beryl has already mentioned, was horse racing; the ‘sport of kings’. He and Vera were regulars, attending just about every metropolitan and country race meeting during the racing season. His love of the sport led him to invest in a number of thoroughbred racehorses and trotters that they regularly raced. This gave him another reason to attend as many race meetings as he could.

ACCO RDING TO BE RY L, RACING WAS HIS E S CAPE FRO M THE HARD, WE E KLY G RIND O F RUNNING A S UCCE S S FUL BUS INE S S . “Although he was devoted to his business, his love of racing, what he called, ‘the sport of kings’, is what kept him going. There would be a race meeting on down south somewhere like Pinjarra and he’d say to Mum, ‘Come on Vera, we’re off to the races.’ And they would drop everything and off they’d go. I think he just loved the thrill of it.” In fact, Vera and Cec were a very social couple, often seen out and about with their close group of friends. The Peninsula Hotel in Mandurah was one of their regular haunts, as it was for many Perth-ites. It was very much a family affair on weekends, back in the day.

Pictured: Cec (left) indulging in his favourite past time at the races

33


34

Pictured: Cartoon presented to Cec Hiddlestone capturing fishing antics at Mandurah


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

‘The Pen’, as it was affectionately known, was one of only two hotels in Mandurah at

CE C’S O THE R LO VE WAS

the time and had been the meeting place for

FIS HING A ND, O VE R

fishermen and prawners, since the turn of

THE Y E A RS , LIKE HIS

the century. With the prohibition of Sunday trading for hotels in the metropolitan area in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Mandurah being just a short drive from Perth, was the place to go

S KILLS WITH BUILDING CARAVANS , HE WO ULD

on weekends.

G AIN A RE PUTATIO N

While the parents would congregate inside,

AS AN AS TUTE BO AT

chatting and singing songs around a piano, young Vern and Beryl would play outside in the hotel’s grounds with the other families’ children. Late one particular afternoon, tired from swimming and crabbing around the boats down by the water’s edge, Vern and Beryl headed off in search of their parents. Noticing them wandering around looking lost, a concerned patron, who had just walked out of the hotel, asked what they were doing. Young Beryl piped up, “we’re looking for our Dad.” The patron, eager to help, said, “what’s

BUILDE R A ND DE DICATE D FIS HE RMA N. According to Beryl her Dad was very clever with his hands and built boats as well as caravans: “In fact, I recently came across a photo of one of the vans Dad built back when we lived at Murchison Street. He built it in the backyard and I remember going on holidays in it as a family.”

he like?” To which, Vern and Beryl, in unison,

Beryl added that they would take the van he

replied, “cold beer and hot crabs!”

made down to a caravan park in Mandurah every weekend and during holidays.

Top: Vera & Cec on their boat in Mandurah Bottom: Cec & Vera with friends, Margaret Condon & Lil Clarke and their fishing haul

35


GROWING UP AS A HIDDLESTONE IN SUBIACO Young Vern Hiddlestone apparently didn’t harbour

“I think I was around 12 years old and a bit of a

any dreams of following his father into the family

dreamer and schemer. I thought to myself, okay,

business.

I’m going to do this and that and be this before I’m

F R OM A YOU NG AGE, VE RN’S D R EAM WAS T O BEC O ME A

40. “So, I started a duck farm in our backyard, with 3 ducks and one drake. Wasn’t long before I had a

FAR MER . YOU NGER SIS TE R

hundred. I found an old Polish lady who would pluck

BERYL CONFI R MED HE R

keep one. Unbeknown to the city council, I had 120

OLD ER BR OT HER ’ S L O VE OF T HE LAND :

them for me. For every 10 she plucked, I’d let her at one stage and the ducks used to spill out onto the back lane. “I had to give it away in the end, because the smell got a bit rank and the neighbours started to

“As a young boy he absolutely loved farming. All he

complain. Along with the bottle-o round I had later,

ever wanted to be was a farmer. Dad’s mate had a

when I was about 15, these two ventures really set

farm that we went up to all the time. It was in the

me up.

Wheatbelt, Corrigin, I think. Vernon loved it. Every holiday, every time he could get away, he wanted

“I had a big wheelbarrow in which I’d put this large

to spend time on the farm.”

crate. The beer bottles I collected were called ‘Brownies’ back then or ‘King Browns’. I’d buy them

While farming might have been his dream, the

for a halfpenny and then sell them for a penny.

reality was that, from that day in November in 1940

100% profit!

when he was born in Kensington Hospital, along Hensman Road in Subiaco, like his father, Vern was

“Part of the service I offered was to clean the

destined to join the family business.

person’s backyard as I collected the empties, as the bottles were usually strewn everywhere. Which

36

Pictured: Young Vern Hiddlestone began honing his entrepreneurial skills at an early age

Although his desires may have leaned towards

used to work to my advantage because people

farming, even at a young age, Vern Hiddlestone had

didn’t know exactly how many bottles I’d collect.

a head for business. In the interview he gave to the

If there were 24 bottles, I’d tell them there was

Subiaco Museum, he talked about some of his early

maybe a dozen, give them sixpence and they’d be

entrepreneurial efforts:

happy because I’d tidied their yard in the process.


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

“That was big business for me. Once every fortnight, on

His words and vivid memory provide invaluable insights

a Friday night, Dad would bring home the one-ton Fargo

into a simpler, less complicated time in our history that

ute from work and I’d load it up ready to cash in my

could probably offer some important lessons for all of us

empties on Saturday morning. We did it every fortnight

trying to make our way today.

because on the alternate Saturdays I was also working in a local grocery store. By the time I was 17 and old enough to get my licence, I’d saved enough to pay £365 cash for a brand spanking new imported English car - a 1957 Ford Zephyr station wagon.” Vern’s

entrepreneurial

efforts

“I think I was very fortunate to be growing up in Subiaco, when I did. We were in what I’d call a ‘full working area’. On one side was a neighbour who worked for Elders Bakery on Onslow Road, just opposite Murchison Street. I think his name was Yilgarn and he drove a horse-drawn

were

perhaps

cart. He used to be able to whistle to the horse and it

symptomatic of the quintessentially Australian ‘giving

would just keep on walking while he dropped off orders

it a go’ or ‘trying your hand at anything that might

to customers’ homes.

generate a quid’ attitude that, to this day, is still the hallmark of working-class Australians.

“Our other neighbour was a milkman and he was the ‘Milkie’ for our area and worked for Brownes, in Subi.

From the bottom of its hobnailed boots to the tip of its

Brownes would send the milk by cart out to him early

battered felt hat, Subiaco was very much a working-class

every morning, for his local round. So, we had the basic

suburb, where residential homes co-existed cheek-by-

essentials, milk and bread, on our doorstep.

jowl with local ‘Mum and Dad’ businesses, traders and other battlers desperately trying to eke out a living.

“Another neighbour worked in the newspaper shop down in Rokeby Road that’s now called Rokeby News. But it

Everyone banded together, buying from each other and

wasn’t that name then. All the vacant land was always

providing support for local suppliers and merchants.

full of vegetables like beans, peas and cabbage and I’m

When asked to describe the Subiaco he grew up in,

talking about a block of land that was 33-foot wide (10

he painted a picture of a very close neighbourhood.

metres to people nowadays) and a hundred-foot long

According to Vern, Subiaco was a wonderful place to live,

(or about 33 metres). Some would be totally full of

work and raise a family.

beetroot and all types of vegetables. “Every weekend you could go and buy veggies fresh, out of the garden.

Pictured: Young Vern (right) with brothers Daryl and Warren Simmonds

37


It was all naturally grown. They only ever

“Subi was a working man’s area. To men,

used to water it with big sprinklers. But that

like my Dad, Cec, an electrician, they didn’t

was the way we enjoyed it. Then, two blocks

just do what they did to make money, they

away, I was selling my ducks. So, if you

literally ‘built’ our suburb as a place where

wanted to, you could really live off what was

families could live and work.

available in the street.”

“Admittedly, I changed things a bit and

Continuing with his recollections about

became a substantial landowner through

neighbours and the ‘Subi’ way of life,

investments, because I could see where

Vern’s memories further demonstrate how

Subiaco was going.

completely self-contained and independent his suburb was at the time.

“Dad built our second home at 86 Murchison Street, around 1960 I think, beside our other

I T T R ULY WAS A

property. He built the house a bit higher, to

MI CR OCOSM O F THE

had four garages at the back, accessed by a

let the fresh air get underneath. The house

W ELL- OR GANIS E D,

driveway down one side, which was a rarity

SELF - SU F F I CIE NT

block.

back then on a 33-foot deep or 10-metre

EXI ST ENCE ENJO Y E D

“We needed to do that because Dad had so

BY LOCAL R ES IDE NTS .

Like most of the other houses in the street

many vehicles that we used in the business. it was built from weatherboards but had

“Gardener Mackie were builders who, along

quite a lot of brickwork in it too, which made

with Anderson Kyle, were both headquartered

it stand out a bit. I remember it also had

in Lake Avenue by Shenton Park lake. They

instant hot water showers in the bathroom.”

would build the entire house from scratch

38

Pictured: Vern (left) with friends in Hay Street Mall

using their own local bricklayers, concreters

The link with the family home is still

and plasterers. Their cabinet makers made

maintained through its new owner, Ian

all the kitchen cupboards and doors – all

Maitland, who remains a customer of

local and they did it that way for years.

Hiddlestone Electrics today.


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

ANOTHER GENERATION OF HIDDLESTONE While history was being made over East in

While serving his apprenticeship and learning

Melbourne in 1956 with the hosting of Australia's

the ropes on the job, Vern attended trade school

first Olympic Games, in Perth history of a

at Perth Junior Tech, to gain his academic

different kind was also being made when the next

qualifications. He was a quick learner and, by

generation of Hiddlestone joined the company.

combining the theory he was taught at trade

With all thoughts of becoming a farmer a fading memory, young Vern Hiddlestone who, to date had made his money through his entrepreneurial home-grown

ventures,

began

his

electrical

apprenticeship. Vern had been spending more

school with what he picked up from working alongside his Dad on the job, it was not long before Vern saw the opportunities that existed for the family electrical business by combining his skills as an electrician with his entrepreneurial flair.

and more of his spare time, after school and at

However, the task ahead of young Vern was not

weekends, helping out and learning about the

going to be an easy one as old, entrenched habits

business under Cec’s watchful eye.

and an embedded culture of ‘how things were

I T WAS ALMOST A F OR EGONE CONCLU S IO N T HAT VER N W OU LD JO IN T HE COMPANY. He greatly admired his father, who he believed to be the ‘best electrician in the business’ and now his overwhelming desire was to emulate his achievements and become a skilled, qualified electrician.

done’ are hard to break.

E V E N AT JUS T 16, Y O UNG VE RN WAS A PLANNE R AND VIS IO NARY. HE HA D PLANS FO R HIDDLE S TO NE ’S FAMILY E LE CTRICAL BUS INE S S THAT HE WAS DE TE RMINE D TO PUT IN PLACE . Pictured: A dashing young Vern in his teenage years

39


LOVE IS IN THE AIR One of Cec Hiddlestone’s oldest friends was Roy Mathews. The pair had both attended Subiaco

RO Y AND MA RY ’S E LDE S T,

Primary School (or ‘Subiaco Infant School’

AND O NLY DAUG HTE R,

as Cec referred to it in his interview with the

KAY, WA S VE RY CLO S E TO

Subiaco Historical Society in 1983). Cec was enrolled in the school in 1915 when the family moved into their shop on the corner of Barker Road and Denis Street in Subiaco. Cec, Roy, Bill Roper and Charlie Wilson all became inseparable mates, playing football

HE R TWO BRO THE RS , LE S AND RO S S , WHO WE RE FIE RCE LY PRO TE CTIV E O F THE IR BIG S IS TE R.

together and getting up to all the mischief and causing the sort of mayhem young boys with

Kay recalls some of those early times, spent in

too much time on their hands and overactive

the company of the Hiddlestone family:

imaginations usually do. “Mum and Dad used to go to the races and, as Cec and Roy maintained their close friendship

the oldest, I would often tag along. Dad was

throughout their teens and even after both

a bookmaker and they’d meet up with Vern’s

married. Together with their wives they

Mum and Dad who owned racehorses. But Dad

socialised regularly enjoying time together

and Cec Hiddlestone went way back to primary

down in Mandurah at ‘The Pen’ and at

school days, so they were close friends.

race meetings. Roy became a professional bookmaker and, with Cec’s love of horse racing,

“As kids do, we would all get together while our

it became an even stronger friendship based on

parents socialised and we’d muck around, but

a shared passion.

there was really nothing in it. We were all very young. I think I was only about 10 or 11 and still

I T WAS I NEVI TABLE THE N T HAT T HEI R CHI LDRE N W OU LD GET T O KNO W EACH OT HER . 40

Pictured: Vern & Kay at their engagement party

at school. Beryl was closer to my age and Vern would have been a couple of years older. To be honest, I probably didn’t give him a second glance back then.”


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

It wasn’t until after young Vern became a qualified

was pretty keen to stay but I was petrified about

electrician, many years later, that Kay started to

asking Mum and Dad. Like my brothers, they too

take any notice.

were very protective of me.

“I was at school and I can just remember

“Thankfully, one of my aunties, who knew Cec and

Mum getting an electrician in at our home in

Vera, was also up in Lancelin staying the weekend

Monash Avenue, Nedlands. We had always used

and she came to my rescue, asking my parents,

Hiddlestone Electrics because of the family

with a sly wink towards me, if I could stay with her

friendship and I can remember coming in from

on the Saturday night.

school and seeing Vern there doing the electrical work. It was probably around then - I think I was 16 or 17 at the time - and so had obviously become quite ‘interested’ in boys and I have to admit that after seeing Vern in our house that day, I probably became a bit more ‘interested’ in him.

“They agreed and, after they left, I spent the rest of a very enjoyable weekend with Vern and his family and not at my aunt’s. When it was time to head back on the Sunday my aunt called in to pick me up. Out of the blue, Vern piped up, ‘I’ll drive Kay back to Perth. I have my car here (it was the

“A few weeks later I went with Mum and Dad up

imported Zephyr he mentioned earlier in the story

north to Lancelin for the weekend. I must have

and was very cool) and I can drop her off.’ And that

been almost 17 by then because Dad was teaching

was where it all started. It would have been some

me to drive.

time in 1960 from memory.”

“Vern’s Dad, Cec, owned a cray boat - he was a

Vern Hiddlestone and Kay Mathews became an

keen fisherman - and he’d invited my parents up

‘item’ not long after that. It was the start of an

to Lancelin to go up for a cruise out on the boat.

enduring relationship that would remain strong

While Dad, Cec and a few mates went out on the

and unbroken over more than five decades until

boat for the day, fishing for crays, Vern and I were

Vern’s untimely passing in 2014.

‘getting to know’ each other a bit better.

Kay and Vern were married on 15th February 1963

“Mum and Dad had planned to go back to Perth

at St. Lawrence’s Anglican Church in Dalkeith in

that night and by the time they had returned,

front of a large congregation. However, it hadn’t all

Vern had asked if I would like to spend the night

been smooth sailing on the way to the altar.

at his parent’s place in Lancelin. By that stage I

Pictured: Vern & Kay signing the registry on their wedding day

41


Kay recalls that they were going out as a couple for

“Exasperated, he finally said to me, ‘What’s the

about 18 months before they formally announced their

problem?’ And I said, ‘It’s not you, but I’m scared. What

engagement. If Vern had been able to have a say in it, the

are you going to say to Mum and Dad when you ask?’

engagement would have been announced much earlier:

He scratched his head and said, ‘Why are you worried

“My parents kept me on a pretty tight leash. I was their only daughter and very precious to them. Not that they

about what I’m going to say? You’ve already said yes, so it is just a formality.’

didn’t like Vern - they loved him - but they were just

“Vern was always so confident, and for once, I thought

protective. Luckily Vern got on pretty well with my two

it might be a bit of fun to see him squirm a bit. So, I said,

brothers, especially Ross. They became good mates.

‘What if Dad says no?’ Shocked and at a momentary

I say ‘luckily’ because if Vern asked me to go to the

loss for words, he replied, ‘Oh, hadn’t thought of that.’

drive-in in his Zephyr, guess who always came along to

He needn’t have worried, Dad said yes without batting

chaperone? My two brothers!

an eyelid! But I couldn’t resist winding him up to see

“VER N WAS NOT SOMEONE W HO LET T HE GR ASS GR O W U ND ER HI S F EET AND F R O M T HE T I ME W E’ D BEEN GOING OU T F OR ABOU T 6 MONT HS , HE K EPT SAYI NG T O ME,

how he would react. “The reception, following the wedding, was held at Dalkeith Hall, which was packed with over 150 guests. It must have been a great night because at some stage, they ran out of beer!” “It was the middle of February and it was the hottest day ever; we were just sweltering. Everyone must have been pretty thirsty. Vern couldn’t have cared less, because he didn’t drink, but Cec and my Dad were horrified. Fortunately, they both knew the publican of

‘CAN I ASK YET ? CAN I ASK YET ? ’ AND F OR SOME R EAS O N, I K EPT SAYI NG NO.

42

the Albion Hotel in Cottesloe, who was also a guest. The night was saved from disaster in the nick of time, with the arrival of reinforcements courtesy of The Albion’s cellar.”

Top: Bride & Groom with Kay's parents Roy & Mary Mathews Middle: Kay flanked by bridesmaids Beryl Hiddlestone (left) and Bernice Mathews (right) Bottom: Bride & Groom with Vern's parents Cec & Vera


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

A NEW HOME FOR THE NEWLYWEDS VER N HI DD LEST ONE HA D ALWAYS BEEN CARE FUL

“Vern was really a bit of a traditionalist. From about 18, I worked at WA Newspapers in the archive section, cataloguing photographs and

W I T H HI S MONEY AND,

articles. On Saturdays, I manned the phones to

F R OM A YOU NG AGE ,

Australian. I loved the environment and worked

take the classified ads people place in The West

HAD I NVEST ED W I S E LY.

there until our first daughter, Donna, was born in

The first night of their marriage was spent

“It was an interesting job and I got to know

in a brand-new brick and tile home Vern had

real characters like cartoonist Paul Rigby and

purchased in Brix Street, Wembley Downs. The

columnist, Kirwan Ward. The paper asked me if I’d

next day they left for a few days on Rottnest

like to come back to work after Donna’s birth but

Island and then drove down south to explore the

Vern would not have a bar of that. Not because

beaches and sights, as a lot of young newlyweds

he thought a woman’s place was in the home, it

did back then.

was more that he wanted me to be able to devote

1966.

time to raising our children, which became a fullFor Kay, buying a home for them to move straight

time job as our family grew. Running around,

into was typical of the generous, kind man who

looking after four horse-mad daughters, left little

would always put his family first throughout their

time for anything else!”

married life.

Pictured: Happy newlyweds cutting the cake

43


A NAME CHANGE AND A MOVE VER N’ S VI SI ON AND PLANNI NG

By 1969, with the company now closing in on its 50th

F OR T HE F U T U R E W ER E T O PLAY

emergence of Subiaco as a retail and business hub, changes

anniversary, and business expanding in tandem with the

A K EY R OLE I N T HE GR OW T H OF

were afoot for the family business.

HI DD LEST ONE’ S ELECT R I CAL

THE CO MPA NY RE LO CATE D ITS

CONT R ACT I NG BUSI NESS.

S HO PFRO NT TO 85 RO KE BY RO AD

AS VER N’ S EXPER I ENCE AND

AND CE LE BRATE D THE MO VE WITH

CONFI DENCE GR EW, HE ASSU MED

A NAME CHA NG E .

A MOR E ACT I VE R OLE I N T HE R UNNI NG OF T HE BUSI NESS.

With Cec now the only original brother actively involved in the business, ‘Hiddlestone Bros’ became ‘Hiddlestone Electrics’. But it was still very much the family business it had always been, with its values still at its core. Vern’s mother, Vera, was often seen behind the counter of the retail shopfront, serving customers. The original Hiddlestone Bros name was retained and focused its interests on managing the many properties in the company’s real estate portfolio. The managing of this company passed into the capable hands of Vern’s sister, Beryl, who still looks after this branch of the family business today, after initially establishing and running a successful hairdressing business. With his extensive property investment portfolio, Vern was always involved in this side of the business and after his passing, it was his wish that Natalie take over his role. In an interview around that time, Vern Hiddlestone recalled the sense of pride he felt for what this small family company had achieved over a half century in business:

44

Pictured: Certificate of Incorporation confirming name change to Hiddlestone Electrics Electrical contractor's licence renewal 1968


HIDDLESTONE THE SECOND 25 YEARS 1946-1970

“I am very proud of the reputation my family has

In 1970, in what seemed a poignant way to celebrate its

established in Subiaco. Not just as a successful business

50 years in business, Hiddlestone’s Golden Jubilee year,

but also in the contribution that we have made to the

as telecommunications began the boom that would

community through our support and involvement in

revolutionise the way we communicate with each

organisations such as the Scout movement, Jolimont

other; the company became one of Australia’s first

Football Club and Subiaco Cricket Club, where my

approved telephone contractors for the Postmaster

father and uncles played for many years, and worthy

General’s Department or the ‘PMG’ as it was widely

causes such as the St John Ambulance. As a family we

known. Several years later, the Department would be

are proud to have been part of Subiaco for almost five

split into the Australian Postal Commission (Australia

decades.”

Post) and Australian Telecommunications Commission

VER N’ S SU PPORT AND PRIDE F OR HI S CI T Y WAS ALWAY S

(ATC). As the world stood poised to enter the turbulent 70s - a decade famous for bell-bottoms and the rise of disco,

EVI D ENT. HE W OU LD LOUDLY

as well as being a time of economic struggle, the rise

AND PR OU D LY VOI CE HI S LO VE

technical innovation - Hiddlestone Electrics sat poised

F OR SU BI ACO T O ANYONE WHO W OU LD LI ST EN. VER N W OULD OF T EN SAY T HAT W I T HOUT SU BI ACO, HE W OU LD NOT BE

of multiculturalism and sweeping changes through to embark on an exciting new era; an era that would see the company enter its second 50 years, full of confidence and commitment to growth and expansion through what lay ahead. On the home front, Kay and Vern’s family was growing too - with the arrival of another daughter, Kelly, born

W HER E HE I S T OD AY, BEC AUS E

in 1970 to keep her, by then, three-year old sister

HE LOVED HI S CI T Y.

years to come, more daughters would arrive to change

Donna company. Little did Vern know that, in the the balance in the, to date, male-dominated family business structure.

Pictured: Vern with his first born daughter Donna

45


1

3

4

2

5

6

46

7

1. Early receipt from Comet Motors for work on company vehicle 2.Vern Hiddlestone as a baby 3.Albert Hiddlestone in WWI uniform 4. Rev. W.R. Hiddlestone who emigrated from England to Australia 5. Albert & Howard Hiddlestone formal posed studio shot in WWI AIF uniform 6. Another receipt from Comet Motors possibly for the purchase of a company vehicle 7. (& 2. next page): Perth PWD trainees attending an early ‘Electrical Wireman’ course, early 1900s. A young Howard Hiddlestone is circled in the seat of what looks like an early Model T Ford ute


2

1

3

4

1. Cottesloe Beach Footballers’ Club cricket team photo 1932-33 season featuring Cec & Bert Hiddlestone 2. (See 7. previous page): Same PWD trainees, posing for group shot. Howard Hiddlestone (circled) in front 3. Cleared Hiddlestone Bros Bank of New South Wales cheque to Comet Motors (see receipt for same amount earlier page) 4. Hiddlestone Bros blotter from the 1920s 5. Early Subiaco streetscape, date unknown but features electric tram service

5

47


1

2

3

4

7

5

6

48

8

1. Family matriarch, Esther, Albert Hiddlestone's wife 2. Vera & Cec Hiddlestone enjoying the sun and sand on Mandurah beach 3. Handwritten Hiddlestone Bros wage sheet summary 1957 4. Hiddlestone family gathering 5. Cec Hiddlestone with daughter Beryl on Mandurah beach 6. Another winner for the Hiddlestone racing stable 7. Young Beryl Hiddlestone enjoying a boat ride with a friend while holidaying in Mandurah 8. Original Hiddlestone shopfront at King's Hall premises on Rokeby Road


1

3

2

4

6

5

1. Company work function hosted by Cec and Vera. Long-term foreman at Hiddlestone Bros, Jack Pember, seated next to Vera (bottom left) 2. Kay Hiddlestone with her family. L to R: Kay, brother Ross, father Roy, mother Mary and brother Les Mathews 3. A smiling young Vern Hiddlestone 4. Vera out and about with her teenage son, Vern 5. Ornate Guardian Insurance Company policy from 1941 6. Father & daughter, Cec & Beryl Hiddlestone

49


SIGNIFICANT EVENTS HIDDLESTONE BROS/ELECTRICS

Coliseum Theatre opens

Perth’s 1st electric tram service begins from Hay Street Perth to Subiaco

Cec Hiddlestone joins Hiddlestone Bros WORLD WAR II THE INCEPTION Howard Hiddlestone starts H. Hiddlestone Electrics at 141 Rokeby Road Subiaco

First electric street light illuminated in Perth

1892 1888

1899

1920 1914-18

1894

1924 1923

Melbourne hosts Olympic Games

1945 Beryl Hiddlestone born

Vern Hiddlestone joins Hiddlestone Bros as apprentice

Company premises relocate to 85 Rokeby Road Subiaco

Howard Hiddlestone, company’s founder dies

1939-45

1956

1969

1971

1938

1952

1960-63

WORLD WAR I

ELECTRICITY INTRODUCED IN PERTH

The Perth Gas Company operated the state’s first power station in Wellington Street Hiddlestone Family moves to Subiaco

50

1940 Vern Hiddlestone born

Company name change to Hiddlestone Electrics

SUBIACO BECOMES A CITY

WA Government takes over Perth power supply Regal Theatre opened (taking over from Coliseum Theatre)

Vern meets Kay Mathews in 1960 & they marry in 1963

1970

1984

Hiddlestone becomes first Approved Telecom supplier in Perth

Cec Hiddlestone dies Subiaco city Underground Power project 1st Hiddlestone Christmas Lights show, Subiaco & Claremont


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

Vern and Kay buy Duffel House, historical Subiaco home

Natalie Hiddlestone Photography registered Natalie assumes more permanent role at Hiddlestone Electrics while still pursuing photography

Vern drives campaign to restore balconies to Subiaco businesses (in Rokeby Rd) Vern runs for Subiaco City Council post and elected as City Councillor

1999

1990 1986 Kelly Hiddlestone joins Hiddlestone Electrics the first female to join the firm

1994-95 Brooke finishes school and starts working for Hiddlestone Electrics

Hiddlestone Electrics Runner-Up Master Electrician of the Year

Company’s Denis Street office expanded

Hiddlestone Electrics commended in Family Business of The Year (WA) Award

Vern Hiddlestone dies and reins pass to Natalie Hiddlestone

Natalie Hiddlestone Finalist MEA Excellence Awards: 'Women in Contracting'

Natalie Hiddlestone Finalist MEA Excellence Awards: 'Women in Contracting'

2001

2006

2014

2017

2019

2000

Hiddlestone Electrics celebrates 80th anniversary with 300 guests invited to Palm Function Centre

2005 Company relocates to Townshend Road, Subiaco

2010

2016

2018

Hiddlestone Electrics celebrates 90th anniversary with 225 guests at Subiaco Bowls Club

Hiddlestone Electrics inducted into Family Business Australia Hall of Fame

Natalie wins MEA Excellence Award: 'Women in Contracting'

2020

Hiddlestone Electrics celebrates ‘100 NOT OUT’, a century of service to Subiaco

Subiaco City Council names Hiddlestone Lane in honour of family’s contribution to city Clipsal announce Apprenticeship Award in honour of Vern Hiddlestone

51


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1. Hiddlestone's 85 Rokeby Road shopfront in 1970s with Rokeby's nightclub above 2. Hiddlestone family portrait. L-R (back): Vern & Kay, L-R (front): Kelly, Donna, Natalie & baby Brooke (on Donna’s knee) 3. L-R: Narelle, Alan and Beryl Goodfield with Vern Hiddlestone 4&5: After & before shots of Rowland Street additions to rear of existing Rokeby Road premises circa 1978 6. 20-year old Nat Hiddlestone in sporty Ford Capri at Wanneroo family property with Hiddlestone Electrics van in background 7. Nat & Brooke Hiddlestone in Braun promotional uniform at 85 Rokeby Rd premises 8. Vern Hiddlestone in front of Royal Show window display, 85 Rokeby Road


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9 1. Hiddlestone Electrics fleet of vans displaying Subi personalised plates 2. Another fleet vehicle shot 3. Hiddlestone Electrics van beside wall mural along laneway wall of 30 Townshend Road premises 4. Nat Hiddlestone silhouetted on rooftop, installing company sign at newly renovated 30 Townshend Road property 5&7: After & before shots of Hiddlestone Electrics new headquarters at 30 Townshend Road 6. Graffiti wall of 30 Townshend Road 8. Colourful rainbow over rooftop view of Subiaco from roof 85 Rokeby Road 9. Panoramic view across Subiaco, again from roof of 85 Rokeby Road

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1. Christmas Day celebrations. L-R: Kay, Vera and Vern Hiddlestone 2. Hiddlestone family 'gathering of the clan' 3. Direct descendants of the three original Hiddlestone brothers. (From left): Eunice Craig - Howard’s daughter, Ernie (seated) & Colin (behind) - sons of Bert, Cec’s wife, Vera, with son Vern (seated) & daughter Beryl (behind), Dawn (seated) & Jean (behind) - daughters of Eddie Hiddlestone 4. (L-R): Colin Hiddlestone, Beryl Goodfield, Vern Hiddlestone, Eunice Craig & Ernie Hiddlestone 5. Vern Hiddlestone outside Subiaco shop 'Paris Crepes' 6. Some of the hundreds of mourners attending Vern Hiddlestone's funeral. 7. Vern receiving an award from the Mayor of the City of Stirling. Just one of many community awards he and his company received. 8. Hiddlestone Electrics sponsors many local sporting clubs, including Wembley Magpies Baseball Club. 9. Nat & Vern Hiddlestone with Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation’s Andrea Alexander at inaugural children with leukaemia event at Houghton Winery 10.(L-R, back) Brooke Hiddlestone, Alan Goodfield, Les Mathews, (L-R, front): Natalie Hiddlestone, Julie Bishop, Kay Hiddlestone, Beryl Goodfield (front)


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1. Hiddlestone electricians at work on-site in Chinatown 2. Hiddlestone Electrics is proud to be associated with community events such as this Subiaco Primary School P&C Gala Fundraising event in 2016, photo credit: Christian Sprogoe Photography 3. Festoon Lighting installation by Hiddlestone Electrics 4. Chinatown lighting upgrade 5. Team working on Hiddlestone Laneway lighting from scissor lift 6 - 11. The Hiddlestone Electrics team 6. Jason Mooney 7. Matthew Bazelmans 8.Adam Scott 9. Liam Bazelmans 10. Tiger Nikich 11. Richele Hatchett, Natalie Hiddlestone & Kay Hiddlestone

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HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971 - 1995 W IN D S OF CH AN GE A C H AN GI N G OF T H E GU AR D ‘FAR M E R V E R N ’ A FAM ILY A FFAI R C O M M ITTE D T O TH E COMMU N ITY AC C O L AD E S & A GI TAT I ON

56


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

WINDS OF CHANGE If the decade that was the 1960s was known as the

Whitlam and his Labor Party were catalysts for this

‘Swinging Sixties’, then the 1970s would have to be

cataclysmic change and the catchy jingle and theme

dubbed ‘The Decade of Change’.

for his push at power “It’s Time” was quite prophetic as he rode a wave of popularity into the role of Prime Minister.

AU ST R ALI AN VI EW S AND

In

OPI NI ONS ON EVERYT HING

Western

Australia,

Hiddlestone

Bros

saw

business change too, as the exploitation of vast

F R OM I MMI GR AT I ON, WAR

mineral resources, technological development, the

AND SEXU AL MOR ALI T Y TO

and scandal in the highest of offices in the State

emergence of burning social issues, immigration would dominate the decade and shape the future of

T HE R OLE OF W OMEN AND

Australia’s most isolated state.

T HE ENVI R ONMENT, W ERE

Riding its own high after securing the ‘Approved

ABOU T T O U NDER GO R ADICA L

Supplier’ status with the PMG, which would be re-

CHANGE.

known as Telstra, Cec and Vern, ably supported by

branded as Telecom in 1975 and subsequently become Bert - who could always be found behind the counter

In 1973-74, the White Australia Policy - an archaic,

in his grey lab coat, greeting customers with a friendly

isolationist strategy, introduced by xenophobic

smile - set about recruiting new electricians to help

politicians to exclude people of non-European origin,

cope with the increased volume of work.

especially Asians and Pacific Islanders - was finally discarded, destined for the scrapheap of history.

Loyal clients like Fairweather, The Regal Theatre and a plethora of local and residential businesses

Throughout the decade, women won the right

helped maintain a steady flow through the door and

to equal pay and maternity leave and indigenous

into the company’s bank account. But both Cec and

Australians took huge steps in securing land rights.

his ambitious young son were keen to widen their

In 1972, Australian troops were withdrawn from an

scope of work to include more lucrative commercial

unpopular presence in Vietnam and in 1975, the

projects.

nation was rocked by the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (following his charismatic rise to power in 1972). Pictured: Hiddlestone Electrics shop front 85 Rokeby Road, Subiaco

57


D E SP I T E T H I S I N F L U X O F N E W B U SI N E SS TH RO U G H TH E D O O R,

“I had never seen her before and didn’t have a clue who she

learned the ropes pretty quickly from an experienced team

was but decided to give her a piece of my mind. So, I yelled

of seasoned professionals, working on a diverse range of

out, ‘Watch where you’re going, you silly old bitch!’ and went

different commercial and residential projects.

C EC R E SI ST E D TH E MAS S

back to what I was doing.

R EC R UI T M E N T O F Q UAL IF IE D

“I remember that it was a Friday, because we always had

I remember Colin, Bert’s son, he was a fitter and did some

EL E C T R I C I AN S TO ME E T

our usual drink and a natter after work. Over a beer, one of

work for us. Roy Snook was one of our senior electricians. I

the tradies, who had seen what had happened, said to me,

think he finished up going up to live and work in Paraburdoo,

‘You’re game mate. That woman you abused today, she’s the

or somewhere, after I was out of my time.

GR OW I N G NE E DS , P RE FE RRIN G T O C ON T R OL G RO W TH AN D MAI N TAI N T H E QUAL I T Y AN D RE L I AB I L I TY OF SE RVI C E . . .

boss’s wife.’

“Then there was Jeffrey Spencer-Legg, a little short guy

“I was mortified and spent the entire weekend thinking

from Applecross. He left and set up his own business that I’m

about where I was going to find a new job, because I thought

pretty sure was called Logic Alarms. And who could forget

for sure that, come Monday morning, I’d be gone.

Jan Pusinjac, I think he was Yugoslav. Funny name but nice

“Feeling pretty sheepish and fearing the worst, I turned up

guy. He was a really big bloke, built like a brick dunny.

... for which Hiddlestone had become known, by training and

for work bright and early Monday morning and was in the

“And then we had Tom Walker, an old fella who used to come

upskilling the young apprentices that they regularly took on,

workshop with Cec, keeping my head down, when Vera

in and pick up the kettles and toasters, repair them and then

and relying on a small dedicated team to deliver results. One

came in, around 10 o’clock. She walked over towards us and

bring them back. He ended up coming in to work the counter

of those young apprentices was George Shaw who joined

I thought, ‘here it comes’. I was sweating bricks. Vera turned

when Bert retired.

Hiddlestone as a very green 15-year old in November 1966

to me and said, ‘Oh by the way I’m Vera, the boss’s wife, the

and worked for the company for the next 20 years. George

silly old bitch!’

recalls that his employment could have been short-lived, if Cec’s wife Vera hadn’t been blessed with such a good sense of humour:

everything I know. He was an exceptional tradesman who sadly reached retirement age while I was still working at

make a cup of tea with some scones or cake for us. That

Hiddlestones.

of weeks and I was out the back of 83 Rokeby Road, doing

treated like part of the family.”

car park, almost collecting my toolbox.

He was a bit of an institution in the place and taught me

anytime we went to do work at the boss’s place, Vera would

“I’d been working at Hiddlestones for less than a couple

and all of a sudden this car, driven by a woman, sped into the

“Jack Pember was our foreman and supervised all our work.

“Our little encounter was never mentioned after that and

was what it was like working at Hiddlestones, everyone was

something in the car park. I had my toolbox open beside me

58

“They were all good guys and we got on really well together.

“I remember a funny story involving old Jack. We had this young fella that came to work for us. Vern knew his father

George remembers it being a very close-knit team back in

and their families lived close to each other in Brix Street.

the 1970s. The work was interesting and varied, which meant

Craig was his name. He lasted about six months with us, as I

that, as George progressed through his apprenticeship he

recall, but never signed on as an apprentice.


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

He was a bit lazy, which didn’t go down well with our

“Back then we also fitted out a lot of the old Golden

team because we always worked hard. He’d just go

Fleece petrol stations. They had that big yellow ram as

walkabout on a job, disappearing around the corner for

their symbol. And that led to us also taking on similar

a smoke, and you could never find him.

work in a number of Shell garages.

“We were working on a block of units in Daglish and old

“We did work for some of the bigger outfits too.

Jack used to have to keep coming out on the balcony,

Westpac were setting up their computer centres

yelling out, ‘Craig, where the bloody hell are ya?’ It

in Fremantle, Morley and Subi and that was quite

turns out that the lady over the road had a cocky and,

complicated and involved. All the branches had to be

before the job was half finished, we could hear the

linked back to a main centre. I guess that was an early

cocky yelling out ‘Craig, where the bloody hell are ya?’

form of networking.”

We had some funny times.”

George was with Hiddlestone when they were appointed

George remembers doing a lot of work for Alex Anderson

as approved contractors for what later became Telstra.

from Colin Anderson Homes. Colin and Cec were great

It was a pretty lucrative appointment for Hiddlestones.

mates and went crabbing in Mandurah together. R.J. Pearson was another local building company that built blocks of two and three storey units.

“Brian Hales was one of Vern’s very good mates from Telstra, or the PMG as it was called in those days. And I think that got us in the door. Rather than have the

“W. Fairweather & Son was another local developer

Telstra techs come in and have to put conduits in the

that we did a lot of commercial work with. Peter

slab, we did all that, pre-laying all the wiring and fixing

Fairweather, the son, was our contact but I understand

the connections. We’d put the box in and run all the

the association goes back to when both companies

cables, do the termination and then Telstra would run

started in the 1920s.

the cabling in from the street.”

“Most of our work was in the Subiaco area and

In the mid-70s, Hiddelstone’s client list read like a

immediate surrounds but Pearsons used to do a lot

‘Who’s Who’ of burgeoning businesses in Subiaco and

of building out in Fremantle and South Perth,” George

inner-city Perth. On a roll, George reeled off some of

recalls. “Anderson Homes used to build their homes

what are today household names and others that have

around the back of Herdsman and the area around the

faded into Perth’s colourful history.

bottom part of Osborne Park.

59


photo suggestion

“Centre Ford on Adelaide Terrace was another company

“I bought a boat from Bert once. He sold me a little

I remember working with. Brian Anderson and John

runabout he kept down at Mandurah. A measure of

Goldie were partners before John left and took on a

the man was his trust in people. If he knew you well, he

Holden dealership. The Presbyterian Ladies College

trusted you implicitly and could be generous to a fault.

was another and I’ve already mentioned Regal Theatre.

Vern was the same.

They were all great clients.

home from work on a Friday night when I spotted

did a lot of cabling for the sub-boards they used for

another boat that I thought would be a worthy

lighting shows. Everyone wanted to put their hand up to

replacement for the one that now sat at the bottom

do work at GMH (General Motors Holden) in West Perth

of the Indian Ocean. The price was right and I knew it

because they had promotional days out at Wanneroo

wouldn’t be there long. That weekend, I dropped into

Park, when new models like the Monaro were released.

Vern’s house in Wanneroo and said, ‘I’ve got my eye on

We’d be invited to go and hammer the cars around the

a boat I saw down the road coming home on Friday. It’s

track. One of the better perks of the job!

fifteen hundred bucks. Great deal.’ And Vern just said,

“Another one of Vern’s good mates who we did work for was Barry Hall out at Balga squash courts. He must

“There was Charlie Day from Esselmont. Amaroo Homes. We did new home electrical work for them. We used to do a lot of domestic work for the Mazzucchelli sisters of Mazzucchelli Jewellers’ fame. There were three

“When I thought about it, I could just as easily have gone to Vern and said, ‘Look, I need five grand.’ And I

cars wouldn’t go past The Narrows. They’d just stop and

knew he wouldn’t even ask what it was for, he would

not go any further!”

have just given it to me. He was a very, very trusting

According to George, when you joined Hiddlestone, you

ladies but the problem was they could never make a decision!

really did become a trusted member of the extended family and you were genuinely treated as such.

Jewellers as well. We also did maintenance work at the Trades Hall

“Bert could be a grouchy old bugger sometimes. Had a

headquarters, which used to amuse me because I wasn’t a member of the

bark on him like a wolf, but beneath all of that he was

union. I’d be there, working away in the electrical trades office, changing

a really good bloke. Everybody knew Bert Hiddlestone,

light fittings and no one ever thought to ask if I was a union member.

he was another institution in Subi. He’d literally give you

Pictured: Australia vs South Africa (Rugby Series) window display on Rokeby Road

off on your overtime or whatever.’

away from Perth to do a job. Vern used to say that his

the shirt off his back if you asked him.

60

‘Hang on a minute, here’s the money. You can work it

have been a very good mate for Vern to travel that far

of them and they used to live down near Kings Park. They were nice old

“I did a lot of work for Peter Greene and Gavin Wright from Solid Gold

“I had sunk the boat that Bert sold me and was driving

“Ashton Lighting was another interesting company. We

sort of guy and I respected and admired that quality in him.”


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

A CHANGING OF THE GUARD CEC HI D DLEST ONE LOVED F I SHI NG , CR ABBI NG AND ANYT HI NG T O DO

“When Dad hadn’t arrived by 6.30am, we started to worry because he would never be late when it came to going fishing. We later discovered, through the policemen who attended the

W I T H T HE WAT ER .

accident, that he had suffered a massive heart attack while

He had owned many boats in his lifetime and had, in fact, built

“He was 75 when he died. His older brother Howard had also

one or two, as well as the odd caravan. It was one of the reasons

died of a heart attack aged 77 about two and a half years

behind the nickname ‘Drake’ that his old mates, Freddie Storen

earlier and middle brother, Bert, died the same way at 74. It

and Pinky Hayes, had christened him with.

made a prophecy of sorts that my Mum, Vera, spoke of many

It was a Sunday morning, in early April 1984, around 5.30am when Cec hooked his boat up and set off along West Coast

driving along West Coast Highway, not far from Hillarys.

years ago ...eerily accurate ...when she said that ‘our life span on this earth is three score and ten years’.”

Highway for the short drive to Hillarys Boat Harbour, north of

With all the original brothers who started Hiddlestone back in

Perth, where he was due to meet his sixteen-year old grandson,

the 1920s now gone, the mantle of running the business fell

Warren.

squarely on the shoulders of Cec’s only son, Vern. The ‘step-

Cec really looked forward to combining two of his favourite pastimes, spending quality time with his grandchildren, and fishing. He’d had a good day at the races with his granddaughters the day before and a spot of fishing would be just the thing to top off his weekend. Daughter Beryl takes up the story from here:

up’ to assume the reins would not be that onerous for Vern, who had, for quite a number of years, taken over much of the day-to-day operations from Cec - who was content to pursue his other passions, horse racing and fishing, and leave the decision-making to his more than capable son. By that stage Vern had almost three decades of experience in the business behind him and had developed close relationships

“We had arranged to drop Warren at Hillarys so he could

with the core group of loyal clients that now saw Hiddlestone

meet his grandfather and head out on the water to go fishing.

as their ‘electrician of choice’.

Warren loved spending time with his ‘Pop’ and eagerly awaited his arrival. Top: Cec with grandson Warren (Beryl's son) Bottom: Cec (kneeling in front) displaying his catch with son Vern (2nd from left) and Roy Mathews (3rd from left)

61


‘FARMER VERN’ ALTHOUGH HE WAS ALWAYS D EST I NED TO JOI N T HE FAMI LY BUSI NESS, IT WAS NO SECR ET T HAT VER N’ S L I FELONG PASSI ON HAD BEEN T O BE A FAR MER . Despite immersing himself in helping build the company’s fortunes, he never lost the desire to maintain a connection with the land. A series of astute property investments meant that Vern could finally

“The only problem was that when he’d go to collect them, he had trouble identifying which were his. Vern’s solution was typical of his electrical training. He said, ‘I’ll just wind some electrical tape around their tails. That way, I’ll know which are mine.’ “He returned a few weeks later from a trip to the farm and told me that all of the cows’ tails had fallen off and I just burst out laughing. But, typical of Vern, who always had the last word, he said, ‘Now, I can definitely tell which are mine!’” Kay shakes her head, laughing at the memory. She recalls another

invested in a large property in Gingin.

hilarious event, this one involving the police.

But, as a farmer, Vern’s agrarian ‘skills’ left more than a little to be

“We were sitting at home one afternoon when the phone rang. It was

desired, according to wife Kay.

the police, who informed Vern that they had just forcibly entered his

He loved it. But for the life of me, I couldn’t see what the attraction was. There was nothing up there but black sand. “When Stan tragically died of a heart attack while working on the farm, I thought that it might dent his enthusiasm. While the loss of his friend knocked him about for a bit, it wasn’t long before he was back up there again, even taking the girls with him to ride our horses

property by breaking the padlock on the gate. ‘And what do you think you were doing on my land?’ I heard him say indignantly. “The response from the policeman on the other end of the phone obviously took Vern by surprise. I recall him saying defensively, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about that.’ When he put down the phone, he turned to me and said, ‘They think I’ve been growing marijuana down by the creek.’

that we spelled up there and rough it in sleeping bags in the big shed,

“They’d apparently found a few bushes and thought that Vern was

which was the only building on the property.

some sort of drug dealer! He told them that he wouldn’t even know

“At some stage he decided that he needed to invest in a few head

Pictured: Vera with daughter Beryl on tractor

to drive to Gingin to round them up.

afford to indulge his passion and, together with a mate, Stan Burns,

“He couldn’t wait to head off on a weekend up to the ‘farm’ with Stan.

62

straying and Vern would get a call from the neighbours and then have

what a marijuana plant looked like, let alone know how to cultivate it.”

of cattle, probably to keep the scrawny smattering of sheep - that

Vern eventually sold off the land to a turf farmer, not long after Stan

he also had grazing on the property - company. But the cattle kept

died, making a tidy profit in the process.


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

A FAMILY AFFAIR WHILE VE RN A ND KAY HIDDLE S TO NE WO ULD BE BLE S S E D WITH THE ADDITIO N O F ANO THE R TWO DAUG HTE RS TO JO IN DO NNA A ND KE LLY ... … Natalie, born in 1973 and Brooke, born in 1977 ... the Hiddlestone ‘Bros’ name would not be extended with the addition of another male progeny. However, the company would continue to remain a ‘family affair’. In addition to his wife, daughters and his business, Vern’s other great love was horses. Which was no surprise given his youthful desire to be a farmer. In the early 1980s, Vern Hiddlestone did the unthinkable and moved his family from their home in Wembley Downs out to acreage in Wanneroo, many miles away from his beloved Subiaco. Vern purchased ten acres in Lenore Road, Wanneroo, so that his girls could also indulge their own love of horses. Vern and Kay were always heavily involved with the girls’ pony clubs and events in which they competed. Vern served as President of the Perth Horse and Pony Club for 16 years and both Vern and Kay became life members of the club.

Top L-R: Kay Hiddlestone, daughter Kelly (on knee), Vera Hiddlestone, Warren Goodfield, Vern Hiddlestone & daughter Donna (on knee) at Shenton Park Lake Christmas Carols Bottom: Hiddlestone Eelctrics were long-term sponsors of the WA Horse of The Year Award. Vern Hiddlestone pictured with 1993 award winner

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D UR I NG T HE T I ME T HE Y

Then, as the result of a playground accident,

W ER E LI VI NG AT W EM BLE Y

grandparents to recover.

D OW NS T HEY K EPT T HE IR

“I stayed with them for nearly six months. Mum tells

HOR SES I N SEPAR AT E

the story that when she used to come to pick me up,

STABLES AT T HE BOTTO M O F

to the horses. But when we shifted from Wembley

I’d hide from her, because I didn’t want to go home

NEAR BY HALE R OAD . ..

Downs to Wanneroo, I wasn’t given a choice. It was,

... but as Donna and Kelly, in particular, became

“Dad, ever practical as always, made that decision

more involved with pony club and competitive horse

that he wasn’t running two cars from Wanneroo to

shows, it made more sense to make the move to a

Osborne Park where I used to dance. I was absolutely

place where they had space for stables and room to

gutted. I should have known that no matter how

graze their horses and ponies.

much I begged, pleaded or chucked tantrums, Dad

But not all the Hiddlestone daughters were happy

‘you are not dancing and that’s that.’

was not going to change his mind.

with the move. Young Nat, who was around 9 at the

“I think that decision actually changed me as a

time, had never shown any interest in horse riding -

person. I didn’t realise it back then that no matter

she had her sights set on being a dancer.

how much I begged and pleaded to do the one thing

“My two older sisters, Donna and Kelly, loved horse riding but I never wanted to ride because I saw myself becoming a dancer and, at every chance, I’d go and stay with Marnie and Pop, my Mum’s parents, at their home in Nedlands and they would take me to dance classes. I never wanted to go home because I’d be expected to get involved with the horses. I didn’t even like horses. I thought they were smelly and dirty.” Nat said.

64

young Nat broke her leg and went to stay with her

Pictured: Natalie Hiddlestone with her first pony, Cadigan

I wanted to do most in the world, it fell on deaf ears. Which is probably why I’ve gone through life never asking for help. I’ve always been my own person. I did, however, end up getting to enjoy riding horses with my sisters. It created a great family bond for all of us growing up. In fact, I am currently Vice President of the same pony club and, like Mum and Dad, I am also a life member.”


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

ALL VE RN AND KAY ’S G IRLS WO ULD, AT SOM E TIME , BE CO ME INVO LVE D IN THE BUSINE S S . Kelly would break the all-male environment and, in the mid-1980s, become the first woman to formally join the company, initially as an apprentice. She would go on to help modernise the company’s administration and office management by transitioning it from handwritten price tags and invoices to electric typewriters and eventually computers; dragging the company out of the ‘boy’s club’ mentality that had prevailed, and into the 20th century. George Shaw always thought that Kelly had what it took to make it as an electrician: “She worked with me for about six months on the tools when she first started and I think she would have made a bloody good tradie had she stuck at it. But it was around the time old Cec died, as I recall, and Vern wanted her to help in the office with bookwork and that sort of thing.” Sister Nat, corroborates George’s story that Kelly probably would have made a good tradie, but believes that a move into the administration area was where her input was most needed. Kelly would eventually maintain her ‘tradie link’ when she married Steven Guelfi, who was an electrician with Hiddlestone at the time. Kelly and Steven’s three boys all went on to work in the electrical industry with their parents. “When Pop died, Dad did need a lot of help in the office and so took Kelly off the tools to assist him. We all grew up running around the original shop at 85 Rokeby Road,” Nat added. “I have very fond memories of helping my Dad and Uncle Bert on weekends. We’d sweep the floor and, if we found any money, we were allowed to keep it and go down to the local corner shop to buy an ice cream.”

Top: Vern & Kay with their daughters Bottom: Image of Kelly & Vern from newspaper article in Subiaco Post

65


COMMITTED TO THE COMMUNITY Following the death of his father, Vern now became

support for a diverse range of local clubs, events,

even more synonymous as the face of Hiddlestone

organisations and associations. Here is a brief

Electrics and, in addition to working long hours

summary of some of the entities that Hiddlestone

building his family business, also found time to be

Electrics has been involved with, some of which the

active in the local Subiaco community. Vern had a true

company still supports.

love of Subiaco.

HE BELI EVED T HAT HE OWE D

SUBIACO FOOTBALL CLUB

T HE CI T Y OF HI S BI RT H A

JOLIMONT FOOTBALL CLUB

D EBT OF GR AT I T U DE AND

THE PERTH HORSE & PONY CLUB

W OU LD NEVER HEAR A BAD W OR D SAI D ABOU T HI S BELOVED ‘SU BI ’ . He had a favourite saying that he repeated often,

CITY OF SUBIACO SUBIACO STREET PARTY SHENTON PARK CHRISTMAS CAROLS SUBIACO BUSINESS ASSOC PERTH REDBACKS BASKETBALL

not much good’. Many of the people he touched with

SUBIACO BASKETBALL ASSOC

his generosity might disagree with that statement.

PERTH LYNX BASKETBALL

Even before the company began trading back in 1920,

WOODLANDS TEE BALL

the Hiddlestone name was prominent in the local

WOODLANDS PRIMARY SCHOOL

for Subiaco-Jolimont and Bert heavily involved in administration and team management. Over the ensuing years this community involvement

Pictured: Vern with his collection of personalised Subiaco number plates

SUBIACO PRIMARY SCHOOL

‘Subiaco has been good to me. Without Subiaco, I’m

community with Cec playing football and cricket

66

PCYC Subiaco

expanded

into the company assisting with and

donating

both funds and physical man hours of

WEMBLEY BASEBALL BALGA TAFE WESTERN SUBURBS BUSINESS ASSOC SUBILICIOUS - FRINGE FESTIVAL


HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

Sue Scrutton is one person who is more than willing to sing

“We had a commemoration ceremony scheduled for Donate

Together they were instrumental in Subiaco becoming the

the praises of Vern Hiddlestone and his company:

Life, in association with the City of Cambridge. I met Vern

first city in Perth to remove overhead power lines completely

on site after I’d contacted him and asked him to come and

and take them underground. This milestone moment was

have a look at the job. When he quoted me the price to do

finalised in 1984.

“I took over the staging of the ‘Sunset at Subi’ concerts for the City of Subiaco in 2006 and had to set up all the necessary framework. I had someone doing the lighting, sound and so on but that required electrical certification before I could get approval to proceed. “The first certification cost me a heck of a lot of money and I must have been talking to Vern about it. I can’t remember exactly how we met. I think Vern might have introduced himself to me, but I remember saying to him that it was a big dent out of my small takings, and, without hesitating, he said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it for you.’

the electrical work on the project, I was a bit astounded. It was obviously a very different matter when the job didn’t involve Vern’s beloved Subiaco. So, he really did do me a big, big favour all those years ago.

That achievement opened the floodgates and Vern threw his support behind a wide range of community events and initiatives, buoyed by the support of Mayor Richard Diggins. In quick succession, Hiddlestone Electrics got behind Carols

“I will be forever grateful to Vern. He was always there to

By Candlelight at Shenton Park, the Subiaco Rotary Fair and

give me advice if I ever needed it when I was starting off. He

also installed Christmas Lights along Subiaco’s main streets.

was very helpful about what I’d need and what I wouldn’t. If I wanted a sounding board, all I had to do was pick up the phone. He was a good man, who was cut down far too soon.”

We go back to George Shaw again for his remembrances on Vern’s involvement with lighting up the streets of Subiaco. “We were walking down Hay Street, popping in and out of

“So, for every Sunday concert over the next three and a

CI T Y OF SU BI ACO T OW N CLER K

half years, Vern came to each event and signed off on my

AT T HE T I ME, JI M MCGEOU GH,

electricity for the lights – Vern got everyone involved, that’s

WAS COMMI T T ED T O TAKI NG THE

would stop and say, ‘How you going Vern?’ and I’d continue

electrical certification, saving me a huge amount of money. He not only came to each concert, he also brought along all of his family, including his lovely wife, Kay, and lots of kids and grandchildren. They would sit up the back and I think that they were probably one of our most enthusiastic and constant supporters.” But Sue would also experience just how supportive and pro-Subi, above all else, Vern was some years later. “It was

retail shops, arranging for extension leads and access to just what he did. Seemed like every few metres someone

POW ER SU PPLY U ND ER GR OU ND IN

on down to the next location to measure up.

SU BI ACO AND HE HAD A W I LLI NG

“I’d suddenly look back and there’s Vern, two hundred metres

AND ACT I VE SUPPORT ER I N VE RN HI DD LEST ONE.

behind, still standing there chatting away. He had so much time for everyone, especially older people. And he never forgot a name, which used to astound the people he’d meet. He’d not only remember their name but he’d know where

a different matter after I finished with ‘Sunset at Subi’ and

they lived and the work he’d done for them, no matter how

took on a new role with ‘Donate Life WA’, which was about

long ago it might have been.

organ and tissue donation.

67


“People used to call into our shop for a chat with Vern,

She was a lovely lady and I remember meeting her

Cec or Bert, because it seemed Hiddlestones had

daughter Isabelle too. She was pretty lively, as I recall.

been there forever and were just part of the fabric of

Used to teach all the young nurses to dance the waltz.

Subiaco.”

“All the young men who came to do work from

In an interview conducted for the book with 92-

Hiddlestones were all very nice and extremely polite. I

year old Zoe Whitehead, she revealed that her

liked Bert, we used to get on very well. He did all sorts

family’s association with Hiddlestone Bros and later,

of little electrical jobs for me. I recall buying a set of

Hiddlestone Electrics, started in 1950, when she and

telephones in 1960, I think it was, and they didn’t work

her husband, Noel, moved into their first home in

properly, so I took them down to Bert in Rokeby Road

Subiaco.

and he fixed them for me.

“Our new home, in Kings Road in Subiaco, needed some

“I recently sold my house in Kings Road to move into

electrical work and I didn’t have any idea about who we

aged care and right up until the time I left, Hiddlestone

should use. The Whiteheads, my husband’s family, had

Electrics was still doing electrical work for me.”

used Hiddlestone Bros for many years. “My father-in-law was The Rector of St. Matthews Church in Shenton Park. Apparently, the Hiddlestone family worshipped at St Matthews and had donated the organ for the church. So, of course, Hiddlestone Bros had to be the electricians we used. “I was a country girl from Meckering and came down to Perth to go to boarding school at St. Hilda’s. I then trained as a nurse before getting married and moving to Subiaco. In fact, I used to nurse old Mrs. Hiddlestone. She was in a home that I worked in one day a week and so used to visit her often.

68

Pictured: Vern with young electricians, Kris Thompson and Shane Jolley, beside fleet of Hiddlestone vans


ACCOLADES & AGITATION

HIDDLESTONE THE THIRD 25 YEARS 1971-1995

IN 1 9 9 0, HID D L E S TO N E

When the Council released new customised

E L E C T R I C S WAS

promotional effort, Vern was first to step up and

Subiaco number plates as part of a ‘pro-Subi’

RE C OGN I SE D W I TH A

order plates for all his vehicles.

ROTA RY AWARD FO R

Vern had been a willing supporter of this joint

IT S SE RVI C E S TO TH E

Association, of which Vern had been an active

initiative, driven by the Subiaco Business

COM M UN I TY.

member since its inception, and Subiaco City

A year later the company was the recipient of a

Vern talked enthusiastically about acquiring

similar accolade, this time an Australian Small

the licence plates in his 2001 interview with the

Business Award. This recognition reinforced

Subiaco Historical Society’s John Bannister:

Hiddlestone’s

commitment

Council.

to

service

and

reliability. As a small business, the company depended on support from the local community for its existence and, more than anyone, Vern knew that it was a trait that had contributed to the company’s longevity and standing within Subiaco and the wider community. Vern took every opportunity to always present the company, and its employees, in the best

“I was very passionate about it. It started as an idea promoted by the City and the Subiaco Business Association, and was a really great concept for my company, because I have a fairly large fleet of vehicles. Out of the 44 plates that we first sold at the Subiaco street party, I offered to buy the numbers one to fifteen, as I recall all but number thirteen, because I didn’t want to push my luck!

possible light. This included outfitting all his

“I really wanted the number one plate, but the

electricians and office staff, including himself,

City told me, ‘that’s reserved for the Mayor’,

in smart khaki-coloured polo shirts, emblazoned

which was strange, because the Mayor rode a

with the company logo and matching shorts and

pushbike and never ever owned a car. And I told

trousers. He also took pains to keep the ever-

them that I’d pay top dollar for the zero-one

expanding Hiddlestone vehicle fleet up to date

plate.

and immaculately presented.

Pictured: Vern posing next to company vehicle with personalised 'There's Something About Subiaco' number plates

69


“But the City still wouldn’t sell it to me. So, I created

If it had anything to do with Subi, it was a sure bet

my own ‘double zero’ plate, which made everybody

that Vern Hiddlestone was behind it or was an active

think that my wife, Kay, was the Mayor, because she

and vocal supporter. In the late 1990s Vern would

drove the car with that plate. It always made me feel

undertake a major restoration of the shopfronts of

good to see photos of four or five of our Hiddlestone

the company’s premises at 83-85 Rokeby Road that

vans lined up, side by side, with their consecutive Subi

would include the addition of ornate balconies and

number plates, and the old bloke still at the helm. It

verandahs that reflected the charm and history of

reinforced our strong connection with the city I love.”

early Subiaco’s retail strip.

Ironically, Vern’s daughter, Natalie, ended up buying

It was a move that would draw Vern into a major

the number thirteen plate and had it for some time

stoush with Council and would eventually escalate

until the ‘01’ Subiaco plate was offered for sale and she

into a dispute from which Vern was determined not

now displays that proudly on her vehicle. Kay still has

to change his stance. Council should have known

the ‘00’ plate on the car she drives.

then that when it came to matters concerning the

IT I S N OT W I D E LY K N O W N TH AT I T WAS VE RN W H O WAS B EH I N D I N CL UD I N G TH E P H R A SE , ‘ TH E RE ’S S OM ET H I N G AB O UT S U B IACO ’, O N T H E PER S O N AL IS E D S U B I NU M B ER P L ATE S E RI E S .

70

Pictured: Vern beside coveted '00' personalised Subiaco plate

presentation and preservation of his beloved Subi, Vern Hiddlestone could be both stubborn and highly motivated to get what he wanted.


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996 - 2020

INTO THE HOME ST RET C H A HERITAGE HOME & A T ILT AT P U BL IC O F F IC E EIGHTY YEARS YOU NG ON THE MOVE MORE AWARDS & P EER REC O G NIT IO N ANOTHER DECADE C L O S ER SUBIACO LOSES A L EG END LOYAL TO A FAULT FROM COUNTING T HE TAK ING S T O TAK ING O VER T HE BUS INES S STREAMLINING T HE BU S INES S COMMUNITY SPIRIT LANEWAY HONOUR CLIPSAL’ S VERN HID D L ES T O NE AP P RENT ICES HIP AWARD STEPPING OUT FR O M BEHIND A V ERY L ARG E S HA DO W COMING THE FUL L CIRCL E AS THE 100-YEAR ANNIVERS ARY AP P RO ACHES …

71


INTO THE HOME STRETCH I T WAS NOW MORE

The Y2K ‘bug’ was on everyone’s lips. Would

T HAN T HR EE QU ARTE RS

the sky and would the world grind to a halt

everything crash, would planes fall out of

OF A CENT U RY SINCE

at midnight on December 31st, 1999? Not

HOWAR D HI DD LES TO NE

Vern Hiddlestone was blithely unaware of the

HAD PUSHED HI S RICKE TY OLD BI CYCLE U P RO KE BY R OAD .

being computer savvy or into all things digital, impending doom. His focus, as always, was more local and immediate. Major changes were underway at Hiddlestone headquarters down in Rokeby Road, Subiaco too. In the late 1990s Vern embarked upon a

With a new century on the horizon, Vern

major restoration of the company’s premises

Hiddlestone was putting plans in place to

at 83-85 Rokeby Road, including the shop’s two

take his family company forward into a new

store frontages, to which ornate balconies and

millennium.

verandahs were added.

Technology was advancing at breakneck speed

As Subiaco grew, so did the desire to modernise

and there was an exciting undercurrent of

and renovate hundreds of its commercial and

change in the air as Australia hurtled headlong

retail premises, some of which, by that stage,

into the 21st century. The ‘internet highway’

were over a century old. Hiddlestones had

was making its presence felt more in a rapidly

helped with the renovation of quite a number

increasing number of people’s lives and in the

of these premises, providing electrical rewiring

world of business in particular.

and lighting upgrades.

Advances in telecommunications were now

But, in the process of carrying out these

happening with such speed that Alexander

upgrades, iconic locations, like the Subiaco

Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, if alive

Hotel, had been stripped of their distinctive

today, would be scratching his head wondering

timber posts and the classic curve of their

what sort of juggernaut he had created.

corrugated iron, bull-nosed verandahs. New Council building codes required that these be replaced with safer, more modern cantilevered designs.

72

Pictured: Verandah restoration at 83-85 Rokeby Rd Subiaco


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

I N AN EFF ORT T O R ETAIN

This tussle culminated in Vern taking his case to

SOME SEMBLANCE

Minister sided with Vern and the restoration project

Graham Kierath, the Minister for Planning. The

OF SU BI ACO’ S R I CH

eventually went ahead. The appeal process, legal

AR CHI T ECT UR AL HI ST O RY,

Government’s new 10% GST on everything, including

costs and the untimely introduction of the Federal

VER N T OOK U P T HE CA US E

building materials, all added up and led to Vern

AND UR GED F ELLOW

anticipated on his pet project.

PR OPERT Y OW NER S,

spending many thousands of dollars more than

In typical Vern fashion, he shrugged off the additional

ALONG R OKEBY R OAD IN

cost, saying, “all I wanted was to restore some of the

PART I CU LAR , T O R ESTO RE

restoration was a hit with local residents and business

T HEI R VER AND AHS AND

character to Subiaco’s main business district.” The owners, receiving many favourable comments, including a banner headline in the local community

BR I NG BACK T HE ELEGANCE

newspaper that read, ’Vern’s victorious verandahs’.

OF A BYGONE ER A. Vern’s proposal met stiff opposition in Council and for two years he fought fiercely for his proposal. Which was a bit awkward as, by that time, Vern had successfully run for a position on Council. Whenever the item was tabled for discussion at meetings, Vern would have to excuse himself and leave his fellow Councillors to debate the issue. However, this neither dissuaded Vern from pursuing his pet project or from performing his role as a Councillor. We will talk more on Vern’s bid for Council a little later.

Pictured: Article from Subiaco Post on Vern's victory over Subiaco City Council

73


A HERITAGE HOME & A TILT AT PUBLIC OFFICE Kay Hiddlestone tells the story of how they came to buy the historical property. “Vern and I were out walking around Subi one Saturday morning, as we often did, and as we passed Duffel House, we noticed that there was an auction taking place. “Initially, I thought Vern didn’t even realise it was for sale. But, knowing him, he probably was aware of it all along and orchestrated it so we just ‘happened to walk past’ as the auction was about to begin! “Vern got involved in the bidding process and, much to our surprise, we ended up securing the winning bid. We couldn’t pass it up because we got it at such a great price.”

I N 1999, T W O MAJO R

Kay did add, however, that later on, after renovating

EVENT S OCCU R R ED . THE

reason why he wanted to bid on the property. He

some of the building’s exterior, Vern did tell her the

F I R ST WAS VER N AND

had purchased Duffel House because there was

W I F E K AY’ S PU R CHAS E O F

he couldn’t stand seeing such an integral part of

talk that someone was going to develop it and

HER I TAGE- LI ST ED DUFFE L

Subiaco’s history being wiped out.

HOU SE AT 135 HAM E RS LE Y

In a curious twist of fate, Peter Stewart, who

R OAD I N SU BI ACO.

over 40 years, and was a close friend and confidant

handled all of Hiddlestone’s financial affairs for of Vern’s, discovered that the house Vern had

The stately, single-level Federation-style home

purchased was originally built and owned by his

was built in 1914 by the then Mayor of Subiaco,

great grandfather.

Joseph Duffel.

74

There is some confusion on the spelling of ‘Duffel’ (as you can see from the auction ad above). Duffel House is the correct spelling for this historic home.


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

“I was out of Perth, at the time, when Vern rang me. He was quite

Former Subiaco Mayor, Heather Henderson, developed a great

excited. He said, ‘Pete, I just bought this property in Subi. It’s

friendship with Vern and tells a story about Vern’s time on

heritage-listed. They call it Duffel House’.

Council.

“ ‘Duffel House’, I said to myself, and suddenly realised why

“Vern was a great character and well known up and down

the name sounded so familiar. I said to Vern, ‘That’s my great

Rokeby Road. He tended to attract people to him because he

grandfather’s house Vern, Joseph Duffel. He was Mayor of

had a wonderful inclusive manner when he engaged with them.

Subiaco. I remember my Mum telling me that he built it back in

So, Vern was really very well known in the community and very

1914.’ For once in his life, Vern was lost for words.”

active in the business association at one stage.

T HE OT HER MAJOR EVENT, R AI SED

“He served on Council for a four-year period, and it was then

EAR LI ER , WAS VER N’ S D ECI SI ON T O

House, which has a very critical history because Joseph Duffel

R UN F OR PU BLI C OF FI CE.

that he and Kay lived in the property across the road, Duffel was a Mayor of the City of Subiaco many years before. “Vern used to walk across the park to Council Chambers from his

While his successful stoush with Subiaco City Council over the

new home, as the former Mayor would have, and we always used

verandahs may have given him a taste for helping to influence

to tease him that he was the ‘second Mr. Duffel’. He had such a

positive change in his beloved city, it was obvious to everyone

good sense of humour and served the council so well.”

who knew him, that his motives in standing for Council would only be for the betterment of a city that Vern, in his own words said, ‘has been good to me.’ Vern was elected as a city councillor in 1999 and served until 2003. By now residing in Duffel House, he would make the same journey as Peter Stewart’s great grandfather, Mayor Joseph Duffel, had more than a century ago, walking across from his Hamersley Road heritage-listed residence to Council Chambers on the opposite side of the Rankin Gardens park.

Pictured: Vern Hiddlestone flyer from May 1999 council election

75


EIGHTY YEARS YOUNG T HE Y E A R 2000 S AW THE BE G INNING O F THE MUCH-VAUNTE D NE W MILLE NNIUM. After drawing a collective sigh when planes didn’t fall out of the sky or computers failed to suddenly shut down on the stroke of midnight 1999, people embraced the challenges and expectations of a new century with gusto. There was a positive, upbeat feeling and nowhere was it more evident than at Hiddlestone Electrics.

I T WA S NO W E IG HT DE CADE S S INCE THE COMPANY HAD CO MME NCE D TRA DING AND VER N PLA NNE D A MAJO R CE LE BRATIO N IN R ECOG NITIO N O F 80 Y E ARS IN BUS INE S S . The Palms Community Centre on the corner of Nicholson and Rokeby Road was booked and an old-fashioned ‘dinner-dance’ staged for over 300 guests, made up of local dignitaries, clients and suppliers. Walk-in clients and Subiaco residents weren’t forgotten either, with a free Saturday morning ‘sausage sizzle’, outside Hiddlestone’s Rokeby Road shop. In an interview Vern gave with the Subiaco Post following the well-attended event, he told the reporter that his family were firm believers in “stamina and staying power” and that “a small, efficient team, armed with knowledge, is the best service you can give.”

76

Pictured: L-R Vera, Vern, Kay, Natalie & Brooke Hiddlestone with Reece Guelfi. Article from Subiaco Post


ON THE MOVE

HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

BY 2 001 , H I D DL E S TO N E E L E C T R I CS

Football Ground, the now former home of The Eagles and Dockers

HA D FI N AL LY O U TG RO W N I TS

known and respected Subiaco family, the Stannards, who had

83 -8 5 R O K E B Y RO AD P RE MI S ES AN D R E L O CATE D ACRO S S TH E R OAD, TO A N OT HE R B U I L D IN G TH AT T HE COM PAN Y AL S O O WN E D, I N DENI S S T R EET. The new location offered substantially more car parking space, which was needed to accommodate the growing fleet of Hiddlestone vans and vehicles. The move to Denis Street was really just a stepping stone for Vern Hiddlestone. Next to running his electrical business, the acquisition of property had always been a key driver in his quest for success and financial stability for his family. Vern had purchased the Denis Street property through his superannuation fund, not the company, which meant that he had to use it as his place of business for a certain period to satisfy funding requirements. Always thinking ahead, the man whose portfolio of properties, at one stage, gave him access to 80 votes in council elections, had already decided on his next move. Vern also owned a property in Townshend Road, just a few doors

AFL clubs. He had purchased the property from another welloperated a successful dry-cleaning business from the premises for many years. With the current lease on the Townshend Road property due to expire, Vern sold Denis Street to a developer, who had plans to turn the site into a much-needed underground car park. Vern had long campaigned for increased car parking space in Subiaco, which he saw as a looming problem inhibiting the city’s growth. Ironically, the developer would eventually on-sell the completed site to the City of Subiaco for use as a council car park, which no doubt drew a rueful smile from Vern. Mission accomplished! The relocation to 30 Townshend Road took place in 2005 and Hiddlestone Electrics now had a new home that would see them through to their centenary celebrations in 2020 and beyond. It didn’t take long for the new back office at Townshend Road to assume Vern’s trademark look with files piled high on desks, random Post-it notes dotted here and there, all carrying Vern’s familiar scrawl, pieces of partly-repaired electrical equipment strewn everywhere, all surrounded by almost a century of assorted bric-a-brac and historical family photos adorning the shelves and the office walls. It all seemed to add to the relaxed, friendly atmosphere that everyone who dropped in to Vern’s office for a chat noticed and appreciated.

down from the Roberts Road headquarters of the iconic Subiaco

Pictured: Vern standing outside premises at 30 Townshend Road, Subiaco

77


MORE AWARDS & PEER RECOGNITION While awards and accolades meant very little to Vern - his preference being to provide value-for-money prompt and attentive service to his customers and promote the cause of his beloved Subiaco whenever he could.

I T WAS I NEVI TABLE T HAT HIS EF F ORT S AND ACHI EVEME NTS W OU LD NOT GO UNNOT ICE D. In 2006, Hiddlestone Electrics was commended in the Family Business of The Year (WA) Awards. The company had been a member of this Australian-wide association for some time and the accolade was a well-earned recognition of the company’s continued success as a family-run business. It would be the forerunner to further honours the company would

ANOTHER DECADE CLOSER The first decade of the new millennium seemed to flash by for Vern and his team at Hiddlestone and now, with a century of service in sight ...

... IT FE LT APPRO PRIATE TO CE LE BRATE ANO THE R MILE S TO NE , NINE TY CO NTINUO US Y E ARS O F BE ING IN BUS INE S S . For this event, the Subiaco Bowls Club was the venue,

have bestowed on it a decade later.

playing host to over 200 guests, who partied long into

While Vern probably remained blissfully oblivious to

the ‘big 9-0’.

the night, helping the Hiddlestone family celebrate

the importance of the role he and his family company played and its impact on the history and growth of Subiaco, his many satisfied long-time clients were in no doubt about Hiddlestone’s contribution. Hiddlestone Electrics and Vern were part of the furniture, the heart and soul of the close-knit community that Subiaco had become, and they were not shy in their acknowledgement of the company’s contribution.

78

Left: Vern in his element in the stock room. Photo courtesy of Western Suburbs Newspaper Right: Vern, Kay, Beryl Goodfield, Brooke & Natalie Hiddlestone from 90th anniversary article in Subiaco Post


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

SUBIACO LOSES A LEGEND June 30th is usually a busy time for people in

“On their way back they dropped in to see me. My

business. It’s the end of the financial year and,

partner Sean had, without me knowing, caught

despite the disorganised appearance of his back

up with Dad at a local Subi café, Bishop & Clove,

office, Vern Hiddlestone was very organised

owned by a dear friend of my Mum’s. We had

when it came to his finances.

been talking about getting married for some time

Vern’s daughter Natalie vividly recalls the events of the fateful weekend before the end of the 2014

and Sean wanted to do the right thing but was a little nervous about asking Dad’s ‘permission’.

financial year.

“I’d even jokingly suggested that I talk to Dad,

“Dad had made Mum a cup of tea and went to

but Sean insisted, and they apparently met for

bed early on Sunday night. His shirt and gear were

coffee and a chat on the Friday before their

neatly laid out ready for work the next morning,

weekend away. Mum and Dad were delighted

as usual. Being the last day of the financial year,

with the news and had decided to drop in and

Dad expected to be busy; he didn’t expect to die,

talk about plans with us on the Sunday morning.

he wasn’t sick.

We had a cup of tea with them and chatted about plans for the wedding."

“Mum and Dad had enjoyed the weekend, using a voucher they had won almost a year earlier for a weekend at the exclusive Vines Country Club in the Swan Valley. Being the end of the financial year, the voucher was about to run out and I said to Dad that if he didn’t want it, I’d take it. In the end, they decided to go, and I was so pleased because they enjoyed a wonderful weekend together.

"I KIS S E D BO TH O F THE M G O O DBY E , AND TO LD DA D THAT I WO ULD S E E HIM AT WO RK BRIG HT AND E ARLY TO MO RRO W MO RNING . THE Y S E E ME D S O HAPPY.

Pictured: Celebrating Kay's 60th birthday

79


Subiaco had lost a legend. A man who had championed

Keeping tenants happy was a priority for Vern and he prided

his hometown, the place of his birth, throughout his life.

himself on maintaining long-term leases for his and the

He was devoted to doing whatever he could, whenever the

company’s many investment properties.

opportunity arose, without expectation of reward or benefit.

operated one of Subiaco’s oldest nightclubs, The Red Sea,

one of the biggest ever seen in Subiaco, with an estimated

were long-term tenants of Vern’s. Their nightclub was

one thousand people present at the cremation at Karrakatta

located above 83 Rokeby Road in Subiaco where Hiddlestone

cemetery and around 750 attending the wake that followed at

Electrics resided for many years.

Subiaco Football Ground. It was a fitting testament to Vern’s popularity, and a true mark of respect and acknowledgement

“Vern was pretty old school. He used to write everything

and loved.

down by hand. I was a bit in awe of him actually. He built

As Natalie observed following his passing, “he was born and

TRY AN D WAK E D AD , TH IN K IN G

Subiaco, he did it.”

bred here and if Vern Hiddlestone had to make a sacrifice for

An initiative Natalie remembers Vern being most proud of

the building where we had our nightclub virtually by hand. He gave his heart and soul for Subi. “As a landlord, he was always reasonable. He was prepared to listen. But he could also be pretty tough when it came to negotiating. If he ended up doing what he thought was a bad

WAS UN USU AL F O R H I M.

was reducing the rents of many of the commercial properties

“While there is no such thing as a ‘good’ way to die, looking

its once vibrant self and help provide incentives to fill the

“He was the driving force behind the Subiaco Christmas

back at how Dad’s passing transpired, I think he would be

growing number of untenanted shops and commercial

Lights and other major community events and that probably

happy with the way he went. He died peacefully, in his sleep,

buildings in the precinct.

involved a financial commitment on Vern’s behalf. So, he

a little more than a year after celebrating his golden wedding

“Dad was so intent on helping stem the rapidly declining

anniversary with the love of his life, and on the same day as his Mum, Vera’s, birthday. “The fact that it was also, ironically, the end of the financial year, I think would have made him smile. Everything neat and tidy – the end of financial year coinciding with the end of a long, fruitful and satisfying life.”

80

John remembers Vern as a landlord who was ‘tough but fair’.

from friends and residents of the city that he was devoted to

NE X T M OR NIN G , MU M W E N T I N T O TH AT H E H AD O VE RS L E P T, W H I CH

John Masel, who, along with his brother, Gary, owned and

His funeral, which took place on Saturday July 12, 2014, was

Pictured: Vern & Natalie at 'Scapes', Natalie's photographic exhibition

he owned in Subiaco in an attempt to get the city back to

occupancy levels in Subiaco’s commercial precinct that he offered new tenants four month’s free rent, long leases and a four-year commitment to peg annual increases to

deal with you, he’d be upset, but he’d stick by it.

was giving back. He wasn’t just taking all the time and the community appreciated what he did. I think, if more people adopted that kind of approach, the Subiaco community would be better off in a total sense.”

just 1.5%. The result was swift and positive. While other

One of Vern’s favourite pastimes was to stroll around

landlords languished with empty offices and buildings, Dad’s

Subiaco, engaging with shopkeepers and residents. It was no

properties were occupied by satisfied long-term tenants.”

secret that he loved a chat over a coffee with the many close


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

friends and acquaintances he had made over the years. So much so that wife Kay affectionately dubbed him ‘Harryhave-a-chat’.

afraid to tell you how you were doing. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or get into a stoush with you.” Long-time friend, Tony Costa, who was Mayor during Vern’s

Vern was also a founding member of the Subiaco Business Association, which made him a life member in 2011. Its president, Geoff Parnell, said Vern had seen Subiaco through its highs and lows, but his passion was to strive to make it

In his 2001 Subiaco Historical Society interview, Vern

tenure on Council, spoke of a down-to-earth friend and

attempted to describe what his city meant to him.

colleague who did so much good work behind the scenes.

“I still walk up and down Rokeby Road all the time. I always

“He did a lot of freebies and helped a lot of people. He was

“HE WILL BE A MAJO R LO S S TO

go to the bank and the post office every second day. But

very generous with his time and support. On Council, he was

what Subi is really about to me, is the people.

a respected business voice and was a likeable, genuine and

S UBIACO , IT WO N’T BE THE S AME

“There’s Murray Rowe, who owns the Friendlies Chemist and

good-natured man, easy to work with; he wasn’t up himself.”

then there’s Max, who owns Dymocks and we still have John

A measure of the respect Vern garnered was demonstrated

Thornton’s Regal Theatre, which we’ve managed to keep

after an article appeared in the local community newspaper,

going; such an historical landmark and iconic location.

The Post, in which Vern was quoted about how local

“Everywhere I go, there’s always someone to stop and chat

WITHO UT V E RN.”

businesses were doing it tough.

with. And it’s wonderful that almost all of them are my

Subiaco resident, John Arnold, spoke to Vern soon after that

customers. It’s just a lovely city; a great place to live.”

article was published.

Vern’s passing generated an outpouring of grief, tinged with

“I read in The Post how Vern owned a lot of buildings in

gratitude from so many of his friends and colleagues, for

Subiaco and had reduced the rents to help businesses.

one of their own favoured sons. A man whose presence and

I ran into him in the street about three weeks later and

passion would be sorely missed but never forgotten.

congratulated him for this. With a laugh, he said I was the

Former Subiaco Mayor, Heather Henderson, said of Vern,

better. He summed up the views of many when he said:

forty-first person to tell him that.”

that he had been important in driving local development and

Regal Theatre chairman at the time and former Mayor,

supporting local sporting and other clubs.

Richard Diggins, sang Vern’s praises and strong work ethic.

“Vern was heavily involved at the start of Subiaco’s

“Vern made sure the show went on at the Regal Theatre,

underground power project in 1984 and had provided

no matter what time of night he was called out, and did so

Christmas lights in Rokeby Road for years. He was a great

for 30 or 40 years. He knew every circuit in the old theatre

barometer. If you met him in the street, he wouldn’t be

backwards. He was always the first to help out anyone in a tight spot and I understand he was a quiet philanthropist.”

Pictured: Caricature of Vern, 'Mr Subiaco'

81


LOYAL TO A FAULT VER N’ S BUSI NES S

Asked once why his company had been able

PHI LOSOPHY WAS PRE TTY

long, his explanation was typical Vern:

SI MPLE. I T WAS BAS E D

to weather the storm and stay in business so

“We don’t sell new gizmos and fandangle

ON PR OVI D I NG WHAT

gadgets. We don’t import the latest electrical

HE D U BBED , ‘G O O D,

be found on a store shelf. Nor can you find it

appliances from overseas. What we offer can’t online. It doesn’t even have a recommended

R ELI ABLE SERVICE ’.

retail price. In fact, it is priceless. It’s called

And it was something he drummed into everyone

who

worked

for

Hiddlestone

CUSTOMER SERVICE. “Today’s society is disposable. Upgrades and updates are a dime a dozen. Products these

Electrics.

days are seldom repaired. Manufacturers are He was very old-fashioned when it came to

constantly on-selling replacements in lieu of

the values that dictated how he conducted his

items being repaired.

business and personal life. His handshake was his word and all he needed to conclude a deal and get on with the job.

“From its inception, the company established a reputation for reliability. We are proud to have grown with such a wonderful city for the

Loyalty and trust had always played an

best part of a century. The company enjoys

important role in the company’s success,

being able to give back to the City that has

dating back to the early days when the

given us so much opportunity.”

Hiddlestone

brothers

first

started

out

together. It is, without doubt, one of the reasons that relationships with clients and contractors have endured for so many years.

82

Top: Natalie & Vern outside 85 Rokeby Road shopfront window Bottom: Hiddlestone Electrics distinctive logo


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

Vern's was one of the very few businesses in Subiaco

On one occasion, during a particularly vicious

that would repair things - a peculiarity and rarity in

hailstorm in Perth that knocked out power all over

today’s throwaway society. People would bring in

the city, Vern and his team worked non-stop for two

old light fittings that came out of their homes that

days. The phone never stopped ringing. Vern proudly

they wanted to put back. Vern and his team gained

boasted that they had serviced 198 customers over

a reputation as a company that would take the time

that two-day period and there was only one call-out

and make the effort to restore and replace them.

that he couldn’t accommodate, which he passed on

As Hiddlestone’s accountant for more than four

to another electrical company to action.

decades, Peter Stewart knew Vern and observed

John Thornton, who operated The Regal Theatre

first-hand the genuine affection and loyalty he and

successfully for many years, was full of praise for Vern

his customers shared with each other.

and his team.

“Most of Vern’s work was from people within the

“I would venture to say that if it hadn’t been for Vern

Subiaco district. And he had a phenomenal memory.

Hiddlestone, and his knowledge of the venue and his

Many times, I would be there working on accounts in

team, who were always on-call and ready for power

his office and the phone would ring. It would be Mrs So

blackouts and breakdowns, which were very frequent

and So and he’d say, ‘Oh yes, I remember you. You’re

in the early days … I mean 24/7 … it was just amazing

in so and so street.’ That was part of Vern’s spiel. He

… I doubt very much if we would have been able to

was just so good with customers.

make this venue work as a live theatre.

“But that’s why his business was successful, because

“They were absolutely critical to it functioning

he knew everybody, and he took the time to ask how

because they were very sympathetic. Vern was

they were. Vern’s business was very old fashioned,

always onside with what we were doing. Keeping

in so much, that it was built on his goodwill. And, if

the theatre going was Hiddlestone’s main job and

you’re nice to people, people remember you and

Vern himself came down frequently to get us out of

they’ll come back two or three or five years later.”

trouble, if we were really in strife. He’d send his guys

Customers came to rely and depend on Hiddlestone Electrics, knowing they could call on Vern to drop what he was doing and help them out in an emergency, no

down and, if they couldn’t handle it, they’d ring up Vern and he would come in at any time. Eleven o’clock at night, whatever it took. They kept us going.”

matter the time or place.

Pictured: Hiddlestones has a reputation for repairing old appliances and chandeliers

83


Peter Fairweather, Director of another long-term client, W.

“We quickly found that we had a lot in common. We both water

Fairweather & Son, whose association with Subiaco pre-dates

skied growing up and both spent a lot of time in Mandurah crabbing

even Hiddlestones, reinforced Vern’s can-do, positive approach to

and fishing. My father was very interested in trotters and owned

business.

Adios Stud, which was highly respected and progressive for its

“I loved Vern because he was always so positive. In the 40 years I knew him, I don’t think I ever saw him down once. He always had

“Vern used to good naturedly wind me up by claiming that

this smiling face and you’d go and see him and come out thinking

Hiddlestone’s family company was older than Weirs, which it was.”

you could take on the world. He just had that positive sort of aura he used to give out. And that’s why I was shocked when he died because you wouldn’t think that God would take him on! “Hiddlestone is such a well-known name. One of the reasons was that during periods like Christmas and other holidays, all the other electricians in the area would divert their phones to Hiddlestone because they knew Vern wouldn’t say no. “Vern was larger than life. Yes, I think that sums him up … ‘larger than life’. And it is hard to imagine life without Vern in it. He was very prominent in Subiaco.” Friend and colleague, Ted Weir, whose family business, Weir Butchers, was established in the early 1940s in Fitzgerald Street, North Perth by his father Bob, found he had a lot in common when he first met Vern Hiddlestone in the 1990s: “I rang Hiddlestones when our previous electrician couldn’t help us and I was so impressed with his friendly, prompt service and obliging nature that we have used their services ever since. “Both Vern and I had been brought up the old-fashioned way in the belief that quality and good, reliable service were essential elements, necessary for the running of our respective businesses.

84

time. And I knew Vern’s Dad, Cec, was really into his race horses.

Left: Bookmark from Vern's funeral service Right: Photograph from Subiaco Post article on Vern's passing

Since Vern’s death, Ted has maintained contact with Hiddlestone Electrics through Vern’s daughter Nat, who Ted says is definitely a ‘chip off the old block’!


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

FROM COUNTING THE TAKINGS TO TAKING OVER THE BUSINESS

“Pop passed away when I was 11 but counting the day’s takings continued right through until I eventually had children of my own, and they then kept it going with Dad. It’s a tradition I miss deeply since he passed. “People often referred to Dad as ‘Mr Subiaco’, an unofficial title he simply adored.” For some, the task of stepping in to fill such very large shoes may have appeared daunting but, after

As a 7-year old, a young Nat Hiddlestone had fond

working so closely alongside her father for a number

memories of the family business in Rokeby Road:

of years before his untimely passing, Nat felt more

“I’d walk in and it was a veritable treasure trove filled with antique electrical appliances, old globes, light fittings and sockets, switches and all sorts of odd and unusual items you’d expect to find in a museum.

than capable of rising to the challenge. According to Nat, despite being a bit old fashioned when it came to his business practices, Vern had made sure that there was no doubt about who was to take over in the event of him not being around any longer.

“It was like an Aladdin’s Cave to me, every time I walked into the shop,” Nat explained when interviewed for an article on the company in a 2017 issue of the Master Electricians’ magazine. “Electrical repairs and components would span the top of the 6-metre long jarrah cabinet that lined a wall in the workshop. On weekends, I’d often come in on a Saturday afternoon and wait until 5pm and then Pop (Cec) would grab a chair, so I could reach the till and we’d count the day’s takings.

Left: Natalie in front of premises at 30 Townshend Road Right: Vern, Reece Guelfi, Kay, Natalie, Brooke, Vera & Kelly

85


“We all knew what was to happen when Dad died. He had always made it well known to everyone that I would take over as Managing Director with Mum taking on a role as a Director. So, that was not an issue. What was a problem was that Dad was the nominee for the business, which meant that when he died we no longer had a nominee. Without this, we could no longer continue trading. “I remember sitting at Dad’s old desk, wondering how we were going to overcome this major hurdle, when I looked across at his beaten-up filing cabinet and saw a fridge magnet with Jason Mooney’s electrical business’s name on it. You couldn’t miss it, because it had a big pair of ‘googly’ eyes instead of the two o’s in his surname. “Jason had worked with us but made the decision, as did a lot of electricians Dad trained, to branch out on his own. So, I called Jason, who without hesitating, stood in as nominee for us until we could find someone to cover the position. We never did find that individual and it was probably fate that he ended up coming back to work for us.” With her years of working in the business behind her, Nat was able to qualify for exemptions for the modules required to run the electrical contracting aspect of Hiddlestone Electrics. This meant she could immediately step into the administrative side, which Vern used to cover in his inimitable style, and handle the pricing, invoicing and the all-important debt collection side of every company’s operations.

86

Left: Natalie with Jason Mooney Right: Jason's business card with its 'googly eyes'

IT WA S A PRE TTY S MO O TH TRANS ITIO N FO R NAT, WHO S E TTLE D Q UICKLY INTO THE RO LE O F RUNNING THE BUS INE S S . “When Dad was alive, he and Mum would go away on holidays for six to eight weeks at a time. When a decision had to be made, I would step in and make it. It didn’t matter whether my decision was right or wrong, when he came back to work Dad would always tell me he would have done it differently. I think that attitude stemmed from the fact that he wanted to feel needed! “It didn’t bother me because, from a young age, I was pretty headstrong and always at loggerheads with Dad about everything and anything. I guess we were two peas in a pod in that regard.”


STREAMLINING THE BUSINESS

HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

EVERYONE KNE W

transfer them to be typed up and sent out

VER N HI DD LE S TO NE ’S

to clients as invoices.

APPR OACH TO DO ING

“We then kept one copy for Dad, one for the

BUSI NESS WAS

into the computer. We had done it this way

file and then the information was entered forever because Dad had no idea how to

ANCI ENT.

access the computer. If a customer came in to pay their account in person, as they often

Stacks of paper everywhere, everything in

did, and still do to this day, and didn’t have

triplicate, Post-it notes wallpapering the

their account with them, Dad wanted to be

office and ‘creative’ invoice descriptions,

able to say “here it is”, without having to

often as long and detailed as ‘War and

admit that he couldn’t access the computer

Peace’.

without help from the girls. It worked for

As long-time friend, former tenant and owner of iconic Subiaco restaurant, The

Dad, and he was the boss. But that sort of process is ancient history now.

Witch’s Cauldron, Geoff Gosling, quipped,

“We also put trackers in the company

“The more expensive the invoice, the

vehicles so we knew where our electricians

more long-winded and creative Vern’s

were at any one time - not just for

descriptions became.”

transparency, but also to satisfy insurance

One of the first tasks Nat addressed was the streamlining of the company’s operations. “We needed to move into the digital age and become more efficient. The first thing we did away with were the old triplicate invoice and accounting books. Dad used to collect the boys’ timesheets and enter them

requirements. Being able to pinpoint where a vehicle was located enabled us to be more efficient in responding to call outs. “We’re currently looking at the next digital advances in this area using Telstra Trades Assist, where the tracker device links to timesheets and then becomes an invoice.”

in long-hand in one of these books and then

Pictured: Richele Hatchett, Receptionist, Hiddlestone Electrics

87


COMMUNITY SPIRIT VER N’ S I NFECT IO US

familiar face, always out-front selling raffle

LOVE AND SU PPORT FO R

activities over many years.

HI S COMMUNI T Y WAS SO I NGR AI NED THAT IT WAS ONLY NAT URAL THAT OT HER FAMI LY ME MBE RS W OU LD F OLLOW S UIT. Even before Vern’s death, Nat was heavily involved in promoting Subiaco. She served as President of the Pro Subi committee from 1995

tickets at every game and supporting the club’s

THE FA MILY HAS MAINTAINE D ITS CO MMITME NT TO THE RE DBACKS . E VE RY Y E A R, ARO UND JUNE 30, THE DATE O F VE RN’S PAS S ING , THE CLUB PLAY S A

until around 2000.

ME MO RIAL G AME A G AINS T

Even before H. Hiddlestone opened its doors

WILLE TTO N.

for business back in 1920, the Hiddlestone name was synonymous with the Subiaco community. Cec Hiddlestone played football and cricket for Subiaco and Jolimont and Bert was always heavily involved in administration and team management.

basketball for both clubs). Nat and Kay are fixtures at every one of these games and are there to present the award for best player. It’s a family tradition that will endure in years

So, it is no surprise that community involvement continues to be a cornerstone of the company’s business philosophy with Vern’s legacy being maintained

(Vern and Kay’s daughter Brooke played

through

ongoing

sponsorship

to come both as a tribute to Vern and a show of the company’s ongoing commitment to nurturing and promoting local sport and the community at large.

commitments to local sporting organisations like the Perth Redbacks where Vern’s was a

88

Top: Nic Lackovic, Men’s MVP, Michael Vigor, Kay Hiddlestone & Matt Guelfi Middle: Kay Hiddlestone, Women’s MVP, Meike Elkington, Tom Muntz (Natalie's Son) Bottom: Hiddlestone corporate box at basketball stadium


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

LANEWAY HONOUR In 2016, the Hiddlestone Family’s contribution to the City of Subiaco was once again honoured when the Council announced the naming of seven laneways in recognition of people or families who had played significant roles in the city. Hiddlestone Lane, which runs between Rokeby Road and Rowland Street, alongside the family’s property at 83-85 Rokeby Road, was one of the seven names approved by the Geographic Names Committee within Landgate.

T HE HIDDLE S TO NE FAMILY WE RE ACKNO WLE DG E D AS THE LO NG E S T ESTABLIS HE D RE S IDE NTS O F THE S E V E N FAMILY NAME S RE CO G NIS E D. It was an honour that Nat Hiddlestone, her mother Kay, and the rest of the family, humbly accepted. The naming of the laneway, however, was tinged with an element of sadness in that the family patriarch, whose unconditional commitment to Subiaco no doubt contributed to the recognition, was not there to witness it. His wife, Kay, summed up the sentiments of the family: “Vern would have been so proud of this acknowledgement of the family and its links to the city he loved. It’s a fitting legacy to his tireless efforts.”

Top: Street sign commemorating Hiddlestone Lane Bottom: L-R Kelly Guelfi, (nee Hiddlestone) Donna Sloan, (nee Hiddlestone), Heather Henderson (former Mayor of Subiaco, cutting ribbon), Kay Hiddlestone, Natalie Hiddlestone & Brooke Hiddlestone at the opening of Hiddlestone Lane

89


CLIPSAL’S VERN HIDDLESTONE APPRENTICESHIP AWARD Four years after Vern Hiddlestone’s passing, Nat Hiddlestone was contacted by long-time supplier, Clipsal by Schneider Electric, to advise that ...

. . . I N R ECOGNI T I ON OF VER N’ S CONT R I BU T I ON TO T HE ELECT R I CAL I ND U S TRY I N W EST ER N AU ST R ALIA ,

VE RN’S O NG O ING S UPPO RT FO R CLIPS AL WAS TY PICAL O F HIS A PPRO A CH TO WO RK AND TO LIFE . If someone did the right thing by him or provided a product or service that met his high standards, his commitment and loyalty was unwavering. The story

T HEY PLANNED T O I NT RO DUCE

of Hiddlestone’s association and involvement with

AN ANNU AL AWAR D , I N HIS

Vern regularly wrote and added to over the years for

NAME, F OR T HE BEST YO UNG T R AD ESPER SON OF T HE Y E AR. Like Hiddlestone Electrics, Clipsal too is celebrating its centenary year in 2020, which, in anyone’s language, is a milestone achievement. Vern Hiddlestone proudly promoted his ‘No.1 Membership of The Clipsal Club’ in WA and backed that by only specifying Clipsal products for all his electrical work. That support

the Clipsal brand was captured in the ‘potted history’ future generations of Hiddlestones. This is the story in Vern’s own words: “When Clipsal came to Perth and decided they were going to establish a base here in the mid-90s, I identified with a company that also had a long history of being in business, having started in Adelaide, ten days after my Dad and his brothers started their business in Perth on March 25th, 1920.

and endorsement continues to this day through Nat

“So, as well as selling a good product that we were

Hiddlestone in her role as the new Managing Director

happy to use, we also had an affinity in our proud

of the company.

shared history. I have always admired Clipsal’s success. Here’s a large electrical company, originally based in Adelaide to start with, who took on the Australian market and later established itself worldwide.

90

Top: Clipping from Clipsal magazine on Vern Bottom: Vern Hiddlestone's Club Clipsal No.1 membership card


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

“When they came to Perth, I contacted them and said, “Do you have a club?” When they said, “Not yet. But we plan to start a Clipsal Club, soon." Right there and then, I paid them a couple of hundred dollars and said, “good, because I want to be the number one member as a gesture to say that I’m with Clipsal because I’ve always been a loyal customer.” “I then went on to become the Number One Club Clipsal member in Australasia, and then the world. That includes America and France, where their Head Office is now.” The announcement of the Vern Hiddlestone Award in 2018, honouring the Best Young Electrical Tradesperson in WA, was a great honour for the family as it recognised his contribution to both the industry and community that he loved and supported. Vern was always a huge advocate for training and mentoring up and coming aspiring young electricians. Over the course of the company’s long history, Hiddlestone has employed and signed off on in excess of 40 completed electrical apprenticeships. It is common knowledge within the industry that when many of these highly skilled electricians left with the company’s blessings to pursue other interests, they were either quickly snapped up by rival companies or went on to run successful businesses of their own. Such is the company’s ongoing commitment to training and promoting from within that, to this day, Hiddlestone Electrics continues to host, on average, a work experience student every three weeks.

Pictured: Nat Hiddlestone in 2016 now at the helm of Hiddlestone Electrics

91


STEPPING OUT FROM BEHIND A VERY LARGE SHADOW IN 2 01 7 , AF TE R AL MO S T TH REE

“I had photographed previous award ceremonies for FBA and

“But I don’t have any aspiring dreams to really grow or

their WA State Manager, Lorraine Willis, suggested that, as

expand the company much further than its current size.

a family company with such a long history, we should join,

Servicing our local customer base has delivered pretty good

COM PAN Y, NAT WAS N O MIN ATED

which we did. When we were inducted into the Hall of Fame,

results for a century now and so, as that old well-worn cliché

AND R E C OG N I S E D AS A FIN AL IST

my only disappointment was that Dad was not there to see

goes, ‘if it isn’t broke ... don’t fix it’. We’re very well established

it. He would have been so proud of the recognition.”

in our little niche market and we plan to stick with our

YE AR S AT TH E H E L M O F TH E

IN T H E M AS TE R E L E CTRICI AN S

Although Nat would no doubt be chuffed if one or both of

O F AU ST R AL I A’S ‘ WO ME N I N

her sons followed in the family footsteps and joined the

“Above all, I’m just honoured to have had the opportunity

company business, she is under no illusions that this is going

CON T R A C T IN G ’ AWARD .

to advance Hiddlestone Electrics into its next phase while

to happen.

still holding in the highest regard, the good old-fashioned

“It would be really satisfying if one or both my boys decided Although she did not win, it was a timely acknowledgement

that they wanted to join the company, but they have to

that Nat had stamped her own imprimatur as head of the

genuinely want to do it, and not just feel like it was an

family business.

obligation to the family.”

The following year Nat was again nominated for the same

Nat feels that the company is in pretty good shape and is

award and this time adjudged winner of her industry’s

happy with the way the business is structured.

prestigious title. She would again feature in the finals in 2019, when she finished Runner-up.

“We have a really good team on board at the moment. It’s

This accolade followed closely on from more recognition

given the calibre of our current apprentices. Streamlining our

for Nat and Hiddlestone Electrics when, in late 2016, the

operations and keeping abreast of the latest technological

company was inducted in the Family Business Australia

developments within the industry are immediate priorities.

Hall of Fame. Hiddlestone was one of three WA companies

the right mix of experience and young talent, especially

welcomed into the FBA’s exclusive alumni.

“We have people doing C-Bus courses at the moment to

Nat also holds the honour of being the only WA representative

all the new emerging related apps that can now be driven

to be invited to serve on the Master Electrician’s ‘Women in

from your phone. And we are also involved in a government

Contracting’ committee.

driven three-year NBN apprenticeship scheme. To succeed

The company had joined the Family Business Australia ranks

in business today, you have to keep up with technology or

as a result of Nat’s photographic business at the time.

92

formula, because it works.

Pictured: Natalie receiving 'MEA Women in Contracting' award in 2018

make sure we are up to speed with smart technology and

get left behind.

customer service my father, grandfather and great uncles began all those years ago.”


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

COMING THE FULL CIRCLE W HI LE T HE F OR MULA

Howard’s tool bag probably consisted of a Gladstone

MAY BE T HE SAME, THE

chip channels for the conduit in the solid concrete

bag containing a heavy hammer and cold chisel (to

EQU I PMENT, MAT ER I ALS ,

walls and floors), a hand drill, a pair of ancient

T OOLS OF T HE T R AD E AND

screwdriver.

MODE OF T R ANSPORT HAVE CERTAI NLY COME A L O NG WAY . . .

side cutters and probably a wooden-handled

Running through their own inventory, Liam and Matt figured that they didn’t need the cold chisel because all the plastic conduit was already prewired. The fittings were already custom-made and all they really needed was a high-impact portable

... since those early days of the 1920s when Howard

drill, a pair of multi-grips, a multimeter and possibly

Hiddlestone pushed his rickety old pushbike along

a small screwdriver for the fiddly bits.

Rokeby Road. In an interview for this book with two of the company’s youngest electricians, brothers Matt and Liam Bazelmans, discussion turned to the story about how Howard Hiddlestone used to set off for work back in the 1920s with heavy lengths of metal

They definitely agreed that their fully equipped, airconditioned van would be a lot more comfortable ride to the job than Howard’s pushbike laden-down with its lengths of metal conduit, coils of wire flex wrapped around the handlebars and the old wooden ladder strapped to the crossbar!

conduit, rolls of flex and a ladder all stacked high

The verdict? Both boys are very grateful that they

on his old pushbike. This was a real eye-opener

are plying their trade in 2020 instead of 1920!

when the boys compared their tools, transport and modus operandi...

93


94


HIDDLESTONE THE FOURTH 25 YEARS 1996-2020

AS THE 100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES … This story would not be complete without leaving the last word to the man, whose larger than life presence,

“WE LL, I’LL TE LL Y O U … WITHO UT

as the face of Hiddlestone Electrics for more than

S UBIACO I WO ULD NO T BE WHE RE I

half its history, was instrumental in the company

AM, BE CAUS E I LO VE THIS CITY.”

achieving a century of service to its customers. In December 2010, when Vern Hiddlestone was interviewed by John Bannister for the City of Subiaco’s ‘Oral History’ project, he was asked if he could encapsulate what it meant to have a family business in a place like Subiaco for the last 90-odd years. His emotionally charged response was short and pointed:

Pictured: L-R Jason Mooney, Matthew Bazelmans, Liam Bazelmans, Tiger Nikich, Richele Hatchett, Natalie Hiddlestone, Adam Scott (front) Right: Vern & Kay Hiddlestone

95


OVE R T H E YE ARS H I DDL EST O N E H AS D E VEL OPED MAN Y L O N G T ER M R EL ATIO N S H I P S W I T H B OT H CU S TO ME RS AN D SUP PL IE RS . T W O OF T H E CO MPAN Y’S SUP PL I E R S W H O S TAN D OUT F OR T H E I R L O YALTY AN D L ON GE VI TY ARE C L I PSAL B Y S CH N E ID E R E L E C T R I C AN D RE X E L .

96


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

ONE SIZE ‘CLIPS-ALL’ B AC K I N 1 92 0 , W H E N TH E

in the establishment of a strong, mutually beneficial

E L EC T R I C AL I N D US TRY WAS

manufacturer with similar origins.

S T I L L F I N D IN G I TS F E E T, TWO

working relationship tied to an interstate electrical

Neither would A.E. Gerard have been aware of the

FAM I LY C O MPAN I E S B E G AN

household name his simple, yet impressively effective

F L EDGL I N G B U S IN E S S E S , O N E

helping to light the way for so many millions of future

invention would become and the role it would play in

IN ADEL A I D E AN D TH E O TH E R

customers.

IN PERT H .

With the assistance of his father-in-law, South

With the deprivation and darkness of the Great War a

‘Gerard and Goodman’, in 1908. Just over a decade

fading memory, there was a whiff of optimism in the

later, in 1920, the company had graduated to the

air as a young, energetic nation, blooded on the world

manufacturing

stage in a fierce conflict, began to believe that, if they

eventually be sold to electrical tradesmen under the

put their mind to it, anything was possible.

brand name, ‘Clipsal’.

Around the same time Alfred Gerard started

The derivation of this name being almost as innovative

manufacturing

and original as the product itself.

Australia electrician Alfred Edward Gerard founded

his

range

of

adjustable

sheet

metal conduit fittings in Adelaide, a young Howard Hiddlestone, and his two brothers, were providing electrical contracting services to residents in the burgeoning settlement of Subiaco, where households were gradually discovering the luxuries an electrified lifestyle could offer.

of conduit

fittings,

that

would

With the novelty of electricity gaining more traction, new products were proliferating everywhere and sizing for the different lengths of steel conduit used to house electrical wiring was all over the place. There was no such thing as an ‘industry standard’ and with dimensions varying from Imperial to metric and

Howard Hiddlestone could never have foreseen the

measurement based on either the inside or outside

important role the lengths of steel conduit he carried -

diameters, individual pieces of conduit were very

strapped to the crossbar of the old, fixed wheel bicycle

difficult to join.

he pushed up Rokeby Road in Subiaco - would play

Pictured: Early Bakelite light switch & 3-pin plug

97


This played havoc with electricians who would have to modify

Ken Gerard, a Director and Factory Manager since 1942,

Further west, in WA, changes were afoot too. With the

and adapt fittings, on the job, to suit particular wiring needs.

championed the development of plastics for use at Clipsal

reins eventually passing to Howard’s young brother, Cec,

A.E. Gerard was aware of this annoying inconsistency and,

and the electrical industry in general. This led to the company

Hiddlestone Bros slowly expanded its business, no doubt

not long after, launched an invention that, hopefully, would

purchasing its first plastic injection moulding machine in

employing the innovative Clipsal product in much of the

solve this perennial problem. This simple but revolutionary

1956, along with the manufacture of wall switches, wall

work they undertook.

new product was a conduit joiner, consisting of a t-piece

plugs, lamp holders and ceiling roses.

with an adjustable clip that could be wrapped around the joiner and tightened.

CLI PSAL BECAME W OR LD

It was promoted to the industry as a product that ‘clips

LEAD ER S I N T HE U SE OF

all sizes of conduit’. The description stuck and, after being adapted to an easier to say abbreviation, ‘Clipsal’ helped give the company the name it would carry and grow successfully for many years to come. A.E.Gerard’s son, Geoff, eventually took over the running of the company and would spearhead several manufacturing breakthroughs, including the invention of the first allAustralian switch in 1930. From 1932 to 1935 the first Clipsal surface and flush switch was produced and Australia’s first combination switched socket to fit a standard pattern wall box was also introduced. During the Second World War, Clipsal was geared to full capacity for the Australian Defence Department, manufacturing aircraft switches, bomb release buttons and Morse code keys.

98

It was to be Cecil’s son, Vern, who joined the company as an apprentice in the mid-1950s, who would fully realise the business’s potential and be the person that would eventually cement the long-lasting relationship between Clipsal and

T HER MOPLAST I CS, PR OD U CI NG

what would later become Hiddlestone Electrics.

T HE W OR LD’ S F I R ST FLEXI BLE

Clipsal by Schneider Electric’s Western Australian General

PVC PLU G T OP AND COR D

‘urban myth’) of how Robert Gerard used to travel to Perth

EXT ENSI ON SOCK ET. From the mid-1970s, the reins would pass to Robert Geoffrey Gerard, Geoff’s son. The early 80s saw the release of the

Manager, Steve Reinholdtsen, tells the story (now almost an in the late 1970s. The company had a limited footprint in Perth at that stage and Robert would use these trips to do a little field testing of new electrical products that were on the drawing board.

Clipsal 4EL Series switchboard mounted RCD (Residual

“Back then the company was directly aligned with the

Current Device), which was recognised as a breakthrough in

electrical contractor and it was felt that by running new

household safety and security. RCDs are now a mandatory

product designs past electricians their feedback would be

installation in all new homes.

valuable with regard to product features that were designed

Robert Gerard would go on to oversee the rapid expansion of the family business, leading up to the eventual acquisition of the company that, in 2003, with the backing of the

with a focus on ease of installation and application. One of those electricians he visited regularly for a chat, a cup of tea and discussion on the merits and practicalities of a proposed new Clipsal product, was Vern Hiddlestone.

In 1940 Clipsal developed the Festoon lamp holder, today

Schneider Electric group, one of the world’s biggest electrical

known as party lighting, to provide the Armed forces with

companies, would become Clipsal Australia. Robert Gerard

“I actually met Vern back in the early 90s when I was working

temporary lighting. These were used in the army, navy and

would also be responsible for the public listing of Gerard

for a rival electrical product manufacturer and found him to

air force installations and land base camps.

Lighting in 2010.

be incredibly engaging as well as extremely knowledgeable


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

about the electrical industry. So, it’s not hard to imagine that

“When the bus arrived carrying delegates from Western

Vern would have been pretty forthcoming in the ‘advice’ he

Australia, we all headed towards it and started to line up in a

gave Mr. Gerard back in the day,” Steve added.

queue to greet them.

By 1995 Clipsal had further established market share in Perth

“As we stood there waiting, this elder statesman, dressed in a

and, at a gathering of contractors in the company boardroom,

Club Clipsal polo, gets up from a nearby bench, walks to the

to once again obtain feedback on a new product launch, one

front of the queue, puts out his hand to our Executive General

of the contractors present apparently suggested that Clipsal

Manager and says, ‘I’m Vern Hiddlestone, No.1 Club Clipsal

should form a club, made up of loyal users.

membership holder.’ Vern then began welcoming delegates on

Vern Hiddlestone was obviously one of the contractors present at the function and his response was typical of Vern. The

behalf of Clipsal, introducing himself as the club’s number one ticket holder! True story!”

story of how he became the ‘No.1’ member of Club Clipsal is

As a mark of respect to the memory of Vern Hiddlestone and

eloquently told in the pages of this book. But the story that

his contribution to the electrical industry in Western Australia,

wasn’t told and has also now almost attained the status of

Clipsal launched an award in his honour in 2018. Designed

‘urban myth’ among those who were in attendance at a Club

to recognise outstanding contributions by young people to

Clipsal conference in Phuket back in 2010, is indicative of Vern

the industry, it will be known as ‘The Vern Hiddlestone Young

Hiddlestone’s true character and staunch loyalty.

Tradesperson of The Year’ Award.

Steve Reinholdtsen, who, by that time, had joined Clipsal in

Clipsal by Schneider Electric and Hiddlestone Electrics are

the previous year, attended the Phuket Club Clipsal National

both outstanding examples of what can be achieved by

Conference, takes up the story’s narrative:

individuals driven by a dream and determined to make that dream a reality.

“We regularly hold conferences for our loyal customers and, in 2010, Phuket was the venue for maybe four or five hundred

One hundred years on, both companies have realised a

delegates who were attending from all over Australia. As I

milestone that has earned both admiration and awe. It is an

recall, our delegation of state, head office and regional

honour to share the stage with, and be given the opportunity

managers arrived a day earlier for a briefing from our Executive

to acknowledge, Hiddlestone Electrics’ ‘Century of Service’ to

General Manager. We knew that delegates would start arriving

Subiaco.

in coaches the following morning and it was agreed that we would be on hand, in our company polos to ‘meet and greet’ customers on arrival, at the hotel.

Pictured: Clipsal by Schneider Electric's WA State Manager, Steve Reinholdtsen

99


“IF WE DON’T HAVE IT, HIDDLESTONES WILL!” LO NG E VITY APPE A RS TO BE A RE CURRING THE ME WHE N IT CO ME S TO ME MBE RS HIP O F THE E LE CTRICAL FRATE RNITY IN PE RTH. Rexel’s long-established working relationship with Hiddlestone Electrics is both an historical and mutually beneficial association. Long-term working affiliations like this, that have stood the test of time, don’t happen by chance. They are built on a platform of trust, respect and a shared belief in the importance of customer service, reliability and a commitment to consistently delivering a quality product. Like Hiddlestone Electrics, Rexel has had a presence in the Australian electrical industry for going on a century, initially trading under its original UK-based name of General Electric Company, or ‘GEC’ as it was more widely known and accepted. The company underwent a name change in 1998, when it was acquired by French-based Rexel, a global distributor of electrical products and equipment, with offices in 26 countries around the world that employ more than 27,000 people.

100

Pictured: Rexel Branch Manager, Osborne Park, Mike West (far left) and his team


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

The combination of Rexel’s innovation, market access and

That same close association remains to this day, with Vern’s

technological expertise with GEC’s extended presence and

daughter Natalie, now running the family business. Mike’s

strong reputation in the local market, has proven to be a

connection with Nat extends outside their business dealings,

seamless fit. Rexel provides its customers with access to the

as he explains:

latest in a diversified range of products, global purchasing power, stronger strategic supply alliances with international manufacturers and benefits from distribution efficiencies.

“My wife and I were married in 1998 when Nat was involved with her photographic business. She was our official wedding photographer and, thanks to her, we have lasting memories of

Rexel Branch Manager, Mike West, who originally joined GEC in

that special day. Thankfully, we still maintain close links with

1988, knew first-hand how big a role trust and loyalty plays in

Nat and the rest of the Hiddlestone family and have been

developing a strong working relationship.

more than happy to be involved with the many community

“When I was promoted to the position of branch manager of

events they have supported in Subiaco over the years.”

GEC’s original head office in Subiaco in 1995, at the tender

Asked if there was a specific memory of Rexel’s association

age of 24, one of the first things I will always remember being

with Hiddlestone Electrics that set them apart as electricians,

said to me, after I took on my new role, came from my work

Mike said with a smile:

colleagues. They told me that my biggest challenge was going to be to win over Vern Hiddlestone, whose company was one

“To this day we get people coming in and asking us if we have

of our biggest customers.

an old style of light fitting or switch or globe. Even though we

“I was told that Vern was very set in his ways and had high expectations on what sort of preferential treatment his company received on pricing. I’m pretty chuffed to say that I must have been able to impress him with the level of service he received because, over many years, we developed a friendship that transcended the normal supplier-client relationship.”

are known as ‘Perth’s electrical supermarket’, there are some items we just don’t stock.

OU R STAND AR D R ESPONSE HAS ALWAYS BEEN, ‘I F W E DON’ T HAVE I T, HI D DLEST ONES W I LL!’”

Pictured: Rexel staff serving customers at counter.

101


FAMILY BUSINESS AUSTRALIA

IN 2 01 6 , HI D D L E S TO N E E L E CTR I CS WAS I NDU CT ED IN T O T H E F B A WA H AL L O F FAME. This highly regarded peer commendation recognises the achievements of families that are managing respected and successful family businesses and pays homage to the significant role they play in our community, society and economy. With a history spanning 100 years that has endured depressions, world wars, economic uncertainty and generational transition, there is no doubt that the Hiddlestone Family was very deserving of this recognition. As they continue to provide outstanding service to their customers, give generously to their local community and uphold the strong family values that have been the cornerstone of this family business, we celebrate their 100 years and wish them another 100!

Lorraine Lloyd State Manager WA, 2015–2019 Family Business Australia

102


MEA VALUES HIDDLESTONE ASSOCIATION

CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

VERY FE W E L E CTRICAL RE TAI L ER S AR E AS U NI QUE AND ENDU R I NG IN T H E I R STRU CTU RE AN D S TR AT EGY AS W EST AU ST R ALI AN- BASED H I DDL EST ON E E L E CTRICS .

Like the MEA, established in 1937 as a voice for Australian

As accredited members of the MEA, Hiddlestone Electrics

electrical contractors, Hiddlestone Electrics shares a proud,

maintain the high standards of service and performance

long-established history. Longevity in business is built on a

expected of our electrical contractor members and the

number of sound business principles. But one that is often

Subiaco-based company is widely known for the quality and

overlooked is loyalty.

reliability of its work.

The establishment of loyalty with customers and suppliers is a

We congratulate Natalie and the team at Hiddlestone Electrics

hard-earned achievement. It’s one of the factors, along with a

on achieving this impressive milestone and greatly value the

fierce commitment to staying true to their mission statement

company’s membership of our association.

of providing ‘good, reliable service’, that has no doubt helped Hiddlestones remain in business for the past century. A feat very few, if any other Australian retail electrical companies, have achieved. Nat Hiddlestone’s success, since assuming the reins after the untimely passing of her father Vern in 2014, was recognised

Malcolm Richards CEO

Master Electricians Australia

when she was named winner of MEA’s ‘Excellence Award’ in the category of ‘Women in Contracting’ in 2018 (Western Australia). Natalie now also holds a seat on the MEA’s National Women in Contracting committee, whose aim is to increase the number of women in the contracting workforce.

103


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS COM PI L I N G A 1 0 0 - Y E AR H I S TO RY,

so many different avenues of pursuit that produced such a

Without the generous assistance and access provided by

WH E R E M AN Y O F TH E P L AY E RS

range of rich and diverse stories relating to the family and its

Rosemary Fitzgerald, Coordinator of Museum Services for

exploits and achievements.

the City of Subiaco and her staff, the writing and telling of

WH O SH APE D TH AT H I S TO RY AR E

this story would have been infinitely more difficult.

NO L ON GE R W I TH U S , MAK E S T HE

was invaluable in helping to paint a picture of a young Vern

Verbatim transcripts of interviews conducted between

TA SK E VEN MO RE D AU N TIN G AND

Hiddlestone and the loving family unit they formed together.

Donna Moore and Cecil Hiddlestone in August 1983 and then

Her insight into their courtship, marriage and Vern’s

later by John Bannister with Vern Hiddlestone in December

CH AL L EN GIN G .

uncompromising work ethic provided an understanding of

2010 for the WA Oral History Association project made it feel

why Vern’s contribution was so central to the ongoing success

as if Cecil and Vern were talking to me face-to-face as they

But while it was a challenge, it was also an enjoyable and

of the family business during the second half century of its

related their own individual stories.

rewarding experience.

existence.

Delving into the history of Hiddlestones, and the emergence

A big thank you must also go to Beryl Goodfield for her

relevant information on their origins assisted greatly in

contribution. As Cecil Hiddlestone’s daughter and Vern’s

adding a supporting visual element to the story.

of Subiaco as a city, unearthed a wealth of information and involved crossing paths with, and interviewing many

younger sister, Beryl provided some of the ‘missing links’

fascinating people.

in her family’s history and was able to put names to, and

Ten decades is a very long period of time and while memories

in creating the history of the Hiddlestone name. Her proof-

fade and dates and events blur, it was thanks to the

reading of initial drafts and corrections relating to places,

recollections of many people who willingly gave their time

names and events, was invaluable and greatly appreciated.

to recount stories, anecdotes and memories of bygone days

identify, faces of some of the characters who played a role

Historical images supplied from the museum files and

Former Mayor of Subiaco, Heather Henderson’s gracious agreement to provide the Foreword for the book, was a clear demonstration of the love, respect and admiration Vern Hiddlestone commanded from his peers within The City of Subiaco Council. As both a close friend and fellow city Councillor, Heather’s words are a tribute to Vern and

So too were Howard Hiddlestone’s daughter, Eunice Craig and

his contribution to the Subiaco that he loved and supported

the achievements of a truly remarkable family business.

her son Peter, who volunteered their time to explain family

unconditionally.

None were more forthcoming and enthusiastic than

service in WWI and allowed access to some of the precious

members of the Hiddlestone Family themselves. Vern

family photos that appear in the book.

that led to the words on the pages of this book that celebrate

Hiddlestone’s daughter, Natalie, was the prime mover in the creation of this 100-year history. Her commitment and determination to ensure that her family’s history was faithfully followed and recorded, ‘warts and all’, opened up

104

Vern’s wife, Kay, was another willing participant, whose input

connections, Howard and his father, Albert’s distinguished

Although nearing 90, Eunice was able to answer endless questions about her father’s crucial role in founding the family business.

There was never going to be a shortage of long-term commercial clients and customers prepared to come forward and sing the praises of Hiddlestone Electrics and, by default, the people who became the faces of the company.


CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

TH E PA SSAG E O F TIME ME AN T

Peter Greene, the man behind Solid Gold Jewellers, a fixture

Zoe Whitehead, possibly one of Hiddlestone’s oldest and

TH AT T H E RE W E RE VE RY F E W

of the Hay Street Mall in Perth for many years, happily gave up

longest living customers, was able to recall an association

some of his time to relate the story of how he and his family

that dated back to 1950 when she and her husband

WH O W ER E AVAIL AB L E TO

formed a shared passion for horses with the Hiddlestones

purchased their first home in Subiaco and engaged Cec

RE M I N I SC E AB O U T O L D E R

that emerged after Vern started doing electrical work for

Hiddlestone and his team to undertake electrical work. Her

his company back in the mid 1970s. They also shared the

incredible memory provided a glimpse back in time and her

BR OT H E R S, H O WARD AN D B E RT

same old-fashioned approach to doing business – their

contribution was greatly appreciated.

HI DD L E ST O N E , B U T TH O S E TH AT

as being very ‘black and white’ but scrupulously straight and

dealings had to be fair for all concerned. Peter recalls Vern

Ted Weir, whose North Perth family business, Weir’s Butchers, rivals the Hiddlestone Family’s in its historical

D I D H AVE ME MO RI E S , S P O K E OF

extremely loyal.

TH E M I N GL O W I N G TE RMS .

Geoff Gosling of Witch’s Cauldron restaurant fame, a staple

and Kay through mutual interests, reciprocal business and

for Subiaco diners for years, knew both Cec and Vern, first as

family ties. The shared values he mentioned of providing a

next door neighbours in Rokeby Road and later as good friends

quality product combined with good old-fashioned service,

and trusted associates. Like many others interviewed, Geoff

was a recurring theme that popped up often in almost every

remembers Vern’s passion for Subiaco and its advancement.

interview conducted.

Peter Fairweather, great grandson of William Fairweather, who founded the family’s construction business in Kalgoorlie in 1895 and later relocated to Subiaco, remembered Vern Hiddlestone as one of Subiaco’s true characters. The two

His most vivid memory of Vern was his ‘creative invoices’.

contribution, told of a friendship that evolved with Vern

Thanks must also be extended to Peter Stewart, now-retired

families had worked together and collaborated on projects

John Masel kindly took time out to share his memories of

accountant, friend and long-time financial confidant and

dating back to the beginnings of both companies.

Vern too. John and his brother Gary enjoyed a long-term

Vern’s sounding board when it came to investment, who

lease arrangement with Vern for their night club, The

unearthed a serendipitous connection between the two

Red Sea, located on the first floor of the old Rokeby Road

families when he discovered that his great grandfather was

premises in Subiaco.

the original owner of Duffel House, the home Vern and Kay

Peter’s recollections and humorous stories about time spent with Vern helped add personal insights into what really made Vern Hiddlestone ‘tick’. John Thornton from Subiaco’s iconic Regal Theatre gave us a modern day take on the close working relationship the two entities shared dating back to the early 1930s, when Hiddlestone Bros provided the original wiring for the newly built Regal Theatre.

Sue Scrutton was another friend and associate of Vern’s who

eventually purchased.

graciously agreed to be interviewed for the book. As an event

An opportune interview with George Shaw, who worked

planner, Sue recalled how Vern went above and beyond

under both Cec and Vern for many years, delivered a

expectations when she was responsible for staging the very

goldmine of information and some hilarious recollections of

popular ‘Sunsets at Subi’ concerts that started back in 2006.

the characters and clients he encountered during the two

The memories she shared of Vern’s legendary generosity

decades he worked for the company. George’s memory for

echoed what many others had to say about the man who

names and events was impressive and added a very personal

gave back so much to his beloved Subiaco.

touch to a key period in Hiddlestone Electrics’ history.

105


Jason Mooney, the man who so willingly stepped in and

And finally, a big ‘thank you’ to Josh Wells for his

acted as nominee when Vern passed away, was also

photographic contribution to the book, Jess Griffiths

able to shed an informed light on what it was like to

for making the words and images come together so well

work for a family company and how much loyalty and

in her brilliant design and layout, and Matt Cowan for

trust count in business.

keeping this project on the ‘straight and narrow’ over

To Ken Spillman and the City of Subiaco Council, many thanks for permission to reproduce the quote from Ken’s brilliant book, ‘Tales of a Singular City: Subiaco

together. To be able to maintain focus and direction is a testament to your organisational talent.

Since the 1970s’. The wealth of information gleaned

What started out as an assignment to pen a company

from the pages of this, and Ken’s other Subiaco

history turned into a two-year journey of discovery that

centrepiece, ‘A History of Subiaco’, helped to clarify and

opened my eyes and left me with a completely different

align milestone dates and events in Subiaco’s history.

outlook on what it takes to maintain a successful

Steve Mailey’s book, ‘The Boys of The Lake’, helped in

business over a 100-year period.

gaining a better appreciation and awareness of what life

The realisation that blind ambition, ruthlessness

was like growing up in post-war Subiaco. His fascinating

and the win at all cost attitude of some modern-day

first-person stories of a truly ‘boy’s own’ life re-created

businesses is not necessarily a guarantee of success.

a vivid picture of a free-spirited life and a time when

Rather a commitment to good old-fashioned values

even elephants roamed Lake Jualbup. Thank you Steve

like loyalty, trust and mutual respect tempered with a

for your time and enthusiasm.

prudent, carefully considered investment strategy, can

Appreciation too for ‘ME. The Master Electrician’, the official magazine of the Master Electricians Association, for permission to reproduce excerpts from an article, ‘While Business Changes, One Thing Remains The Same’ in their Winter/Spring edition, on Natalie Hiddlestone. Your ongoing support for Hiddlestone Electrics, as a member of the association, is welcomed.

106

the extended time that it has taken to bring this story

lead to longevity and universal admiration.

Ross Addison


WHAT CUSTOMERS SAY “I T I S OBVI OU S T HE SPI R I T O F VER N LI VES ON T HR OUGH HIS T R AI NI NG OF HI S PEOPLE AND

CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

“Thank you, Natalie, so much. Your team has been and done the job. They were very efficient and listened patiently to all of my gabbling on. Really lovely people.”

- M AREE F O X

F OR W HI CH T HE CU ST OMER BAS E BUI LT UP OVER MANY YE A RS W I LL BE T R U LY T HANK F UL. I LOOK FORWAR D T O EXT ENDING T HE GOOD W I LL OVER T HE F U TURE YEAR S. ” - MR E.G. CLARKE

“Thank you for a great job; very professional tradesmen.”

- S T EP HEN, S HENT O N PA RK

“Dear Natalie. May I express my thanks to yourself and your team in providing us with the electrical services needed and your prompt attention to communicate with CKDR and the Chinatown Body Corporate so that work could proceed. Thank you.”

“Dear Natalie, Thanks for your can do attitude. That's

- D ANNY L O W

what always brings me back to Hiddlestone. I knew your father's shop when it was on Rokeby Rd. The service has not changed at all.”

“I think you and your employees do a terrific job and I have

- MARIA

no hesitation in recommending your business. Thanks for all the jobs you’ve done for us this year.”

- D O NNA “Much thanks for Hiddlestone Electrics' contributions to the Subiaco Primary School Movie Night. We are very grateful to have the support of such an iconic Subiaco family.”

- SUBIACO PRIMARY SCHOOL 107


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Pictured: Students from Subiaco Primary School creating their laneway masterpieces Top far right: Natalie Hiddlestone and Leith Elliot – Visual Art Specialist, Subiaco Primary School


A ‘SPECIAL THANK YOU’

CELEBRATING HIDDLESTONE’S CENTURY OF SERVICE

TO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AT

Under Leith Elliot’s direction, over a 6-week period,

SUBIACO PRIMARY SCHOOL

with their own individual designs for over 50 ceiling fan

In late September 2019, while the finishing touches were being added to the Hiddlestone 100-year publication, attention turned to the best way to launch the book on our family history. Hiddlestone Lane, the name the City of Subiaco Council bestowed on the walkway that runs alongside our premises at 83-85 Rokeby Road, as a thoroughfare between Rokeby Road and Rowland Street in Subiaco, was unanimously agreed as the perfect location for this important event.

the students worked tirelessly in teams to come up ‘dragonflies’ that would swarm across the walls, topped by a giant pair of fabric wings under a brooding neon-lit gathering of bicycle-rim ‘clouds’. The result was a masterpiece that formed a fitting backdrop

for

Hiddlestone’s

centenary-celebration

launch. This was truly a combined community effort with Hiddlestone donating all the materials, generously supported by Corsa Lighting, Elevage Lighting, Work Power and long-time electrical wholesale suppliers Rexel and MM Electrical. Our company was also indebted to Richards Roofing and my husband, Sean Ratcliffe,

We wanted to make this launch special and were keen to

for their ‘patient’ assistance in helping to install these

involve the Subiaco community and what better way to

original pieces of art. I would also like to express my

do that than to involve students from our local Subiaco

gratitude to every member of the staff at Hiddlestone

Primary School. From the outset, students in classes 1 to

Electrics for their willingness to help with this landmark

6, under the watchful creative eye of the school’s Visual

project.

Arts teacher, Leith Elliot, responded enthusiastically to the visual contribution they were to make to our launch.

This unique and original community art project has been created for the entire Subiaco community to enjoy

I briefed Leith on this project and she, in turn, briefed

as a big ‘thank you’ from Hiddlestone Electrics for its

540 students at the school who would be involved. Their

enduring support of our company over the past century.

task was to create pieces of original artwork made from

Thanks must also go to the City of Subiaco for its support

recycled materials that included old ceiling fan blades,

in helping complete this monumental milestone.

fabric ‘feather’ wings and bicycle rims, all of which would eventually find their way onto the laneway’s walls.

Natalie Hiddlestone

Managing Director, Hiddlestone Electrics

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Pictured: 110 This Rokeby Road 'old to new' montage is a fitting way to close the Hiddlestone and Subiaco story, one that has been a hundred years in the making. Image supplied courtesy of Subiaco Museum. Graphic design: James Gillespie, Key2 Design.


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THE POWER BEHIND SUBIACO This is a family business success story with a difference; one hundred years in the telling. Since 1920, the name Hiddlestone has been synonymous with Subiaco. Here is an old-fashioned tale of what hard work, loyalty and a sense of service can achieve in a world increasingly driven more by dollars and cents.

ISBN 978-0-646-81497-1

9 780646 814971 >

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