Roy Baxter - Part 2
Interviewee: Roy Baxter, born 1928
Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
for The Hills Shire Council
Date of Interview: 5 Nov, 2008
Transcription: Glenys Murray, Dec 2008
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
Tell me a bit more about the hire cars? Why did the hire car business go so well? Were there no taxis in Castle Hill?
There were no taxis only the hire cars. I introduced the two way radio into the district. I had to fight the transport department for months and months before they allowed me to do it. I doubled the takings the first three months after doing that.
What would you use the radio for? To get jobs?
You might go out to Glenorie take a person out to Glenorie off the bus. While you’re out there or on the way back somebody would ring up and want to come in from Glenorie so you’d have to come in and go right back out there again. So I thought this is silly. There’s such a thing as two way radio I’ll see if I can get it. After a battle with the transport department, it took seven months they finally gave in and let me do it. So I rigged up my own base station and the wife ran the radio and it made a helluva difference to the business.
So it must have been pretty advanced for Castle Hill at that stage?
It was, it was.
What year are we talking about when you introduced this?
So two way radios would have just started had they? Well that’s pretty enterprising. So how many hire cars did you finish up with?
I started with one, then I got the second one and then my brother bought the opposition out. They had two cars. So we had five, four then another mate of mine was awarded a plate a Baulkham Hills so I run the whole five through our network. It was quite successful.
Roy's Hire Cars Old Northern Rd next to bootmaker & opposite Castle Hill Park 1953
What did you call the business?
Originally Roy’s Hire Cars it was when I bought it from a fellow named Roy, Roy Thompson. Then when everyone else came in we called it Hills District Hire Cars.
Right that’s interesting. Did you carry any important people around? Remember any names?
Sir John Northcott I often bought him to the RSL when there were big turnouts on. Picked him up on the North Shore I think it was Killara that I used to pick him up at. Sir Robert Dixson that owned Mowll Village before it became Mowll Village (His property was called "Elwatan"). I used to take him to town twice a week and the reason was his chauffer, he was a bit rough, one Monday or there was something wrong with the car. So I went and picked him up and he had Parkinson’s Disease I took him to town and he was impressed with me and I drove him ever since. The chauffer would go up with his wife ahead of me I’d go out with Mr. Dixson.
What was his business?
Well you name it he was supposed to own Timbrell's at Rhodes. He owned Balmain power station, Dixson’s Tobacco. I think he had that much money he didn’t know what he had.
Was he a nice man?
He was I got on very well with him. He wasn’t very young of course. He had 124 acres of ground up there which is now Mowll Village. A small portion was sold off at the back to Yates Nursery. The rest is Mowll village today.
Roy's Hire Cars at wedding St Paul's Church on corner of Francis St & Old Northern Rd Castle Hill 1954
So did he actually build Mowll Village?
No it was after he passed away (in 1958 the Dixson property was sold to the Anglican Retirement Villages).
It was sold was it? What were the cars? What make were your hire cars?
I started with Ford customs and I finished up with all Holdens, black Holdens.
It wasn’t what you’d call a luxurious car though in those days, a Holden?
No but we used to have them done up pretty well.
Pretty good shape were they?
They looked pretty good. Weused to do a lot of weddings one Saturday we did seven weddings so that not bad for Castle Hill.
Baxter House Old Northern Rd Castle Hill constructed 1955 and sold 1990
In one day seven?
Yeah in one day. Twenty years after I got out of the hire cars people would be coming after me to do weddings. So I was known far and wide.
So how long did you actually have the hire car business altogether?
So it was obviously very successful then? Why did you sell it?
I was virtually burnt out actually. Tired it was a seven days a week job. Living on the job and other fellows would knock off with their cars it would be left to me. I’d be driving all night and all that sort of thing. When this bus run came up I thought well I’m going to try and buy that. I ran hire cars and the buses for two years. Then I got out of the hire cars all together.
So how did the opportunity to buy the bus line come up?
Well a fellow by the name of George Deaman he owned them for forty odd years. He actually started the horse drawn bus. So they tell me I wouldn’t remember before my time. He died with leukaemia and his widow ran it for another twelve months and it got run into the ground. She couldn’t do anything just rely on other people. So I went out and saw her and bought it off her.
Roy's Hire Cars Baxter House Old Northern Rd Castle Hill next to Rodney's grocery 1958
How many buses were there?
What state were they in?
Well the night I took over there were two that wouldn’t go at all. One had a cracked piston I had to drive it under sufferance until I could fix it. I used to lay under those things day and night to fix them. I built them up got them going well got the whole thing going well and I got this prostate gland trouble. I thought I was going to die, so I sold it (the bus run) and had the operation and came good again. I went back into the buses after that, still in buses.
What sort of improvements did you make to the buses after you bought them?
They were all pretty shabby I done the bodies up and painted them and I put the first diesel motor in a bus out there. I introduced diesels out there. I knew nothing about diesels but I soon learnt. They’re all diesels now.
What was the run? Where from to where?
It used to run from Glenorie out to a place called Forest Glen to Canoelands, that’s out towards Maroota of a morning for the school run. Came back into Glenorie pick up there and go right through to Rogan’s Hill, Castle Hill, Eastwood.
Glenorie Buses at Glenorie depot 1963 were bought from Mrs Deaman
How many people could the bus carry?
It was licensed to carry 43, one was 41, one was only 29 and one was 34. We used to really load them have them hanging out the doors. I wouldn’t be game to say how many we put on the things.
Was the school business a good one to have, the bus runs for schools?
Well they weren’t at first but then the government started reimbursing us or a subsidy if you like to call it that and it started to pick up then.
So do you remember any interesting moments on those bus runs, any incidents that you can recall for that first run?
One morning I had a full load on. Children going to Northmead High School going down through Baulkham Hills shopping centre I blew a front tyre and the bus neatly parked itself in the curb. I couldn’t have drove in there any better. There’s cars each side and I happened to blow a tyre in the right spot and parked in the curb didn’t hit anything. Bit hair raising at the time.
Any accidents or anything like that?
There was a carrier ran into the front of one of them but didn’t hurt anyone one morning. I don’t know whether the driver went to sleep but he ran head on into the front of the bus. I wasn’t driving it. I went out to it.
Glenorie Federal 43 seat bus behind Baxter House Old Northern Rd Castle Hill 1961
It was one of your buses?
Did you have people pay as they came into the bus?
So you had to have change?
For a while there Monday mornings we had a bus conductor. He would jump on and collect the fares because it was that busy. He jumped form one bus to the other in the busy periods.
After your operation for prostate what happened then?
I was asked to go out to Glenorie to give them a hand to fit another diesel motor to one of the buses. I was helping do that and I’d found out that the bus run down at Kenthurst was going for sale. I’d already seen the fellow and I’d more or less made up my mind that day that I’d buy it. The operator out there when I went out to fit the motor for him he got wind of it and said “I’m going to go down and buy that”. I said “well you’d better hurry up because I’m going to buy it”. I didn’t stop him, I let him go and he bought it. They only had it about three months and they didn’t like it. So I bought it off them that was the Kenthurst run. I named it Dural Busways or Dural Bus Company. I had that for about three years. It was all run down into the ground. I done it up just the same and I got bored with it in the finish. I had done all I could do with it. I sold it and what did I do then?
Office at Glenorie Bus Company New Line Rd Dural c1968
Oh Glenorie Bus Company by this stage there were three partners in it. One had taken one of them over he had two thirds, the other one had one third. I went out with him for a couple of days up to Coffs Harbour and he said to me “I’m interested in selling my house at Dural”. So I had a look at it and ended up I bought his house. Then he said to me a few months after “what about the bus run, I’m interested in selling my share” so I said “I just bought you house I haven’t got enough money to buy your bus run”. Anyway I bought it and that’s how I went back into buses. That was 1972 I think it was yeah 72 a half share in it. We kept that till 1975 and by that time the third partner that went out of it came back into it and there was three of us in it. We weren’t getting along well together, two can tango three can’t. They wanted to sell it I said “well I don’t want to sell”. They wanted to sell at the time there was a credit squeeze on and I couldn’t get the money to take them over. So we sold out to people by the name of Todd and they had it right up till this new mob got it. Singapore mobs got the whole lot now Westbus the whole works. That was 1975 (when Roy sold to Todds. Since 2005 Glenorie Bus Company and Westbus were combined and now operate as Hill's Bus).
Dural Bus Company buses used in Kenthurst were parked at depot Old Northern Rd Dural depot near roundabout 1968
Now when did you buy the Dural Bus Company at Kenthurst?
And that was yet another company you bought how many buses were there?
There was two but I ended up with four, four buses just a straight out school run.
Was that school run only?
Well you became quite a big operator how many buses did you finish up with?
A hundred a hundred and one buses I sold the Glenorie in 1975. There were other runs around the district that we own now. I don’t suppose that comes into this. We still run twenty odd buses now, there was seventeen three weeks ago now there is twenty already in three weeks.
Are you still involved in the running of the business?
Yeah my son runs it but I still go over there and potter around.
Glenorie Bus Company depot New Line Rd Dural c1968
So the hundred buses that you had at one stage what was the company called then your bus company?
Holroyd Bus Lines and Delwood Coaches, we bought other runs out and incorporated them into it.
They ran to Holroyd Shire did they? That’s quite a lot of buses you became a very big operator?
Yeah we did.
Do you remember any incidents any interesting moments when you were running those businesses?
Well there was an accident one morning. There was a new driver on the bus, I don’t know what actually happened, but he said the brakes went. I doubt that they did it made such a mess of the bus it would be hard to tell. He ran into two shops at McFarlane Street Merrylands. Luckily there was nobody in it but he wrecked the shops.
Were you insured for that sort of thing?
Was that the worst thing that ever happened?
That was the worst accident we had, yes.
How did the people generally regard your company, the bus service were they happy with it?
Well we were known for the cleanest buses in Sydney best well presented buses. We’re pretty fussy about things like that. Hand washed and no machines which is unusual that’s why they looked so good.
So how many people did you have working for you then?
One hundred and forty.
Really, the mechanics and the cleaners and all that sort of thing?
Casual drivers and office staff and all that sort of thing.
Baxter's bus in Orange Blossom Festival parade Kellyville Sep 1991
So where were the offices located?
It ended up at Girraween our main depot. We could put eighty buses under cover there under the roof. The other depot was at Villawood,
What about in the Shire here?
No done a lot of charter work here we still do but it was only the Glenorie run that mainly came through here. Then the Kenthurst run eventually to the high school here.
So from Glenorie to Kenthurst was it?
It ended up Glenorie took the Kenthurst run over eventually. Kenthurst, Glenorie, Arcadia, Castle Hill, Pennant Hills, Normanhurst Loreto Convent, Eastwood Station, Pennant Hills Station.
The latest bus venture you had, which you still have isn’t it? That’s the twenty buses running you say are they running round the Shire as well?
Yeah doing charter work, school sports and all that type of thing.
It’s not a regular bus run?
No it’s all charter work. The whole business has changed since we got rid of our routes and moved into a new depot out at Glendenning. We’ve changed our whole operation we’re doing smash work and bus painting and repairs. The pre delivery for Mercedes Benz buses. It’s a different operation and charter work as well.
Iris Hewittt and Roy Baxter at Castle Hill Show 1949
Looking back to when you were a boy what sort of changes have you witnessed in the shire over those years?
It was like a little country village when I was a kid. There was orchards and poultry farms a few market gardens. Well there all gone it’s all houses now. Although there’s quite a few sports grounds there was only a couple of those when I was a young fellow. Castle Hill showground was the main one. We used to play cricket, football that sort of thing when I was a kid.
Was Castle Hill a better or worse place when you were young?
Well I can’t complain growing up, well you knew everybody. Now you don’t know people in the street you live in. It’s entirely different, it’s fully developed now. But I still like Castle Hill.
Back in those days there weren’t the security concerns that people have now right? I mean about leaving your house unlocked and those sorts of things?
In those days the key was never taken out of our front door even when we went away, wouldn’t worry about it, nobody ever touched it.
Even when you went away for holidays?
Didn’t even lock the house up
You left the key in the door?
Yeah the key was in the door. It was there that long, one day I decided to take it out and I couldn’t get it out.
Looking at the road transport what sort of changes have you seen there in the state of the roads and traffic lights all that sort of thing? Were there traffic lights in your day?
Going to market there were a few down Parramatta Road but other than that there were no lights.
So it would be a rarity to see a traffic light at Castle Hill would it?
Even Parramatta in those days.
Baxter home 6 Old Castle Hill Rd was next to McMullen home & Castle Hill Park 1965
Have the roads changed since those times?
Good roads now if you came down Tuckwells Road, Lane in the wet weather you stayed down there. You wouldn’t get out unless you had skid chains you might. Crane's Road was the same.
So do you think the transport has improved over the years in this area?
Oh I think it has yeah. People are screaming a lot about the transport, if there wasn’t so many cars there’d be more buses. It would be uneconomical to put anymore on you’ve got to have passengers too. The one to town has picked up so much that they need more buses on that. On the way into Sydney that’s really taken off.
What do you enjoy most about living in the Shire here?
I know everybody around the place, not everybody, but I used to know everyone. Been here all my life it’s just grown on me. I wouldn’t live anywhere else I don’t think.
So how do you see the future of the Shire?
Well I think they’ve ruined it by not putting a bypass in early in the piece. Years ago I did stand for Council and I wanted to put a bypass under Rogan’s Hill, under that service station which is not a service station now but the building is still there. Straight down under that, straight through to Windsor Road at the time I wanted to do that there were only about two houses to move. All that western traffic would never have gone through Castle Hill. Would have bypassed it, they missed the boat and it’s too late now.
So you think the future looks good for Castle Hill still?
Oh I think so I’m a bit worried about the traffic. Terminus Street when they get that going it remains to be seen how that will work out. As I say they missed the boat they should have done it years ago when they should have went straight through instead of messing around.
Old Northern Road Castle Hill 1972
Well I think we’re coming to the end of our interview here are there any other comments you want to make any things you want to say?
Well you were going to ask me about the general carriers around the place. The oldest one I can remember was Mobbs the nearest I can gather he started about 1922. He ran about six trucks in those days. When the war broke out he put most of the trucks in the shed and to his brother-in-law he said “you can have two trucks and go out on your own”. That was Jim Shore he ended up with seven trucks out at Glenorie. There was another chap by the name of Ron Anderson he had a single axle truck when I was a little kid. He was in the middle of the town up here and he used to run into the markets. There was another chap by the name of Gilham, their family has just about died right out now. They ran one truck into the markets all the time. That was back in the early 30’s. There was another one by the name of Luke at Baulkham Hills they had about 28 model Rios when I was a young fellow. They ran right up to just after the war.
How do you feel about having served the people of the Shire with all your transport, your trucks and your buses how do you feel about that?
I got on pretty well with everyone I liked it. I did a lot of work for Oakhill College early in the piece in fact I would have lost one truck if only for them. They kept me going even when they had school sports not sports they’d give the boys a day out. These days you wouldn’t be allowed to do it, put high sides on the truck and take them down to the beach, down to Newport.
So it wasn’t a regular scheduled run you did that on your own bat?
You can’t do that now but in those days you’d get away it. You’d get high sides in the truck. They used to hire me to pick up wood for the fires and all I had to do was drive the kids used to load the truck. When they were doing buildings around the place they used to send for me to cart cement down to them from Kandos too.
You’d have trouble with the child labour laws now having them load trucks?