Merredin Kyle Hughes-Odgers
I was born in Merredin. I left school at age 14 and went to work at CBH. My family was originally from Perth and came up this way. There’s five brother and five sisters in my family. Two died at birth so it would have been 12 but we ended up with 10 of us. Being a big family, there was a struggle on with looking after mum and that so a friend who was in charge at CBH got me a job there. They said “You can start down there Monday Spike,” and I didn’t know what the hell was down there so I rock up down there as a 14 year old and they give me a job as a cleaner for a while, I was only a little tacker, and when the big bosses came up from Perth, because my age was put up to 17- but I was actually only 14, I’d have to have the day off. I’ve been in Merredin all my life. I’ll probably die here, I’m happy living in the country.
I’ve retired now. I worked down at CBH for 48 and a half years and I retired at 63. I just made up my mind I said “I’ve had enough,” so I went down one morning and handed my notice in. It was big news for CBH. I am their longest serving employee ever. They arranged at CBH head office for someone to interview me on TV. That was quite good. I was very pleased about that. Spike Jones on Sunrise. It’s worth a laugh and a look at. I had some fun times down there.
You’ve got to have a bit of fun down there to get through on the job. I remember one particular story, is that one year we decided to buy some young turkeys and fatten them up so everyone could take a turkey home for Christmas. So we built a pen for them- a proper pen- it was five star accommodation we built for them. We’d let them out every day and they had free grain and they used to walk over to the office and to the shed and they loved everybody. And then one particular day I looked over and saw a bus pull up, a rented bus with all these people dressed up and trying to get off the bus. The CEO must have brought the directors up for a tour – and the turkeys must have thought it was feeding time, and here we’ve got the directors getting off and the turkeys trying to get on the bloody bus. Anyway, I panicked a bit. The next day I got a call from Perth and it was the big chief down there said “Spike, I am coming up tomorrow, get rid of those turkeys.” And I thought, Oh no!” Next day I was waiting for him when he rocked up and he come over to the pen and had a look and just as he got there he said “Jones you got rid of them?” And I said “No I didn’t and I’m not going to.” And he looked at me a bit and I said “Well, there’s eggs in there.” And from a distance he looked and he said, “Well I didn’t know about that Spike. Those eggs.” So he kicked a few stones about and he said to me “Look, I didn’t know about it, I’ll give you six months and then you get rid of them.” And I said “Well that’s a fair deal.” So he hopped in his car and he went back to Perth but he didn’t know that prior to him getting there I went to IGA and bought a dozen eggs – true story, no GST, bought a dozen eggs and put them all around the place in this pen. They all had stamps on them.
I love mucking around a little bit. Life’s too short and I like getting involved, I like talking to people. It doesn’t matter who they are, I’ll say gday -it’s better than sitting back and saying nothing with your head down. I am currently writing a book. I’ve been a bit lazy, I’ve been doing it for a while. About my time at CBH and there are a lot of funny stories. I’ve done about 150 pages.
My wife is from England originally, she came out here and we’ve had two kids. I bought a couple of greyhounds and I race them down at Mandurah, Northam, Cannington. I love doing that and then just going to see my kids. My daughter is in Busselton and my young bloke is in Perth.
When I first started it was steam trains and bag wheat, and we’ve gone from there to what it is today. It’s a big set up. I’ve done bobcat work, loader work, loading and unloading wagons, filling storages and I could have gone higher, I probably had the ability to go higher, but in those days, years ago, if you wanted to go a bit higher in the company you had to go and work at another bin three or four hours away and I was pretty close to the family and I didn’t want to go so I thought I’d just be an ordinary RPO and that was about it. I was probably lucky to get the start I did when I didn’t know what was going on. Through joining CBH at 14 and the people I’ve met through that company. I don’t know where I would have been if I wasn’t CBH. I could have been probably a nothing -you know. I don’t know, hard to say. I’ve been very lucky to be down there.
Merredin was a big railway town. There were a lot of railway people here. Some good sporting people come from here. Everyone’s pretty tight together, everyone knows one another, we all yak together and we all try to have a bit of a laugh together and get out to have a bit of lawn bowls together. The railway’s dropped off, there’s not many employees for that now. A few little shops have closed down but everyone seems fairly happy that if they live here they’ll just try to put up with it and try to make it better, try to keep surviving and try to look after the farmers. They’ve had a rough time now and again, they’ve got everything going against them, everything.