Thanks to CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS
Greater Dandenong Weekly Link HERE
26 Mar, 2012 12:00 AM
RETIREMENT is far from the mind of pattern maker George Hellyer.
He has been working at Dandenong South metal parts supplier AW Bell virtually from the start of its 60-year history.
Mr Hellyer, 77, started as an apprentice at its former Huntingdale site. A keen woodworker, he loved carving designs accurately from a drawing.
In 1955, soon after he started, he was named the best overall trades craftsman in the state and won a five-year trade scholarship to work in the UK and Scotland. He graduated to the role of general manager.
Pattern makers no longer carve their designs by hand. That job has become computerised.
The business used to provide tooling for up to four different car engines in the late 1970s.
With auto manufacturing on the slide, AW Bell has changed its focus to aerospace and defence technologies. “It’s now done in shorter runs but there’ll always be a need for pattern making.”
Mr Hellyer has remained an essential fixture at the firm, where he continues to work part-time.
Last Monday he was “aghast” to be recognised by his workmates for 60 years’ service.
Asked if it made him feel valued, he said: “I certainly do. They have treated me excellently. “It has been that continuous relationship that has been great.”
Pressed about retirement, Mr Hellyer said he would help at a Men’s Shed – a manual workplace and hub for retired men.
His boss Geoff Bell paid tribute to Mr Hellyer as one of the best pattern makers in Australia, who had trained more than 60 apprentices.
Mr Bell agreed that pattern making, as a “reserved occupation” during wartime, would always be needed. “Defence contracts are an the upward trend for us. That’s one thing that won’t be sent to China and India.”
When Mr Bell succeeded his father as company boss in 1982, he worked closely with Mr Hellyer. “George has been my mentor and he still is. He’ll tell me what he thinks and I know I’ll get an honest answer.”