About Donalda Motors Maffra
Jock McDonald, Naught McDonald and Jack DeVanny moved to Maffra on approximately 16th February 1926. Jock was 22 years old and turned 23 two days later. Naught was 21 years old, being 20 months younger than Jock. Jack DeVanny was older than the McDonald brothers.
Prior to moving to Maffra, Jock had operated a business “Donalda Garage” from the family home in East St Kilda and joined the V.A.C.C. on 23rd September 1925. Jock gained his mechanical knowledge working at the Canada and Cycle Motor Company in Melbourne (Dodge importers). Naught, also a mechanic, worked at Kellow Faulkiner in Melbourne (Rolls Royce dealers). Jack DeVanny had no mechanical knowledge and was to do the clerical work. The McDonald brothers bought Jack DeVanny out in June 1926 and continued in business together until 1946 at which time Naught left the business.
The business of Maffra Motors (owner Mr Gus Kiss) operated from this address prior to 1926 and the premises was rented from Mr Kiss until 19XX -at which time a loan was made to purchase the premises from Mr Kiss. Mr Silace Clark held the mortgage until this was repaid.
In 1926 the business was based mainly on mechanical repairs and reconditioning and this was supported by the selling of Dodge Motor cars and Graham Bros trucks.
The first petrol pump in Maffra was installed by Donalda Motors in approximately 1926/27 and was a Shell pump. Other brands of petrol included Voco, Atlantic, Caltex, Ampol, C.O.R., Golden Fleece, Plume, Esso.
The early pumps were hand operated with large glass bowls on the top measured in gallons.
The first car lift/hydraulic hoist was installed in 1928. This was advertised at the local movies showing the hoist lifting a cow. Many people from all over Gippsland came and visited Donalda Motors to see the hoist. Incidentally, this hoist is still in use daily, together with one installed in 1934 and another in 1951/52.
During the tough depression years from 1930 until 1936 car sales for all manufacturers were negligible and the survival of Donalda Motors depended on repairs. Also during the depression the Government of the time introduced a debt equalisation scheme which enabled primary producers who owed money to business to have their debt eliminated and this resulted in many businesses going broke. We, like most others, suffered as a result of this scheme but managed to survive these difficult times. In the late 1930’s business recovered and car sales steadily increased and this continued until the outbreak of war.
In 1934 a large extension was added to the building (see cutting from motoring journal).
Hire cars were operated in the early years and up until 1939. Some of the vehicles were:
1925 Hudson Super Six eight passenger tourer)
1929 Dodge Senior Six with four speed gearbox
1937 Dodge D5
War Years 1939 – 45
During the war years all vehicles manufactured were used for the armed forces and the car manufacturers cut car production and produced war materials, guns, ammunition, etc. The main thrust of business for the years until after the Second World War was conducted along workshop repairs with a small number of cars being sold. Also petrol was rationed and some cars were put on blocks for the duration of the war and other vehicles were converted to use “producer gas” generated from charcoal. Donalda Motors sold charcoal, which was stored in bags on the billiard tables. This charcoal was purchased from a supplier at Nungurner. One of these gentlemen who made the charcoal was killed when the gas in the kiln for making charcoal exploded.
During World War II most of the employees (six) joined the armed forces.
Naught McDonald R.A.A.F. Australian posting
Snowy McKeen (Mechanic) R.A.A.F. taken prisoner, lost life as prisoner
Colin Wilkinson (Storeman) ARMY taken prisoner, lost life as prisoner
Bill Withell (Mechanic) R.A.A.F. Australian posting, returned to work until his retirement
Jack Slattery (Mechanic) ARMY taken prisoner, returned after war then worked with his brother Jim Slattery
Norm Thompson (Tyre fitter) Australian posting
As can be seen, the war caused a major upheaval and the workforce at Donalda Motor Service was reduced to Jock McDonald, Harry Miller and Rita Young.
During the war, Donalda Motors made bomb straps and brass thrust washers used in Bren Gun carriers to assist with the war effort and also did mechanical repairs and maintenance on farm machinery and stationary motors used for primary production. Jock started work at 7 am and finished at midnight for these war years and into the late 1940s until the business built up again. Also an air raid siren was installed, which incidentally has been re-installed on the building and was sounded in August 1995 for “Australia Remembers”.
A larger welder was purchased during the war and special permission had to be granted to enable this purchase as most machinery was being requisitioned for the war effort. Thus Jock had the valve facer hidden under the bed.
Post War and 1950’s
1953 – 54 the adjoining building and land was purchased from Miss Mason of Geelong for approximately 5,000 pounds ($10,000). After the war and after petrol rationing finished, motor vehicles sourced from England became much more available and we sold Vanguard motor cars in quite large numbers also Dodge cars and Desoto cars supplemented these sales but in smaller numbers. Also in 1950, Ferguson tractors became available through a subsidiary company of Standard cars. As Ferguson had revolutionised the farm tractor these were very popular and sold in large numbers and perhaps these years of the 1950s were some of the best for Donalda Motors.
1960’s & 70’s
During 1959 we acquired the Volkswagen franchise and we opened a business in Sale (corner of York and Cunninghame Streets – now McDonalds). At this time, Volkswagen was perhaps the most popular small car on the market and these sold in large numbers. 1960 the front of the Maffra building and showroom was modernised to give a larger showroom area.
The business closed in Sale in 1963 and we moved everything back to Maffra. In 1967 we acquired the franchise for Chrysler Australia and Valiant cars sold well also from this time. In 1972 we again operated a business in Sale at premises formerly owned by Ellimans garage (Austin and BMC dealers) where we sold the Chrysler range of products. This business was sold to Frans Bird who operated as Sale Point.
In 1969 an addition was made to the rear of the workshop. “Twin service pitt installed” this was approximately 30 feet x 66 feet. In 1975 part of the building on the east end was demolished to increase the size of the used car yard and to make a separate showroom.
The main original building is of solid brick construction and has oregan trusses of 30 feet to support the roof (built in 1919 – 1920). The extension 1934 is of solid brick with similar oregan beams. The extension 1970 is of steel construction.
The spare parts department was originally built as a billiard room with three full size billiard tables. Many of the redgum blocks for the billiard tables to sit on are still in place and paintings which adorn the walls have been left in their original condition. The western end of the showroom was a barbers shop (in front of the billiard room). The billiard room was operated by the McDonald brothers and some of the managers were local identities – Cliff Shingles, Reg Murphy. Perhaps unknown to most people of Maffra, a fruit machine or “one arm bandit” poker machine was in place in the billiard room. Also there was a miniature roulette wheel. During the war 1939 – 45 the billiard room was closed and the billiard tables were used to store bags of charcoal. Jock was never keen on gambling, billiards, etc. and he thought this was a more suitable use for the tables. The billiard tables were disposed of after the war, one went to the R.A.A.F. base East Sale, one went to Gilders and the other table??
We have the franchise for Massey Ferguson. Since 1981 we have been Mitsubishi dealers and have a large range of quality tractors and vehicles to sell. The modern vehicles have reduced service costs and the emphasis is on more electronics eg. Ignition, fuel, automatic transmission controls, etc. and this requires more sophisticated diagnostic equipment. Our service department is still an important part of our operation as the retained profit margins in new cars have decreased dramatically in recent years due to increased competition and perhaps now more than ever a close watch has to be kept on all aspects of the business. Perhaps we are on the verge of a repetition of the 1930s!?
In the early years Donalda Motors reconditioned car engines eg. Rebore and cylinder head reconditioning. This is now not economical as reconditioning is carried out on a large scale by several reconditioners, which cuts costs.
The first tow truck was the original old Hudson Super Six 1925 converted to a tow truck. This was used until 1947. Purchased ex. U.S. Army Dodge Weapon carrier which was used until 1964, when a 1951 International was purchased from Nestles. This was used until 1974 when the present tow truck, a 1964 Dodge AT4, was commissioned.
Dodge Cars and Trucks – Desoto
Standard and Triumph Cars
Singer Tourer (Max Tyrell)
Chrysler – Humber Hillman (Rootes Groupe)
Motor Mowers – Lawn Cub, Lawn Patrol, Victa, Technico, Whirlwind
Chainsaws – Stihl
B.F.E. Ferguson/Jones Baler
(John Deere – None sold)
Howard Rotary Hoes, Gem rotary Hoes
Pride boats, DeHavilland boats
Colin McDonald (Director, Maffra)
Murray McDonald (Director, Maffra)
Jennifer McDonald (Director, Bairnsdale)