Peter Bainbridge was driving to work a few months ago and thought to himself “I don’t think I want to be doing this anymore”. This was the first time he’d felt this way, and he knew it was time for a change. Decision made, he put the land and buildings on the market to see what would happen.
Peter has had a life-long association with the automotive repair business in the Blockhouse Bay Village. Originally, dad Harry Bainbridge ran the rear workshop for Vic Cleave. In the sixties Harry took over running the business, and at age 15 Peter started working for his dad, apprenticed to Ron Carleton. After a short stint doing earthworks he came back, then in 1979 he bought the business off Harry, and bought the land and buildings off Vic Cleave in the late eighties. Peter will have been in business 39 years this November.
Peter recalls his apprenticeship with Ron Carleton: “He would put a gearbox on the bench and pull it to bits. He’d say ‘Are you watching?’ He’d explain what he was doing every step of the way, but if he thought you weren’t paying attention he’d put it all back together again without another word, and you knew you’d lost your opportunity to learn something. He was a great teacher”.
“He taught us how to repair things. Young guys now are taught a lot more electrical stuff”, he says, “but we used to have to make something work and repair it because you couldn’t always get replacements easily”. Peter loves fixing things, and laments that this is no longer practical; “It’s now cheaper to buy new than repair, and you can’t buy most of the bits nowadays, anyway”, he says.
Although the family lived in Sandringham, Peter has fondest memories of Blockhouse Bay where he has spent much of his life. As a wee lad his dad would bring him to work in the school holidays. Peter recalls happy times; the hire service behind the workshop, and riding along on a bulldozer with the man who was making the school field for the primary school. “You couldn’t do that nowadays,” he laughs.
Peter reminisces about the various shop owners in the village: Graham Price’s whiteware, Bill Stites’ menswear, Penman’s bookstore, Mrs Taver’s shoes, Parachute shoes, Alec Mann’s paint shop, Hemskirks bakery, Mr Harnett’s hardware. “The whole community were real nice people,” he says.
He recalls dreading having to go across to the haberdashery to take a message to Grenville Rusden. “None of the boys liked that job, going into the haberdashery with all those buttons and bows”, he said with a grin.
With the new owner taking possession of the land and building, Peter will start a new chapter in his life late November. He is looking forward to more family time, working on projects with his kids, and fishing. Beyond that, he’s not sure what the future holds, “But it’s definitely time for a change”, he says.