Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Business trucks

The theme photo this week features Finnish radio engineers on top of a broadcast van. So what have I got in my collection that might match? I found a few photos of trucks used by several generations of the Phelan family in various businesses over the years. Unfortunately this exercise has made me realise that there are a few gaps so I have some homework to do.

Firstly I should say that while the photos of the trucks are interesting the background is equally important for family history. We see images of buildings and landscapes not usually seen in 'posed' photos.

The first three photos are of a truck used by the Sims Bros general store in the small town of Mitiamo in central Victoria in the 1930s. The business was called Sims Bros but when these photos were taken it was owned by Roy Phelan who married Annie Sims. She was the daughter of C W Sims who bought the business from a Mr Dyke. (As an aside, I like the phone number - Mitiamo 2. Annie's brother, Charlie, set up the first phone connections in the Mitiamo area, a private line between several businesses and a farm at Pine Grove that the family owned. Mitiamo 1 was their home number in Mitiamo. Both numbers were probably applied when the official PMG lines were installed.) 

The truck used by Sims Bros general store to deliver goods throughout the Mitiamo district.
Neil Phelan and the Sims Bros delivery truck.
Doug Phelan and Pluto, Mitiamo.
Charlie Sims started making ice cream in Mitiamo and he had a nice little business going where he sold icecream at the Mitiamo railway station. After WW2 he moved north to Swan Hill and established an icecream factory. His nephew, Neil Phelan (my husband's father), worked for him for a while in the 1950s. This delivery van, a Chevrolet, was used in the business at Swan Hill. The sign on the van reads 'Sims Ice Cream. The cream of the north.'

Philip and Alan Phelan beside the Sims Ice Cream van, Swan Hill.
Neil Phelan at the Sims Ice Cream factory, Swan Hill.
The sale notice for Sims Ice Cream business
The Argus 20 November 1954
After operating a Post Office and Telephone Exchange at Toolamba in the mid-1950s Neil Phelan's next business venture was a fuel depot in Kerang. He delivered fuel around the town and out to the farmers in the district. Neil was already familiar with the fuel industry because of his father's and grandfather's involvement in the general store. He purchased this new 1957 Chevrolet truck, made in the USA, from Wattie Corrie, Bendigo. It was originally red with white trims on the grill, wheel hubs and grill but Mobil decreed that the truck had to be repainted Mobil red. The truck was used to carry bulk fuel and drums.

Mobil Depot, Kerang. Neil Phelan with his Aunt Ina and family, Philip, Alan and Shelley.
Philip and Alan Phelan on dad's truck at the depot.
The business needed a second truck so Neil bought a Chevrolet Maple Leaf, made in Canada. It was secondhand.

The Mobil fuel depot's second truck. Neil Phelan with Shelley and Kay.
Neil moved from Mobil over to the Amoco fuel depot in Kerang and used the truck in the next photo to deliver heating oil. It's a 1948 Morris Commercial truck. He purchased it off a local farmer. This truck has recently been donated to the Kerang Museum where it is being restored. The Amoco depot also had a bigger truck, a 7 ton Bedford, but I don't have a photo of that one so I'll have to search some more family albums and slides to see if I can find one.

Neil retired from the fuel business after about 30 years and no longer owns any trucks.

The Morris Commercial truck - still in the family but long after it had finished its working life.
I suggest you travel on over to Sepia Saturday to see what others have made of the theme photo.


  1. This brought back memories that were long forgotten! A friend of my parents, who drove an ice cream van, would often find a "freeby" for my sister and I.

  2. Great collection of family trucks and vans. Is your homework to find out more about the backgrounds shown in the photographs, ie. where they were taken?

    1. No, my homework is to track down photos of the other trucks the family owned. I think it's going to be impossible. Although, we heard today that one of the trucks has been in a farm shed north of Bendigo and that the shed recently collapsed, so we'll have to check that out.


  3. Hello Lorraine, I’m only just getting into the swing of looking further into photos. I’ve always focused on the people and what they are wearing but there is always so much more to see if you take the time to look. I really enjoyed your post and all the photos, thank you for sharing them.

  4. It must have been hard to keep ice cream frozen without a refrigerated truck. I don't remember ever seeing that style of truck here, though there must have been some.

  5. Shining examples of trucks but I do like the painted sign on the ice-cream one, and how ‘cool’ to have a relative with an ice-cream business.

  6. Quite an impressive array of trucks! I recognized the flying red horse logo on the Mobile trucks. Gosh, I hadn't seen that in years.

  7. As you said, those backgrounds are very interesting, as well as the lovely old trucks.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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