Friday, December 05, 2014

New England Passings – Remembering Bruce Treloar

TRELOAR TRADITION: Bruce Treloar, centre, with sons John and James at the 120th celebrations for their retailing history in 2011.

Tamworth retailer Bruce Treloar died on Saturday 16 August 2014 aged 88  after a period of ill health ended by a recent battle with cancer and finally pneumonia.

The night before he had shared a  beer with two of his sons John and James. The photo from the Northern Daily Leader shows the three  (John, Bruce, James) in 2011 at the 120th celebrations of the Treloars’ retailing history.

According to his sons, Bruce Treloar’s  defining characteristics were his love and pride for his family, for his school, for his business and for his hometown.

“I think that defining quality was his love and pride for what he became involved in and the words that come together to best describe Bruce Treloar are that everything he loved, he was so proud of,” John Treloar said at the time of his father’s death.

“And that extended to things like rugby, his schools, the development corporation, the chamber, the council.”

Bruce Morison Treloar was born in Tamworth on July 23, 1926, the second son of Thomas John Treloar (Jack) and his wife, Mollie (nee Woodhill). As well as serving in the First World War and running the family business, T J Treloar and Company founded in 1889, Jack also served as the federal member for Gwydir from 1949 to 1953.

From an early age, Bruce was aware that although he had a comfortable upbringing, many others were not so lucky. At Tamworth Public School during the Depression, he used to take his shoes off on the way to school and hide them under a hedge. He would then go barefoot, as many of the other children did, and put his shoes back on, on the way Gordon Fisherhome.

Bruce attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) for a short time before joining The Armidale School (TAS) where, under the watchful eye of the headmaster, Gordon Fisher, he flourished. He was appointed a prefect, played in the first rugby and cricket teams and retained a close association with the school for the rest of his life.

Back in 2007, I made a short comment from my perspective on Gordon Fisher’s influence ( The Armidale School - G A (Gordon) Fisher). Interesting to see the influence of GAF on Mr Treloar’s life. 

Amy Ripley records that in October 1944 Treloar left Armidale and enlisted in the navy. I blinked a little at this. Armidale? Surely Tamworth? Then I realised that he must have joined the navy straight from TAS. That was a strange time at the school; many of the boys saw school as an interregnum before joining the services. They were meant to study and comply with rules now, but with the knowledge that soon all bets would be off. This affected every aspect of school life.

Bruce Treloar served on HMAS Warramunga in the Pacific, and was in Tokyo Bay on the day the Japanese signed the Peace Treaty. He never forgot this time, and when the Treloar company subdivided land in East Tamworth, he used Warramunga, Arunta and Eight Bells as street names.

After his discharge in 1946, Treloar headed home to begin his career in the family business. He proved to have a natural aptitude for retail, was committed, enthusiastic and instinctively understood his customers. In 1949, always thinking of the bigger picture, Treloar travelled to Europe to look at the latest retailing trends. It turned out to be a fruitful trip in another way, too, as he met Jan Henderson on the ship coming home. They were married in 1950.

Jack Treloar died in 1953. Bruce, aged 27, became managing director,of the family firm. He was a considerable success, growing the company to become one of the state's leading department stores, holding its own against bigger rivals.

By the mid-'60s, Treloar’s was very profitable with 165 employees. However, Treloar was always thinking about ways to develop the company. Believing that to give their country customers competitive prices, businesses needed to band together, he led the drive to establish buying groups. By 1975, Treloars was a member of seven different buying groups, some of which still exist today, such as Mitre 10 and Frontline.

Again in contextual terms, this was a feature of many country businesses seeking to content with challenges of scale and distance. It was also a special feature of the entrepreneurial climate within Tamworth. The Higginbotham controlled Broadcast Amalgamated was wrestling with the same challenges and responding in similar ways.

Bruce Treloar was also active in industry and community matters. He served as a councillor of the Retail Traders Association (RTA) of NSW for 36 years and was the only country member to have served as president of the RTA. This contribution to retailing was recognised in 1993, when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to business and commerce.

Treloar was also the founding president of the Tamworth Chamber of Commerce and served as the inaugural chairman of the Tamworth Development Corporation. He was on the board of, and chairman of, the Northern Daily Leader, a director of New England Network Television and the Tamworth Building & Investment Society, and a president of Tamworth Legacy.

Despite his busy professional life, Treloar's heart was at the family home in Raglan Street. He and Jan, who was always at his side, had four children and, as his eldest son, John, said: "He was loving, supportive and so very proud of us."

Bruce Treloar is survived by children Jane, John, James and Bruce and their partners, eight grandchildren and sister Gai. Jan died in 2011.


This story is drawn especially from Amy Ripley’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of 25 November 2014, supplemented by the Northern Daily Leader report of 19 August 2014. Background interpretation is my own.  

As I wrote it I was thinking especially of James Treloar and Rob Richardson, among others. In 2011, the name Treloar finally vanished from the Tamworth retailing scene in the face of continuing change. We have to adjust to change, but it can be very hard to keep the family tradition of contribution continuing in the face of change. To my mind, James and Rob have done that, as I have tried to. I admire their efforts.

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