FROM THE NEWSPAPERS - 1953 - A New Department Store for Yallourn - Rockman's

FROM THE NEWSPAPERS
1953.
A NEW DEPARTMENT STORE FOR YALLOURN
This news article tells of the announcement of a new Rockman’s Store at Yallourn in 1953. It was welcome news for the people of the town and it signified the beginning of a new era of commerce in Yallourn.
It was the Rockman’s 58th store in Australia; and the company took over the operations of the Yallourn General Store which had been owned by the SEC since 1922. The General Store was the only shop in the early days of settlement.
The following article was published in ‘The Argus’ (a city based newspaper) on the 2nd July 1953 and was ‘big news’ throughout Yallourn and the neighbouring towns in the Latrobe Valley.

JULY 2nd 1953 ‘THE ARGUS ‘ PAGE : 24
ROCKMAN No. 58: YALLOURN
Rockman's, whose expansion in the short 23 years of their existence makes one of the most fascinating success stories in Australian business, have chosen the Latrobe Valley for the scene of a new spectacular development.

This is the story behind Rockman's No. 58:
When Rockman's opened their first store in Melbourne they soon realised that the city women wanted serviceable, inexpensive frocks. That's when ‘Best for Less’ became their slogan. The idea proved so successful that soon the business had expanded throughout Victoria, then into New South Wales.

Many people, living away from the centres served, came to rely on service by post. That brought into existence Rockman's famous mail order system and catalogue. More expansion, Rockman's were now in Queensland and South Australia from Cairns to Adelaide there were 57 branches.
Then came the latest decision-that the name so well known for supply of women's clothing should give its guarantee to the provision of everything needed in the home. And first step was No. 58-the taking over of the General Store at Yallourn. Alterations and re- modelling are already going on. It is in the new Rockman's store at Yallourn that the ‘Argus’ photographic exhibition will open today.

FOOTNOTES
1. The Rockman chain of stores was founded by Philip Rockman (born : 1903). Philip came to Australia from Poland in 1924 and initially made his living by hawking drapery as a travelling salesman.
2. The first Rockman shop was opened in Collins Street in 1930. As mentioned above, the chain of stores extended in NSW.
3. Philip and his brother (Norman) had considerable success as racehorse owners and
Norman’s son (Irvin Peter Rockman) was the Lord Mayor of Melbourne (1977-79).
4. Philip Rockman died in July 1960 (at the age of 57) and was survived by his wife Cynthia and four daughters. It is difficult to ascertain if Philip ever visited the Yallourn branch of the company.
5. It is believed that Miss H. Williams was the first manager* of the Rockman’s Store. ‘The Horsham Times’ (June 16th 1953) reported that Miss Williams has previously been Manager of the Horsham Store. *(Note: In those days the feminine gender term ‘manageress’ was often used).
6. ‘The Age’ newspaper reported that the SEC had sold the store to Rockman’s for £60,000 (pounds). With the sale of the Yallourn General Store, on July 1st 1953, the SEC had no further trading/commercial interests within the town. After that point in time, all businesses in Yallourn were owned or managed by private operators.
7. Further research unearthed that the agent for the sale of the Yallourn General Store to Rockman’s Pty Ltd, was Morris Sallmann of Melbourne.
8. ‘The Age’ also stated that the proceeds of the sale of the Yallourn General Store were used to finance the completion the town’s sewerage system.
9. One source said that the profits of the sale of the General Store to Rockman’s Pty Ltd were also directed towards the establishment three important facilities in the township… (i) a modern library, (ii) the ‘Olympic-sized’ swimming pool and (iii) a new public hall which was to be named ‘Kernot Hall.’
10. ‘The Argus’ carried a large commercial/ article about the opening of the new store and part of the advertisement stated that the new store aimed to …
“…To bring you the same variety of high-class fashions now enjoyed by thousands of customers from our 57 other stores. You fashion conscious people will appreciate our extensive experience and marvellous values being at your disposal. To make this Store the natural place for you to meet your friends, and obtain all your clothing and household requirements with better variety and values than any-where else…” July 2nd 1953
11. The people of Yallourn supported the new store with enthusiasm; and consequently shopping trips to Morwell became less urgent as Rockman’s offered a wide variety of products, competitive prices and reliable service.
12. One section in the new Yallourn shop that created particular interest was the Record & Music Department. It was the only outlet for purchasing records in the town at that time*; and music lovers appreciated the opportunity to buy the latest on vinyl disc (s) without travelling to Morwell.
* Note: Shine’s Emporium also had a small range of records for sale in later years.
13. The following advertisement was published on September 5th 1954 in the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ and it gives some indication of the range of records (aka microgrooves) available at the Rockman’s Yallourn store in those days…

ROCKMAN'S RECORD BAR RECORDS
BRAND NEW 33 1/3 MICROGROOVES
JUST IN….
• JAN PEERCE SINGS MEL TORMIE SINGS BENNY
GOODMAN – CLASSICS IN JAZZ
• WILLIAM TELL AND BARBER OF SEVILLE OVERTURES
• PERCY FAITH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
• BOB CROSBY and HIS ORCHESTRA
• FRED WARING and HIS PENNSYLVANIANS
• IRVING BERLIN'S ALL TIME HITS
• SYMPHONY IN D MINOR -St. Louis Symph. Orch.
• "PASTORALE" BEETHO VAN - Pittsburgh Symph Orch.
• QUINTET IN C. MAJOR SCHUBERT - Hollywood String Quartet.
We've Microgrooves for all Moods and Tastes!
ROCKMANS ' GENERAL STORE YALLOURN

14. In later years, a popular area of the store was the small café/refreshment area. Local school students often gathered there for soft drinks, ice cream or milk shakes after school had finished for the day.
15. The newsagency, which was situated within the store, was well patronised. The doors of agency opened very early each morning to allow people to purchase newspapers on their way to work. The newsagency had a wide range of magazines, books, cards and stationery; and it was also the pay-point for the accounts of those residents who chose to have their newspapers home-delivered.
16. The town’s paper boys organized their morning delivery rounds from one of the large storage sheds at the rear of Rockman’s.
17. The photographic exhibition, referred to in the last paragraph of the news report, seems to be best explained in an article published in ‘The Argus’ on Tuesday 30th June…
“New aerial pictures in Latrobe Valley issue. A feature of Thursday's ‘Argus’ colour souvenir of the Latrobe Valley will be new aerial photographs of the district. These will also appear in The Argus pictorial exhibitions which will open at Moe, Morwell and Yallourn on Thursday; and at Traralgon on Monday. The photographs for the souvenir and the exhibitions are being selected from nearly 200 pictures by Argus photographer John Bagnall. Concentrating on the fast growing centres of Moe, Morwell, Traralgon, and Yallourn, ‘The Argus’ Latrobe Valley souvenir edition will contain 16 pages, eight of which will be in full colour. If your, copy is not already reserved, order it now to make sure of it.”
18. The Yallourn Store was number: 58 in the chain and a new store in Oakleigh (April 1954) became the 59th. By 1958 there were some 80 stores which were later sold to a company named Factor Ltd.
19. Rockman’s (Yallourn) closed its doors for the last time early in 1975. It was a sure sign of the impending fate of the town. With the closure of the store went a sizeable number of shop assistants and other workers who were forced to seek alternate employment in the Latrobe Valley.
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The research, writing, posting of accompanying photographs and presentation of this article were completed by Julie George and Roger Spaull for the Virtual Yallourn website in May 2016 .This story is part of the Virtual Yallourn history project entitled ‘From the Newspapers’ .
The above extracts from the ‘The Argus’ (Melbourne) have been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the story for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.

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Yallourn General Store (prior to Rockman's)

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1953
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Rockmans 2 Broadway

Staff at Yallourn General Store, before it was Rockman's.

Back Row: ? , ? , ? , ? , Robert Kerr, ? , ?
Middle Row: ? , ? , ? , ? , ? , Vern Arnol
Front Row: ? , ? , ?