Tom Piper

Howard  Gostelow recalls his time working at Tom Piper in Williamstown Road

“I had been a screen printer in Melbourne for five years when a sales rep. friend of mine was informed that Tom Piper was looking at doing in-house printing rather than sending it out.

I made an appointment, called in and was shown what they wanted to do and asked if it was possible.

I told them that tables and screen frames would be needed and I could set things up from there. Tom Piper had an in-house wood work shop, so I was employed for the task in 1960 at age 22. It was a good step up for me.

Tom Piper canned meats, veg, and fruit. Many, many staff in the factory were Turkish, Greek or Italian. Everyone got on well.  Hundreds were employed.

Office staff were mostly young to middle age Australian people. I was considered a staff member and was paid well for 1960.

I had a couple of young guys who helped me print posters and price cards for grocery shops all over Australia. We were a very busy team.

Ticket writers were also there. Leo Haanappel, a good artist, and I designed many posters over the years to be screen printed. Leo was employed by Tom Piper in 1961 as a ticket writer. For screen printing as we did it, one had to know exactly what was needed for the artwork so I could hand cut the stencils to go onto the screen.

I also went out merchandising to the grocery stores using things I had printed.

Gerry Morrow was overall manager, Allan Blumfield general manager, and I was accountable to  Keith Murray the sales manager.

The Spooner brothers owned the company. They also had Caribbean boats in Scoresby.  Both had good and large cars…..Jaguar MK10 and new Chevrolet or Pontiacs.”

The Tom Piper brand is now part of Goodman Fielder Consumer Foods

Tom Piper employed 600 women in 1964 – 90 percent of them Greek.1

1 Mrs Jane Moody, the Deputy Chief of the Inter Governmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) mission in Athens, meets employees at Tom Piper National Archives of Australia image A12111:1/​1964/​27/​59

Tom Piper Ltd, Supermarket Window Display, Melbourne, Victoria, 11 Dec 1959 Museums Victoria

Tom Piper occupied a large site between Williamstown Rd and Plummer St with a frontage to Graham St. PMHPS is posting this fragment of a story hoping that it may prompt further recollections about this significant industry and workplace in Port Melbourne. The Society has no photographs of the premises or employees at Tom Piper. If any reader of this article has any information or photographs to add to this brief account, we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to Howard for making contact and getting the ball rolling.

Tom Piper w

The only record – what replaced Tom Piper

Comments

  1. Christine Griffiths says

    Hi, My father, Geoffrey Fewster was a Government Veterinarian and in the 1950’s and early 60’s while working in the Department of Primary Industry he was a Government Inspector. Tom Piper was a major cannery and one of his big clients. I remember him visiting Plummer Street regularly and also their offices on Nepean Highway, somewhere near Gardenvale. At Christmas time we would receive a hamper of their products which included Christmas Pudding, Chocolate Steam Pudding, Camp Pie, Corned Beef and tinned Lamb’s tongue (which I loathed). I will ask the family if anyone has a photograph but would be surprised.

  2. Albert Day says

    Hi. I was amazed the other day to see Tom Piper Braised Steak & Vegetables advertised. As a kid the family favourite was the canned plum puddings, a treat for special occasions. The Braised Steak or Sausages & Vegetables and Camp Pie were always a regular favourite. Many a time I drove, with Mum and Dad, past they prominent Gardenvale premises on the North West corner of Point Nepean Road (now Nepean Highway) and North Road with the prominent Tom Piper logo proudly displayed on the top of the large building. Then of course was their jingle “Tom Piper, Tom Piper, Tom P – I – P – E – R ….” Can’t remember the rest of it, but equally as famous at the time, as the Vegemite jingle. So who owns it now? H.J.Heinz > Kraft Company > Kraft-Heinz > Mondelez > Meadow Lea > Goodman Fielder or even Bega. My Can says Made in NZ, packed for H.J.Heinz Australia Ltd under licence from Meadow Lea Foods.
    Someone else may like to take up the challenge of its name and product ownership through the ages.

  3. Joseph Bajada says

    My mum worked at Tom Piper for a few weeks in 1959/60. She started her shift at 3 in the afternoon and finished 11 pm. She worked in the pear section removing any imperfections before it was canned. Unfortunately she doesnt have any photos. My father worked for Dunlop Tyres making aeroplane tyres for the 747’s in Port Melbourne.

  4. Colin Johnson says

    My mother and auntie worked at Tom Piper until they retired she worked in the same cannery from 1946 When it was called Kia-Ora cordial and canned fruit before becoming Tom Piper.i would always walked from Nott st State School and would go up to the observation room and watch my Mother working and watching the cranes lifting big racks of cans being placed in big steamers for cooking .During fruit season she would start early and finished at 9 pm I would walk from Garden City along Williamstown road with my dog and walk them home. Bob Skilton was a rep and lived across the road from TomPiper.

  5. Colin Johnson says

    I forgot to put the name of the cannery it was called Brooks Lemnos manufactured Kia-Ora cordials

  6. Mary Petsinis says

    My father, Bill, worked at Tom Piper from 1959 – 1979. He loved his years at work and was respected by management and co-workers. In 1979, Tom Piper was taken over by IXL Foods and part of the company re-located to Berri in South Australia while the other to Kyabram, Victoria. An end of an era in Garden City! The factory was dominant in the Port Melbourne area along with the Dunlop Tyre factory. The factories employed migrants from Macedonia, Greece, Italy and elsewhere. My father became a Leading Hand in his later years and supervised the production of tinned fruit. During peach season (Feb-March), my father worked the night shift for 6 weeks and I remember how disruptive this was for our family as we had to tip-toe through the house when we came home from school. As children, we were treated to the delights of the tinned Cherry Roll which I have tried to replicate at home without success. The Management were very generous each year and organised a Christmas Party for the children of the employees. There was great deal of camaraderie amongst the workers. This was one of the great Australian manufacturing success stories. I am happy to share other information.

  7. How small the world has become.
    I sat on a street seat while waiting for my wife to do a “little window shopping” and started a conversation with a local man.
    After a while he asked from where I came and when I told him he proudly told me that he had long ago been employed at Tom Piper in Port Melbourne.
    His name is George, aged 71yrs, and we were in Valletta, Malta at the time.

  8. Kevin Swenson says

    When I was born in March, 1954 my parents worked and lived on a farm in Ferntree Gully Road, Scoresby which was owned by the Spooner Family. That land is now what’s known as Caribbean Gardens. I recall my mother telling me that in the mid 50’s the Spooners went on a holiday in the U.S. and visited Disneyland. Mr Spooner was so impressed that he had intentions of building a similar recreation park on the Ferntree Gully Road site. Carribean Gardens was the start of that dream, but the bigger picture never eventuated. Also in the mid 50s they gave birth to a son, and my mother lent them the pram she had for me. When Mrs Spooner finished with the pram she returned it loaded to the top with Tom Piper products.

  9. Judith Strahan says

    The Spooner family who lived in the Gardenvale area, originally had a cake shop in Martin Street Gardenvale beside the railway station, where my first cousin once removed worked as their baker. (He later opened his own shop in Essendon).

    The story I was told about the Spooner family, & how Tom Piper started, was that before the 2nd WW one of the Spooners canned something (not sure what) & when he returned from the war opened it & it was still ok so that was how it started. This was told to me by a family member of the Spooner family.

  10. Doris Penza says

    I have enjoyed reading all the lovely memories of the Tom Piper company. My late mother Carmen Penza was from Malta and happily worked for Tom Piper for years in the 1960s. At first she worked checking the fruit quality as it went through on the conveyor, (which could be quite noisy). I know because during one school holiday, our father Joe, took my sister and I to visit mum at Tom Piper, via the old train line to Graham Railway Station. Later, mum was promoted to the Quality Control Department, where her job was to open the cans of food onto plates for the chemist, in his white coat, to take samples and analyse all of the delicious Tom Piper foods, like Camp Pie, Homestyle Iris Stew, Savoury Mince and Vegetables, etc. After some years our mother sadly left Tom Piper. My sister and I still treasure the lovely farewell gift that the staff gave to mum when she left. (she received a beautiful water set of a delicate glass, a gold rimmed decanter with egg size oval blue designs with etched leaves in the centers, and 6 small matching glasses) I write these details in case someone reading this may remember. (lovely memories)

    • Janet Bolitho says

      Thank you for these tender recollections of your mother and her work at Tom Piper Doris.

    • Hi I was working as an apprentice carpenter for the building firm Hansen And Yuncken . They were building 3 new cool stores for Tom Piper during the mid 60s .I was amazed to watch the trucks come in laden with oranges . The trucks I believe were turned on there side to empty them . The trucks were even lined up outside in the street. I found the people working for Tom Piper very friendly and helpful
      They had a shop there that we could go and purchase cordial , tin foods etc. .
      A lot of the products were seconds ( slightly damaged ). And some without labels but had writing to let you know what the product was.
      I certainly purchased camp pie and cordial . I got to work at Tom Piper by tram to the city and then one of the my fellow workers gave me a ride with him on his motor bike to start at 7.30 and home again after work. I lived in Richmond

  11. I worked at Henry jones IXL I stared in 1976 I worked in on the night shift in the 44gallon drum section washing out the citrus drums then I was moved in too the factory for awhile on the line stacking boxes on to pallets. From there I went into the warehouse as an order picker I met a lot of great guys there ( Steve story frank howard tommy white Russell white Fred Murray ,Wayne pope Charlie potter Brian Simpson’s ) I was trained as a forklift driver and started unloading trucks and reloading the interstate trucks were I met A lot of drivers that showed me how to tarp and load there vehicles I did have a few sickies to go on Arun interstate to get the feel of there job and love. The company was going thruway the motions of relocating to berri sa and Kyabram in vic but I left the company after 5years as I didn’t want too relocate and started in the transport side of things as a local driver then in interstate driving all over the country were I stade for 34 years I ow my career too Henry Jones I X L. It was a great place too work and if I had my time over I would do it again. I am retired now and live in Queensland…..

  12. Lindsay Charles says

    I used to bring oranges from Boundary Bend Victoria to Tom Piper early to mid sixties, we unloaded them by a ramp that would tilt and the oranges would spill out through the gates, I have some photos of the 760 Dodge I was driving emptying oranges onto the conveyor belt…mainly Greek and Italian workers employed there…all really good hard working blokes.

  13. Fro the last twenty years I was looking at the grocery shelves for TOM PIPER MEAT LOAF without success. I have no idea how it folded up. The meat loaf was a weekly fare at our breakfast. That was during the ’60s. What makes it memorable is its aroma, very distinctive that I can smell what my mother was cooking from outside our house. It/s taste could not approximate the meat loaf bestsellers of today. By the way, I live in Calauag, Quezon, Philippines.

  14. Peter White says

    The Spooner family leased a bakery in Rose Street Gardenvale – Spooners Bakery – and they delivered through the district by horse and cart.
    The shop in Martin Street sold bread and as a side line they made plum puddings

    Mr Spooner senior lost his sight so his two boys Archy and Norman joined the workforce at the bakery and invested in a canning machine to save some of the excess puddings

    They had an accountant Mr Smith and he suggested registering Dalmore Preserving Company to operate the little business

    WW2 broke out and the boys joined the military and went off to war – the business was operated by Mr Smith

    The Americans entered the war and called for pork and beans to be manufactured but not one of the big companies were interested but Mr Smith dived in and offered to produce for the Americans

    Dalmore preserving company financed by the American army purchased the Gardenvale Market and a factory was fitted out to can food

    The venture was a great success and contracts for food arrived from mainly UK where their agent Whitley Muir and Zwanenberg spread them far and wide

    In 1948 Tom Piper Limited was incorporated to aquire Dalmore Preserving Company and to expand they took over Brooks Leno’s and their factories in Port Melbourne and Whiteman Street South Melbourne

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