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Primary producers’ store
Eric: Then of course when the carrying – as I say in the book, I sold off the carrying and I started to expand the produce side of the business, like, the fertiliser distribution, and we started into grain, wheat and that sort of thing, and then after 30 years in trucking I became wholly and solely a store-keeper in Nimbin, and I was sixteen years in that selling stock feeds, fertilisers, fencing materials, polypipe.
Marie: Farm supplies, general farm supplies.
Eric: And then we went into – then of course the farming sort of dried up a bit more, and after the ‘70s and ‘80s, well, by 1985 I think I started the produce store wholly and solely as a produce store. Well, then we started doing a lot for the hobby farmer and the market gardener – not so much the market gardens, because there were not many market gardens – but potting mixes and garden liquids, and sprays and chemicals and we were LPG gas distributors.
And could you see a difference between the alternates and the hobby farmers? Were hobby farmers coming in at the same time as the alternates?
There’s not too many hobby farmers. I suppose some of the alternates are hobby farmers, but—-
Marie: The Good Life, as we used to refer to them as. The Good Lifers, you know – there used to be a television program about The Good Life, and these people, a lot of them had come from academic type backgrounds to wanting a more simple life, where they just wanted a house cow and a pig, or a lamb, and grow a bit of vegetables and stuff. So they were the ones that were looking to make a fence to, you know, fix this up here, or to be able to get the fertiliser and sprays and things for whatever it was that they wanted to grow.
Eric: People used to say to me, that were not in the know, they’d say, ‘How do the hippies treat you? How do you get on with the hippies?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, you tell me what a hippie is.’
Marie: Give me a definition.
Eric: ‘Give me a definition.’ I’d say, Well, you can start off with the down-and-out persons on the street, the homeless, the drug addict. And then you go out onto the farms, the people that are living in an alternate lifestyle that want to live that way,’ and then I said, ‘Then you go to the retired academics. We’ve got doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., living the alternate lifestyle.’ I’d say ‘How do you…’
Marie: A professor at the university.
Eric: A professor at the university. I had one chap that came in, and it was the time the sales tax was in, and you had the sales tax redemption. If you were in primary production you’d buy stuff and there was sales tax. He’d spent a fair bit of money and I said, ‘You haven’t got a sales tax exemption, have you?’ and he said, ‘Oh, the community has.’ He was on a multiple occupancy, see, and I called it the “seat of knowledge” because they were all retired professionals.
Doctors and things?
Eric: Yes, and he’s flicking through, and he dropped a card, and I bent down and picked it up, and he found the one he wanted and he said, ‘There you are,’ so I took the numbers off it and recorded it on the invoice. I picked this up, and it’s ‘Professor something-or-other,’ and he had initials that long.
And there he was out on a co-operative or multiple occupancy?
Eric: I won’t say too much, you might identify him. But he came in with a straw hat with a hole in it, straggly hair, three-quarter length shorts and Blucher boots and no socks on, you know, but driving a brand new Land Rover Defender, about $60,000. I thought, ‘This doesn’t add up,’ you know. That was the chap.
And what impression did you have when people would say to you, ‘How do you get on with the hippies?’ What were they thinking?
Eric: I think they thought that, I don’t know, people have just got this stereotype thing that people are weird, or that they’re different.