30 March 2006
CTA BOOK LAUNCH OF KNIGHTS OF THE ROAD, BY JAI PATERSON
JAI PATERSON’S BOOK, KNIGHTS OF THE ROAD, IS AN IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DOCUMENT.
It documents a century of the Commercial Travelers’ Association of Tasmania and the people involved in it.
Jai Paterson speaks of a long, slow process, but she was lucky that the CTA had the foresight to keep and preserve records.
He was lucky that Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery has preserved the CTA’s archives.
She has expressed his gratitude for the help of the committee and especially Noel Callaghan and Alan Beecroft, who have long memories of the CTA.
The result is the dates, names and colour from the birth of the Association in Lawson’s Hotel in Campbell Town in March, 1900, through the century of the heydays of commercial travelers in Tasmania.
I called the book a historical document, and am reminded that it’s said that those who do not remember their history are bound to repeat it.
Repetition wouldn’t be such a bad thing in the case of the CTA.
Computers and the information technology explosion are bringing about a slow death of face-to-face contact in many commercial areas.
There was a time when you went to your local bank manager, who probably knew the names of your family.
Now those decisions are centralized, probably in Melbourne. Bank customers apply for loans on the internet.
Retailers order through a computer system and get information on products on their computer screens, instead of from the sample case of a visiting company representative.
The human contact is disappearing, and it is well that a century of human contact through Tasmania’s commercial travelers is now on record.
What makes Knights of the Road so interesting, and what held the CTA clubs together, was of course the people.
And what characters some of them were….Irvine and McEachern’s James Fulton---a founder of the CTA, the grand old man of Tasmanian roads. Eddy Genders on his bike.
Walter Dunn---the oldest traveler in Australia who referred to his customers as ‘my dear friends’.
John von Alwyn---a founding member---who was the first traveler to use a car in Tasmania. Sim Crawcour in his Fiat in the early 1920’s. John Asher and his sample caravan…….they’re all in Knights of the Road, and they give the book its colour.
Second in importance in the CTA’s history are of course the buildings.
It didn’t take the Association long to outgrow the meeting rooms in hotels, and two years after its foundation it moved into its own rooms in the Victoria Buildings at 47 Cameron Street.
But of course the most memorable building was the Charles Street clubhouse. It was the focus of northern commercial travelers from 1912 to 1975.
I remember 78 Charles Street … but was more familiar with its blackwood bar when it was moved to Wellington Street.
As the caption for the photograph on page 118 says:
“An 8-ball table was purchased in 1972 to attract younger members and was specially set up in a room adjacent to the bar.”
The table did attract me, and as the picture shows, I was considerably younger in 1978 when the 8-ball competition presentation was made.
I will never forget the camaraderie of the CTA.
It was a sad time for many members when Charles Street was abandoned and demolished in 1975 and the club moved to Wellington Street. Perhaps the saddest picture in the book is on page 90, showing the demolition of 78 Charles Street.
The move to Wellington Street coincided with continuing commercial and social changes.
It was perhaps inevitable that Wellington Street would become un viable.
The effect of electronic technology on commerce was another coffin nail.
But Knights of the Road means the memories of the century of the commercial traveler in Tasmania are on record.