‘Things have changed a lot over the years’



Malcolm Thompson works at Barclay Auto Electrical in Balclutha, in a job he has held for the past 59 years. As a teenager he had a short stint at the Clutha Leader, but decided it was not for him.

At the age of 16 he took a placement at what was then called J.V. Petrie, and owned by Jim Petrie.

“I wanted to leave school, and the opportunity of an apprenticeship came up, so I took it,” Mr Thompson said.

The business is now on to its third owner.

“It was on James St when it first started, then shifted to Clyde St. Things have changed a lot over the years.”

Work keeps him busy.

“There’s always something to do. I work from 9 until 3 or 4. I go home if there’s no work to do. It suits me.”

Mr Thompson works on starter motors, generators, wiring, parts fitting and diagnosing problems.

He said the job had changed along with society.

“It’s more of a throwaway culture now. Oftentimes repair parts are priced so expensive it’s cheaper to buy a new vehicle,” he said.

In that almost 60-year stretch, apart from short holidays abroad, Mr Thompson has had only a three-month stint away, working in Australia on the railways in 1965, but he said it was not really work at all.

“I claimed I worked. We weren’t working that hard.”

Mr Thompson’s original plan had been to retire when he turned 65, but it did not pan out that way.

“It became ‘I’ll go until Christmas, then we’ll see what happens’, but I can’t decide which Christmas.”

When asked what kept him coming back to the job after so many years, Mr Thompson said it was “just the challenge of it. I love getting in there and having a look around. But the body is getting stiffer.”

This does not stop him from tinkering with his pride and joy, a 1925 Alvis, at home.

Both he and his wife Shirley belong to the Balclutha Vintage Car Club.

Every few years, they like to take a trip to the United States to visit their friend Barry Walker, owner of the famous Marathon Village in Nashville, a neighbourhood born out of the buildings that once housed Marathon Motor Works.

The car fanatics once even ended up on the Good Morning America television show for having travelled so far.