Avis’s “Little Oppy Bike”

Avis stands beside the bicycle she has owned since 1940

Love for life: Avis still owns the Malvern Star bicyle she fell in love with as a small child.

The six pointed star that remains today the symbol of the Australian made Malvern Star that was first introduced by Tom Finnegan. By 1920 Tom had established a solid business with a reputation for integrity and service combined with Don Kirkham’s racing success gave support to the sporting credentials of the Malvern Star machines.

In 1921 a Rochester local born in 1904 of British-German descent, Hubert Opperman came third in a local race and the prize was a Malvern Star racing bike. Opperman impressed the proprietor Bruce Small so much that he offered a role in the business which helped turn both into household names across Australia.

The world was at war, and ‘Oppy’ joined the R.A.A.F. where he rose to commissioned rank of Flight Lieutenant. Not far from where Opperman was born 12 miles west of Rochester at Diggora West a pioneering man by the name of James Wright all the way from Lancashire UK had settled in 1876 to raise his family.  1935 saw the fourth child of one of Jame’s 14 children his son born the third daughter and one boy.

In 1939 the word around Diggora West was not only about the war but that of the prospects of their local school closing.  Avis the third daughter at the age of 4 was to attend the school in 1940.  Avis can remember going with her father shopping on a Friday night into Rochester and standing outside Mr Woodland’s bike shop gazing adoringly at a bright red Malvern Star bike, a brand name of Opperman fame. Just prior to Christmas recollecting her distress when the bike disappeared from the window dashing her hopes of being her own.

Much to her delight her own little bright red “Oppy Bike” was to be her companion and mode of transport for school and weekend for many years to come.  Avis’s dad screwed wooden blocks on the pedals for a short period of time so the short legs could power the fixed gear bike. Avis had drummed into her that her bike was never to be laid down and was to be stood upright a lesson she still speaks of today and the value of looking after fine machinery such as her “Oppy Bike”.

Avis was an errand runner, a food deliverer, a worker’s support in all aspects of farm life in rounding up stock and was very proficient in balancing billies of hot tea and fresh milk on her handle bars for labourers down the paddock. There were the times of selling raffle tickets for war effort getting flowers from neighbouring farm house gardens, racing over ploughed paddock and corrugated gravel roads with sheer delight and freedom.

Punctures were prolific and rubber being hard to obtain her dad was the primary repairer with best use of the old vulcanised patches.  Avis can remember the sternness of her mother watching over any dare devil antics down the dam bank with the feet up on the handle bars and dinking others as doctors were hard to get to visit let alone the cost.

Although not red any more and missing the rear mud guard dress deflector Avis has kept her original Oppy Bike in amazing condition and sense is as proud of the bike and the joy it has brought as the day it became her own.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.

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