My Days of Wine

Les Kassebaum in 1939

Graeme and Les Kassebaum

Graeme and Les Kassebaum at 18 Muscat Ave, Berri SA 5343.
Les was pruning shrubs and luckily Graeme was there. We talked and Les recounted the following :-
Came to Berri in 1939 , employed at the winery and was not allowed to join up in the forces because of Manpower restrictions, same as Noel Burge. There until end of war, resigned and went to Angove's.

Warrie Garnett

Warrie Garnett came from Penfolds, Nuriotpa in 1933 and after Berri went to Penfold's in Sydney.
Garnett had purchased 18 Muscat Ave as an investment and Frank Wilson was a tenant for a number of years. Les is still there today (2002). Graeme will organise the recorder and next time we are up will get Roger to sit in as he has a good memory.

Also Les knew the Bain Family, Roy and Frank and a sister married to a Wyatt I think?. I took photos of Les and Graeme, the residence and left for home. A Good Day!!!

Noel Burge thought that Les had a cooper's shop in Riverside Ave. Also thought Eric Butcher was an assistant at BCWD to Les.

Visit with Les and Graeme at St Catherine's on Tuesday 12th November 2002. Les will be 91 on 14/11/2002. Born 1911.
Need to ask where Les received his training in the Barossa.
Was roving throughout the industry from 1927 to 1939 and then joined BCWD as Head cooper. Les said that Jack Mutton was Cellar Foreman in 1939. Also remembered Phil. Knappstein who had an office next to Noel Burge. Les wanted to join up for war service but Garnett retained him under the Manpower restrictions (as with Noel Burge).

Les remembered Ron Gambling building the second story of the Bond Store in 1942.

The roof section was raised on many hydraulic jacks and 3 layers of bricks would be laid, allowed to set and then another 12 inch lift would be done. Les also circular sawed the timber uprights and also installed the upper floor using 11/4 inch thick pine from the Kuitpo Forest. ? Wilksch was the truck driver in those times. He recalled that the mezzanine floor over the filling floor in the middle winery was erected in either 1942 or 1943.During this period Les trained Eric Butcher who also worked for Les for many years at Muscat Avenue.

Deciding to work for himself, Les leased a small workshop from H. S. Coombe next to the now Growers Services on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Crawford Terrace. From here he serviced Angove's, Renmano and Berri until sometime in 1947 when Alec Kelly convinced him to come back to BCWD. The arranged price was 12/6d to repair each barrel. Les remembers having to walk from the rear of the winery to the Karoom rail siding to fix leaks in the barrels. As well as this he was always being asked to do other jobs which interfered with his coopering duties. He also recalled being called down to see Lyle Nairn who had discovered that Les's offsider, Norm Marlow, was sneaking up to the overhead barrel storage for more than a regular
nip of wine using the yo-yo.

In 1949 Les decided to start up again on his own and went to Renmark and was worked at Angove's. Also made some trips to Mildara Winery at Merbein. Les then returned to Berri and was renting 18 Muscat Avenue from Maude (Queenie) Garnett who had owned the residence there for some years and wanted to sell after leaving Berri and moving to Sydney. My father was manager of the NAB and along with Arthur Fisher, the local solicitor, had been asked by Garnett to sell and he suggested Les be given the first chance to purchase. Les and Mrs. Kassebaum, my father and Arthur Fisher inspected the property on a Thursday evening. Mrs. Kassebaum said it was not quite what she would like but it would do. Asking price was £750 and Dad conveyed that to Warrie and he replied he expected a "little bit more". Les asked Dad what he thought and Dad said offer another £25. Letter sent and offer accepted. And so the Murray Cask Company was started and is still operating today.

Staff at Muscat Avenue included Eric Butcher, and two youngsters that Les informally apprenticed were Donny Martin and Vic Collins. Les recalls me spending a week there to learn about the coopering trade. Doug Collett had asked Les how had I performed and Les said that I had watched and asked questions. Doug was upset that I had not done any physical work and Les said that if he had told Les that he would have given some jobs to do.

Evelyn Cogan

During the period 1949 to 1976 Les would come out to the winery and with Evelyn Cogan (seen here on the left) do the annual stock take of the small wood in the overheads. Les retired in 1976 handing the reins over to Graeme and Roger. Graeme, eldest son of Les and Doris joined the firm in 1954 and younger Roger in 1957. Graeme's son David also began the trade in 19?? Graeme retired in 1999 and Roger in 2000 and then Graeme returned to help David and they are still working today. Graeme is researching the Murray Pioneer article that was done in 1997? and will let me know.

With Les and Graeme at St. Catherine's Father Adolph was well known as "Artie" and sometimes as "Gus". He was a knockabout person with many skills and was employed at the winery during 1926/27 as a plasterer. He specialised with the internal plaster coat. During 1927/8 he built the spire on the St. Peters Lutheran Church at Loxton. Les well remembers that his father would somehow get a message to his wife that he would be home on the weekend. Les, aged 14 would then have to take the 5 gallon keg to the winery to have it filled with claret. Les remembers how his father's friend would visit to have a good sup on Sunday. The other trick that Les developed was to bottle the contents of the keg with 30 bottles for his father and 2 for himself. Not bad thinking at 14 years!

At Renmark in 1933 when Les was working at the Renmark Growers Distillery a chap called Joe Martin was employed there and he had heard mention that Les' surname was Kassebaum. They had a chat and Joe Martin said he was in charge of mixing the plaster mixture for the plasterers at the Berri Winery in the 1920's. Les also told me the story that my father had offered him advice about running a business. You had to take all costs, add them up and work our how much an hour to cover that. To stay in business you have double that and charge that rate for your work. Les said that equated to 22/6 per hour, and at that as a member of the Berri Rotary Club, he discussed the topic with Doug Rosenthal, Director of Rosenthal Motors Berri, and Doug said he charged 23/6 per hour.


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