Bundaberg plumber's fifty years in the pipeline
AT 8AM on February 5, 1969, Ken Baulch started his first day as an apprentice plumber, and half a century later he's still in the industry.
But Mr Baulch hopes to take things a little easier in the future after working locally for 50 years as a plumber, drainer and roofer.
"I served my apprenticeship with a local plumber Mr George Rath then stayed with him for another four years when he retired suddenly due to ill health,” he said.
"My head was spinning a bit but he said you have two choices - you go work for someone else or you start your own business.
"If you do start your own business I will put my customers your way, so I did and he did. That was 42 years ago and I'm still doing it.”
Not long married and having bought a home to renovate, Mr Baulch said his wife stopped working full time to help out behind the scenes.
"My wife Karen was working full time but as there were no answering machines and mobile phones had not even been thought of, she had to give up her job to be home to answer the phone and take messages,” he said.
"As my wife was now at home full-time, we decided to start our family. We had a daughter Diana first then followed by a son Andrew who is now a plumber (not locally).”
He said early on making tanks and repairing windmills were a part of the business, but now plastic tanks and solar pumps "are the way to go”.
"Changing from steel pipes to PVC, plastic and copper has been frustrating at times. I pity the maintenance plumbers of the future if they are called to repair a leaking pipe,” he said.
"Even now I ask is the pipe black, white, grey blue, green or purple.”
While the pipes might be a headache, he said the long lengths of roof sheeting were a blessing.
"My old boss and I fitted the second Colorbond roof ever fitted in town,” he said.
"All done with slot head screws and a brace and bit. Only a sissy would dream of using gloves. My old boss said to me one day when referring to wearing sunglasses on the roof, 'If you come to work looking like a movie star you are finished'.
"PPE on site was unheard of. No scaffolding or edge protection. Very few contracts were ever on paper, as a handshake was good enough.”
Mr Baulch said plumbing was an interesting career as it had many opportunities to lead to areas like engineering and project management.
Despite 50 years in the business, Mr Baulch may be slowing down but he has no intention of shutting up his tool box for good yet.
"I hope to carry on for a while yet doing small jobs,” he said.