Westpac ends 72 years of history by closing Sutherland branch

The closure of the Sutherland branch of the Westpac bank after 72 years brought back many memories for Doug Champion, of Kirrawee.

Mr Champion's father Norman opened the branch of Australia's oldest bank - originally called the Bank of NSW - in 1947 and remained in the position until he retired in 1965 at the age of 65.

The outlet was initially located in Boyle Street and shared a building with a ladies hairdresser.

It was next to the Odeon Theatre, which has since been converted into a dance studio, offices and shops.

The branch, which moved to Old Princes Highway next to Boyle's Hotel in the 1960s, was among 22 outlets closed by Westpac earlier this year.

Doug Champion, 87, said his father, who joined the Bank of NSW when he was 15, "loved his job".

His career had included working in the country, and riding a horse from Coffs Harbour to operate an agency at Woolgoolga.

"Back then, there was a lot more personal contact with customers," Mr Champion said.

"When Dad was sent from Burwood to open Sutherland, the nearest Bank of NSW branch was at Cronulla, so he had to start from scratch and walk the streets to get business.

"He used to tell us how he approached the owner of a ham and beef shop, a man named Fred, who said, 'I will open an account if you give me number one'.

"Dad had his first account, and they became very good friends."

Mr Champion said his father was very successful in growing the business, and "pestered" his superiors to let him open an agency at Engadine, followed by another at Jannali, with both developing into full branches.

His father had been a tough but fair boss.

"I used to sometimes go and meet him when he was abut to leave for the day," he said.

"In those days, you only had to knock on the door and they would let you in.

"One day a junior was in a rush to catch the train, but Dad insisted he not leave "until you have turned over the blotters and filled the ink wells".

Doug Champion was 15 and about to leave school when his family moved to Sutherland and built a house in Glencoe Street.

"Sutherland was like a country town, and I suppose I just grew with it," he said.

"Dad had always followed rugby union and I started playing after I saw an ad at the theatre seeking players.

"We played in black jumpers and called ourselves the Sutherland All Blacks."

Mr Champion recalled how the Odeon theatres at Sutherland and Cronulla used to share movies.

"A bloke on a motor bike used to run the spools between the theatres while the films were showing," he said.

"One time, when a movie was really disjointed I was told, 'One of the spools was left at Cronulla'."

After leaving school, Doug Champion went to work as a trainee fitter and turner at the Armco sheet metal factory at Kirrawee, where Bunnings now stands.



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