LONG SERVICE: CJ 'John' Mellor, whose family name adorns the heritage-listed Mellor's Drapery in Gayndah, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the people of Gayndah, especially 46 years in the fire auxiliary.
LONG SERVICE: CJ 'John' Mellor, whose family name adorns the heritage-listed Mellor's Drapery in Gayndah, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the people of Gayndah, especially 46 years in the fire auxiliary. Alex Treacy

'Old man' of Gayndah Fire Brigade wins Australia Day OAM

THE walls of Cedric John Mellor's home in Gayndah are adorned with memorabilia from 46 years of service to his local fire brigade.

On the bookshelf, a collection of dented brass nozzles which were once attached to fire hoses.

Above them, a grand peaked helmet which looks as though it belonged to a Roman charioteer, emblazoned with the letters G.F.B on the front (Gayndah Fire Brigade).

In the corner, two spent Simplex fire extinguishers, made of copper and brass, valuable antiques now and almost unrecognisable from the vivid red extinguishers we know today.

 

CJ Mellor with one of his old Simplex copper and brass fire extinguishers.
CJ Mellor with one of his old Simplex copper and brass fire extinguishers. Alex Treacy

At his dining table, sat amongst all the keepsakes from his service, the man known to all as 'John' Mellor recalls his service with satisfaction.

"It was a big part of my life, the fire brigade," he said.

While he is proud of the heritage-listed shop on Capper St which bears his family name, Mellor's Drapery, founded in 1954 by his father Cedric Mellor and which John managed for decades, as far as he is concerned, being a firey was "much more important" than the shop.

Mr Mellor originally joined the fire auxiliary aged 18 or 19 when he lived just across the road from the Gayndah station.

"In my opinion it was a good community service and I realised I would do a pretty good job," he said.

During his 46 years of service, Mr Mellor attended 595 fire calls, 92 vehicle accidents, 1440 fire drills and 163 voluntary burn-offs at residents' properties.

His four-man crew also competed regularly in the (now defunct) fire auxiliary state championships, most successfully in 1993 when they won the perpetual encouragement award shield and also individual trophies.

 

CJ Mellor's fire auxiliary squad in 1994.
CJ Mellor's fire auxiliary squad in 1994. Alex Treacy

"We had quite a good crew, the camaraderie is different to what it is today," Mr Mellor said.

On October 14, 2005, age 65, Mr Mellor was compulsorily retired, although he wrote several letters at the time to the commissioner expressing his displeasure, but "that's the rules," he said.

"I would have loved to do 50 years, it would have only been four more years which I could have done," he said.

Mr Mellor's longevity and authority earned him the nickname 'the Old Man', a reference to Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke from 1960s US sitcom F Troop, who calls his captain, Wilton Parmenter, the 'Old Man.'

This is also commemorated on Mr Mellor's wall, where some cheeky wag from his old squad has Photoshopped his head over Captain Parmenter's.

Right next to it is a display case containing his four service medals: the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (no longer awarded in Australia), Australian Fire Services Medal, National Medal and Queensland Fire and Rescue Services Diligent and Ethical Service Medal.

To these, he has this year added another, the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), awarded for "service to the people of Gayndah."

Mr Mellor said he was "tickled pink" to receive the letter informing him of his new title.

His service goes far beyond just the fireys, though.

He was a councillor in Gayndah Shire Council pre-amalgamation (from 1999-2008), a captain and president of Gayndah Golf Club, committee member of the Gayndah Orange Festival, secretary of Gayndah Jockey Club, secretary of Gayndah Cricket Club, volunteers at the Gayndah Historical Society museum and has raised more than $40,000 for children's cancer and burns recovery by participating in QFRS bike rides.

Of all his memorabilia from 46 years in the Gayndah Fire Brigade, there is one Mr Mellor clearly treasures above all.

It hangs right next to his medals and Captain Parmenter plaque.

He said it was a gift from his three daughters.

It's a picture of two children drawing in the sand.

The quote above them reads, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

He says this is exactly how he feels about 46 years as a firey.