Claude Long’s grandson, Rob Junge and Sue Priest, in the office on Tuesday. There’s been an outpouring of well wishes from the Cootamundra community following the announcement on Monday morning that one of the town’s oldest retail outlets—Claude Long Radios—will close on Saturday week. The announcement in the front window advertised a clearance sale with hefty discounts on remaining stock, adding

“After over 70 years of sales and service to our community, sadly it’s an end of an era an our doors will close on 13th August. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their loyalty, support and friendship over the years—Robert, Daryl, Sue and Andrew”.

The message was also posted on Cootamundra Matters Facebook page on Monday afternoon, and within 24 hours there were more than 250 “likes” and 100 comments of sadness and gratitude for excellent service and honest advice, and best wishes for the future.

By Tuesday, there was a constant stream of visitors and phone calls to the shop, such that the proprietor of more than 50 years Rob Junge was sounding a little hoarse from talking non-stop. Rob says he has often been asked why the shop is still called “Claude Long Radio” when he has a completely different name.

His answer is that it’s just a custom in the country to keep calling businesses after their founders.

So who was Claude Long? He was Rob’s maternal grandfather, who established the business in a shop in Parker Street near the Albion Hotel shortly after World War II.

“He had a farm which he sold after the war, and radios were his hobby, so this was something to occupy him in retirement,” Rob said.

It seems Claude was also something of a financier, providing mortgage finance for several shops near the Albion and also financing someone to buy Kent House, the rambling two-storey building where the shop is located today, opposite IGA.

Claude and his wife Ethel, whose house was in Crown Street, were also kept busy raising Robert, who was their daughter Joyce’s son from a marriage with Walter Junge, the son of German immigrants.

When Rob was still a toddler, his father left Australia to join the Canadian Air Force. “My father was an aviator and enlisted and flew with the Canadians in World War II,” Rob said.

“He was a pilot officer but didn’t come back.”

“Claude and Ethel Long ‘s daughter was my mother,” Rob explained.

“My mother lived with them for a long time after losing her husband, but then remarried and I stayed with my grandparents who brought me up. “It was a successful marriage, and I got along well with my half brother who’s not alive now.”

At first Claude Long’s Radios traded just in radios and stayed in the small shop near the Albion, with Rob joining the business, and grandfather and grandson running it together. In the late 1950s however Claude had a stroke, and although not severely disabled he was no longer able to run the business.

When it was built, Kent House was designed as a boarding house, with seven bedrooms and a kitchen upstairs and a large lounge room and kitchen downstairs, as well as a butcher’s shop.

As Claude Long Radio moved in, the downstairs was converted into three shops, with the radio shop in the middle. Claude lived on for many years after his stroke, but died in the late 1960s.

By this time the radio business was changing, with the advent of transistors taking over from the old tube radios, and TV was coming on the scene as well as a growing demand for new white goods as the community grew more prosperous.

The shop also expanded to include a record bar where young people came to buy the latest top 40 pop songs on 45rpm discs, and later 33rpm albums.

During the 1980s the building was modernised again, to accommodate a much larger showroom.

Although he is “not into Facebook” Rob says Sue Priest, who has been with the business for 24 years, has told him all about the large number of compliments.

“It’s very warming and I’m so grateful for the friendships we’ve made with people over a lot of years,” he said. Rob’s decision to retire is mainly because he feels he can’t keep up the commitment.

“It takes a lot of commitment and although Daryl is a king pin in the wheel it’s so specialised that you can’t get someone to walk in and take it over—retirement will give me a lot more freedom.

“I’ve got two grandsons in their mid 20s and a son in Adelaide with an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy—they’re gorgeous and it will give me more time to spend with them.”

Also for the future Rob says he has lots of interests and has “something else” in mind.

One of his interests is a small landholding of a couple of hundred acres at Frampton, where he is currently running about 100 head of cattle on agistment.

“Cootamundra has been very good to me and it’s been a great place to bring up my children. Both children, Sally and Andrew, grew up here and then went to Sydney for their final years of education.

“Andrew came back and was here in the business for eight years but although we got along I never believed in father and son working together, and he went off to Sydney University and got his degree and taught in Armidale and Rockhampton before settling where he is now, in Adelaide.”

Rob lost his wife Jill to cancer 17 years ago and says he is grateful to the people of Cootamundra for their support.

“We fought a huge battle over four years but didn’t win it,” he said.

“The town as a whole was very good to us and the people who came and wanted to help were people you’d never guess—it was really quite amazing.”

He is also grateful for the loyalty of his staff—Sue Priest has been with the business for 24 years and Darryl Sutton for 50. “Darryl came to work with me when we went into white goods 50 years ago, he’s very capable and we get along really well,” rob said.

“And for a while Michael Van Kerkoerle was working with us but then he wanted to go out on his own to specialise in repair work so I built a big brick shed out the back where he runs Claude Long Electrical as a separate business.

“He’s a very talented technician and it’s worked out well for both of us. Although he only works for himself he can leave repaired items here at the counter for people to pick up.”

Rob believes Cootamundra has a huge future with developments such as the abattoir in the wings—and just last weekend he noticed a large truck coming and going from the former Mitre 10 store block where, he guessed, they might be cleaning up ready for a new development. Looking back Rob can’t help wondering what might have happened if his father had come back from the war.

He’s kept up with the progress in technology so well that a young fellow he was talking with recently told him

“You’re petty switched on for an old bloke”.

“Of course I’ve had to stay up with it, but there are a lot of things I would have liked to have done.

“My dad was a pilot and I always wanted to fly but I was obviously not encouraged in that.

“My family background on my father’s side was in engineering—his parents migrated to New Zealand from Germany and then to Australia before the war—and I would have liked to do something in that field.

“I might have been better off, but I might have been a lot worse off.

“My best wishes to the people of Cootamundra.”

Tom Gosling