I was getting mightily tired of the disruption to my working day with Daph Price regularly asking me to leave my office and put a replacement roll of shrink film on our one and only shrink wrapper. I guess it was my own fault as I had previously made a decision to shrink wrap our bottles, only the second company in the whole of the Pharma/health food industry to do so.
So I quickly decided Blackmores needed a ‘hands on’ Production Manager. One of our directors, Graeme Berman, arranged for me to meet Allen Oliver at North Sydney Leagues Club and the deal was done. Allen and Graeme had worked together at Scott and Bourne some years before. So began nearly 15 years of amazing commitment by Allen Oliver to Blackmores before his retirement in 1989. And what a contribution. I vividly remember meeting Lee McNichol in our foyer one day waiting to meet with Allen and lamenting how bad things were and how much wages had risen and that he had no alternative but to raise the prices on the products his company supplied us. I wished him luck! I met him again after his meeting with Allen only to be told that he had just reduced our prices by 2%. Allen’s catchword to suppliers is indelibly printed in my brain, “you will have to sharpen the pencil”.
In Blackmores early days, we couldn’t afford security services so the factory was well alarmed. Allen and I lived close to work so when the alarms went off at some ungodly hour of the morning it was a race to see who got to the factory first to catch any intruders. It was one of those races you never wanted to win for fear of getting a whack over the head when you arrived, I’m pleased that Allen won most of those races.
I was a member of Manly Rotary Club and asked Allen to join the club as my replacement. That cemented many years of outstanding community contribution by Allen and Betty Oliver. For some, charity means simply writing a cheque to a deserving cause but of even greater significance is giving one’s time and Allen did both of those in spades. The 32 years of Rotary Christmas hampers would not have happened without Allen’s enthusiasm for that project.
Allen Oliver came up the tough way, he did the menial tasks, he swept the floors and his promotion in business life came as a result of nothing less than hard work. Australia would be a much better place if there were more Allen Oliver’s in life.
Allen Oliver was a man of substance, a man of generous spirit, he gave much to Blackmores in our fledgling years, I will never forget him.
May he rest in peace.