Bob’s life in the fast lane

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
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Bob Jenkins has been a member of the Leschenault Men’s Shed for several years.
Camera IconBob Jenkins has been a member of the Leschenault Men’s Shed for several years. Credit: Nicolette Barbas

From teaching in Papua New Guinea to working alongside the founder of Bunnings Warehouse, Balingup-born Bob Jenkins has lived an interesting life.

“When I was about 20 years old I went off to Sydney for two years and did a teacher training course,” Bob said.

“I was one of eight groups of teachers that the Australian Government trained specifically to go up to PNG prior to independence, it was a very, very unusual introduction to teaching.

“In 1962 I went up to PNG where my wife and I stayed for six years.

“In 1968, our eldest daughter was ready for school so my wife and I decided to move back to WA then a few years later in 1974 we came to Bunbury and have been here since.”

Having taught students for what felt like forever, Bob decided in 1987 it was time to move on from his teaching career.

“I had what I now recognise as a classic mid-life crisis,” he explained.

“I was in my mid 40s and I no longer wanted to do what I was doing.

“During my teaching career, I had participated in three marathons, I was running because it gave me a goal.

“All these years on I still remember how I felt when I was running 100km a week as part of my marathon training and it was a great feeling.”

When the training guarantee levy came in in the early 90s Bob answered an advertisement for a trainer at the Forest Industries Federation.

“FIFWA started an organisation called the Forest Industries Training Services, they were looking for a sawmill trainer,” he said.

“Well I was a teacher, I knew how to write courses up and assess people and am also the son and grandson of saw millers.

“I had what they wanted and got a job as a saw miller retail training officer at the Forest Industries Training Services, and that was a great job.”

Bob worked at that job for five years before receiving a phone call from the then managing director of Bunnings building products.

“He asked me to come up and have a chat about this course he wanted to run,” Bob said.

“When I got there he told me they were acquiring several other organisations and he wanted me to get all the management together, explain what was going to happen and set the goals for this new organisation he had in mind which was, of course, Bunnings Warehouse.

“And so down at the Boranup Forest at a bush camp that I set up, Joe Boris explained his Bunnings Warehouse concept and I facilitated this program over the course of the weekend where he explained what was going to happen.”

After he retired, Bob got involved in the Men’s Shed.

“My wife and I are both lawn bowlers and we were heavily involved with playing,” he said.

“We got back from a trip one year and I realised my world had shrunk down to the members of the Bunbury Bowling Club and I thought it was time to do something different.

“I saw an article in the paper that said a Men’s Shed was going to start up so in 2011 I joined the shed and have been a member ever since. When I joined they needed a secretary so I took that role on for a few years.

“The shed brings companionship to all the members here and prides itself on camaraderie and making fun of people; you have to have a thick skin to be here.”

With five children, 12 grandchildren and a great- grandchild on the way, the highlight of Bob’s life is his family.

“When people ask if I have had an interesting life I tell them, it’s been a hell of a ride,” he laughed.

“And alongside it for at least 62 of my nearly 80 years there has been a little lady, Luella.”

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