The Slipper Factory

Employees of the Recreation Footwear Ltd, Rosewood
Photo – Jenny & Peter Naylor

Back Row L-R: June Nuffler, Jean Barram, Ruth Harding, Rita Bull
Middle Row L-R: Endna Armstrong, Shirley Howells, Beryl Muller, Jessie Jonas, Betty Collins, Joan Langdon, Gwen Hawkins, Hazel Muller, Hazel Wiliams, Dulcie Freeman, Mary Turn, Rosea Edwards
Front Row L-R: Bertha Burgess, Dorothy Watters, Marlene Sceeston, Fay William, Antionette Maculan, Joyce Basin


In the Queensland Times on May 20th, 1946 it was announced that a Brisbane footwear firm, the North Australian Rubber Mills Ltd (NARM) intended to start a factory at Rosewood. NARM was established in 1922 at Kelvin Grove. There was already a small factory in Beaudesert and one was being considered for Warwick. Scottish born Mr James McCann, Brisbane Manager, came to Rosewood to inspect suitable buildings for the enterprise.

The proposal to start a factory at Rosewood came about because of the shortage of young female employees in the city. Norman Ruhno, proprietor of Rhuno’s General Store, was instrumental in securing the factory for Rosewood. Interested local girls could pick up an application form for employment in the sewing machine room from the stores of  N. Ruhno and Fraser Bros. The nature of the work was the making of uppers for rubber soled shoes. Had there not been enough interest from the local girls, the factory would not have been established in Rosewood.

 A site was chosen, the building being formerly a cafe in John Street next to the Rosewood Hotel. It was renovated to suit its new purpose. Twelve electrically worked machines, each with a stool, were installed along with and side benches for the laying out of patterns. Fluorescent lighting was installed throughout the building and an electric urn for hot water was provided for the staff.

On the 20th June 1946, the Recreation Footwear Factory Ltd commenced operations. Initially ten young women under the supervision of Mrs. Rosea Edwards were employed to work there. Rosea had been tutored for 10 weeks at the Brisbane factory in readiness. The girls were engaged on the seaming and binding of cut felt for slippers. They worked Monday to Friday and started at 8a.m and finished at 5.18p.m., with intervals for morning tea and lunch. There was also at least one male employee at the factory, Mr George Lee, who used to cut the slipper soles.

On 26 June, 1946 the factory had to suspend work because of power and light restrictions that had been in place for the previous week as the result of a miners’ strike. The restrictions lifted at midnight on 12th July.

Once the factory outgrew its John Street site it relocated to Railway Street near Rhuno’s store, on the Albert Street side. William Norman Ruhno built a new factory building and leased it to NARM. The building had two sections and housed twenty machines in each, one section being used for the manufacture of raincoats and Sou’westers (a traditional form of collapsible oilskin rain hat that is longer in the back than the front so the neck is fully protected).

On Friday night 14th December, 1948 a Ball was held in the Farmer’s Hall to mark the opening of the new factory. Rose Edwards was the Hostess. The proceeds £57/13/6 were divided equally between the Rosewood Boy Scouts and the Ambulance and all expenses of the night were donated by the firm. Supper was served buffet style by members of the Scouts and Ambulance, assisted by a willing band of ladies. A Monte Carlo waltz was won by Miss S. Carmody and partner, a spot waltz by Miss J. Barram and M. Foy, and a jazz cap waltz by Miss M. Wright and partner. McCoombs’s Orchestra played music, assisted by Mr. A. Smith with extras.     Read about it here.

A choral group was formed, the R. F. L. Songsters. According to Bryce Hawkins, it was Mrs. Edwards who first suggested that the girls form a choir after she often heard them singing to pass the time while they worked. Mrs Edwards was the conductor and they were accompanied by her daughter Mrs Doris McGeary who was an accomplished pianist. Miss Armstrong was also of valuable assistance.

Photo – Therese and Bryce Hawkins

The girls sang at fund raisers, fetes, flower shows and on the local radio station 4IP in Ipswich with catchy little numbers like “Powder Your Face With Sunshine” and “Beyond the Sunset.”

The members of the choir were Mary Turner, Phyllis Klauke, Bertha Burgess, Beryl Muller, Ruth Harding, Jessie Jonas, Jean Barram (Battaglene), June Nuffer (Schreiweis), Shirley Howells, Hazel Muller, Joan Langdon (Krebs), Hazel Williams, Gwen Hawkins, Lurlene Murphy and Fay Williams.

On Tuesday night of the 17 September, 1948 the Majestic Theatre was packed to capacity when the Rosewood State School Committee conducted an “Amateur Trials and Quiz Session.” The Recreation Footwear Songsters came first in the adult trial and won a prize for their coral item.  Read about it here.

They held a breaking up party when the factory closed for the Christmas holidays. Mr McCann came from Brisbane along with other visitors. Mr McCann spoke about how happy he was at the “splendid success” of the factory and predicted greater development of the industry in Rosewood. They all enjoyed ice-cream, cake and other refreshments. There was community singing and solos by some of the visitors.

On Saturday night, the 2nd December, 1950 the employees of the Recreation Footwear factory tendered a pre-wedding evening for their fellow employee Miss Joan Langdon on the eve of her approaching marriage to Mr. Keith Krebs.

Rosea’s son Les turned 21 years old in 1951. At his birthday celebration in March moving pictures were shown by Mr. J. Navie of the Recreation Footwear. The girls were entertained with a silent movie of a Laurel and Hardy comedy. 

On Saturday, 14 April, 1951 a street procession was a feature of the very successful Moreton Shire jubilee celebrations staged at Rosewood. The best decorated of the five floats was “Queen of Rose Buds” by the Recreation Footwear Factory.     Read about it here.

The employees took part in the biggest procession ever seen in Rosewood, the Coronation Parade in June 1953. They tied for 1st place with the Mines Recuse Station for the best “Tradesmen’s Float”. Special mention was also given to the Slipper Factory that year for its support to the Rosewood Ambulance and it was also the year that Mr McCann, managing director of NARM, passed away.

The Slipper Factory closed down in 1956 when NARM ceased operations in Rosewood. The building was unused until 1962 when the Education Department rented it from Mr Ruhno for £10 per week for a temporary high school. In 1964 a wing was built on the primary school for secondary use, so the old factory building was empty once again. The Show Society bought it and moved it to the Showgrounds where it became the Dance Hall in the early 1970s.  Prior to that dances had been held in the Farmers’ Hall and Memorial Hall.

Picture Ipswich has film footage of the Rosewood Slipper Factory in the 1950s. You can view it here.

Some other employees at the factory were Valery Freeze, Janet Embrey, Pam Evans (nee ?), Gloria Holznagel, Judith Rackley.

Can you help with more information or the names of any other employees at the factory? If so please contact  us.

Memories from friends and relatives. (Facebook – 2020)
The Factory was next to Morrisons butcher shop nearly opposite the railway station – Kerrian Evans

The building was moved to the showgrounds and the floor was polished ready for dancing. The Rosewood Rural Youth had a great time using pops and hessian bags to make the floor perfect to dance on. – Shirley Stubbs

I have a short history which I wrote about the “Slipper Factory”. – Joyce Rieck nee Armstrong

I also worked in the Slipper Factory in Rosewood, great experience, I enjoyed it even running a needle right through my finger..ouch. I grew up sewing from a very young age, but that needle went right through the pointer finger pushing the slipper through, just by the first joint. They got the Ambulance, the eye piece broke off so they got the needle out and pulled the Theroux back. Some things you forget, until certain things are mentioned like the Slipper Factory. I do remember Ruth Harding my neighbour got the job for me, I turned 14 one day started work there. The next day had the next 2 weeks off with Mumps. We made Slippers at the front of the building. Rain Coats were made down the back. I started in late 1951, I’m not sure if I left as they were closing but I started work in Penny’s in Nicholas St, Ipswich. Around 1954-55.  Great Memories.– Janet Plumridge nee Embrey

Jennie Naylor to Kathy HackerYour Mum and my Mum Jessie Jonas worked at slipper factory until they married. Your Mum also held a class for stretch sewing which I went to at Cribbens. That was 40 yrs ago Then they went to afternoon tea at home of Gwen Cassamatis and also sang with the Slipper factory choir at Cabanda a couple of times.

You are correct. Mum did work at Cribbens for many years. She was very talented in many ways. Singing and sewing were just a few. Mum had many friends she cherished back home. Definitely miss her. – Kathy Hacker

Our High School was the disused Slipper Factory – Mary Knack

The teachers had to clean out the place the night before we started. Was as hot as hell in summer. All there was, was a dividing wall. Boys had the back of the building because it had a sink (chemistry) and girls had the front. Mr. Martin and Miss Burton were our teachers. – Kay Trevis  

Many, many memories. One of the most confronting is the scene that greeted the new teachers to the first high school class in Rosewood . A huge empty hall. Classrooms were created by canite petitions which while dividing the areas did not reach to the ceiling or the floor so there was a commingling of voices from the three teaching areas. I also well remember Jim Martin our maths and science teacher constructing cupboards and shelves from the timber crates which delivered the school’s chemicals. So there we were in our first year of secondary school being taught across our range of eight subjects by two teachers plus the principal of the primary school and a manual arts and home economics teacher. It would be unheard of today so thank you Jim Martin and Val Burton from one of your students who is far more appreciative of your efforts now than he was then. – Bruce Stitz  

From Footwear and Dancing (for the feet) to a High School (for the mind), over the years, the Slipper Factory “building” certainly had the Rosewood community covered from head to foot in those years. Sorry I forgot “raincoats!” – really was “head to toe” cover. – Kevin Lee

Re the Photo of the Employees
A wonderful photograph of yesteryear! Ruth certainly showed foresight as she took her “Apple Tablet” to work even way back in those days! I wonder if a “Slipper Factory” was ever referred to as a “Slippery”? – Kevin Lee

Ruth Blair always had a sense of fun even as an elder – great photo. – Linda Peacock

OMG this is my great Aunty Beryl and aunty Hazel, my grandmother Marge use to work there too. –Harlow Della-Bosca

My sister in law worked there as well, Valery Freeze. – Barry Fechner

Barry not sure when Valerie worked there. This photo was taken pre 1952. – Naylor JennyNPeter

Valery Freeze was in the same class as me at school so would have worked there the same time I did. This photo was taken before then. – Gloria Hill

Hazel Muller’s my mum, then there’s Aunty Beryl. – Gazza Holzy

Re the Photo of the R.F.L. Songsters
I remember the choir, I also worked at the slipper factory a few years later. The two Muller girls have been mixed up in the photo. Hazel (later my Sister in Law) is the one in the back row and Beryl is front of her. It was my job to stamp the sizes on the slipper soles.) – Gloria Hill nee Holznagel

I see Aunty Bee Burgess in the back. Mum & Lorna must have been involved a little later. – Mylea Eveans-Doh

My sister then Judith Rackley ,who worked in the Recreation Footwear Factory, as it was known, who worked in the Narm Raincoat section, has told me they were well known as great Choir. – Helen Mullan

Mrs Edwards conducted the choir so expertly and her daughter Mrs McGeary accompanied on piano, the girls loved singing and it was a wonderful opportunity for them. They sung at so many events- Whispering Hope sung in parts was one of my favourites!- Shirley Johnston

Mum is in the middle row (nee Nuffer). – Kathy Hacker

A few of the ladies from this photo, in later years, got together at least once a month at home of Gwen Cassamatis and they also entertained at Cabanda a few times. My mum is J. Jonas. – Jenny Naylor

Doris McGeary was my Aunty and Mrs Rosea Edwards my grandmother. Great photo and I remember all of those girls. – Barbara McKenzie

Lovely photo which includes my mother in law – Jean Battaglene née Barram. – Gayle Battaglene

Back left is my mum. Before she was married. Wow! – Steven Johnson

Researched and complied by Jane Schy


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