10 January 2017

"Call me Jim": Looking back on the life of Lial James (Jim) Woods OAM, 1913 - 2016

Lial James (Jim) Wood, circa 1994
Lial James (Jim) Woods, circa 1994
Source: Looking back, p. 3
We were saddened to hear of the passing, on 27 December 2016, of Queanbeyan resident, and historical treasure, Jim Woods. Jim's life spanned 103 years, more than a lifetime for most, in which he was a highly active citizen who believed in his abilities. He turned his hand to so many endeavours and achieved great success in a number of areas;  as a journalist, editor, businessman, sportsman, printer, community leader, musician and family man. He saw incredible change and was agile in adapting to what it offered so that he remained current, if not at the forefront.

Born on November 11, 1913 in Temora to Alfred James and Rose Ellen Woods, Jim was the eldest of seven children. At the age of six he attended Temora Public Primary School, and like so many of that time, he was part of the "barefoot brigade", attending school without shoes. This was an indication of the financial situation of a family. In his autobiography Looking Back, Jim described himself as an average student who didn't really like his first name, nor the associated nicknames, so he started using his middle name, thus ending up with Jim.

Jim assumed the role of paperboy at a very early age for The Temora Star, by chance when he noticed boys lining up outside the newspapers premises and discovered the opportunity to sell papers. Jim did his deliveries by foot, because he didn't have a bike. The effort did not go unnoticed by John Arthur Bradley and at the mere age of 14 - the then legal age in which a student could leave school - Jim was offered a position with Bradley's Temora Independent. This was the beginning of a 66 year career in the printing and newspaper industry and a long association with the Bradley family - as an employee for 22 years and a business partner in 10 newspapers and printing businesses in southern NSW.

The premises of The Crookwell Gazette in 1949 when Jim took over the paper with Jack and Arthur Bradley.
The premises of The Crookwell Gazette in 1949 when Jim took over the paper with Jack and Arthur Bradley.
Source: Looking back, p. 26
Jim was an active sports participant. In his 20s and 30s cricket, hockey, tennis and rugby league were were his preferences, with cricket being the number one choice.  For 20 years he played cricket and was involved in club administration, often being club captain and selector. He played hooker for the Temora Dragons and played first grade in the Temora Maher Cup Team. Later in life be replaced these sports with golf and lawn bowls. As a lawn bowler Jim represented the Queanbeyan area on over 150 occasions. He was also a patron of the Queanbeyan Golf Club and Queanbeyan Junior Cricket Team. He modeled and supported the importance of sport as a part of life.

Music was also a feature of Jim's life, his father bought him a banjo mandolin as a school boy and he had some short term lessons. He would play on his veranda and with locals, learning very quickly that he could earn a bit of  extra money too. He later turned his hand to the tenor horn and then the trombone enabling him to to do dance and orchestra work. He also played the saxophone.

After a courtship of 4 years, Jim married Mary Walterina (Rene) Wallace in 1938, a marriage that would span 65 years and result in two sons Ken and Bob, as well as grand children and great grand children. He believed in the family unit and was proud that three generations of his family worked in the newspaper business associated with The Queanbeyan Age.

The Queanbeyan Age Building in 1956 when the Bradleys and the Woods family went into partnership with the Shakespeare family of  The Canberra Times.
The Queanbeyan Age Building in 1956 when the Bradleys and the Woods family went into partnership with the Shakespeare family of  The Canberra Times.
Source: Looking back, p. 31
The Woods family moved to Queanbeyan in 1958. following almost nine years in Crookwell, after leaving Temora. The decision to move and go into part ownership of The Queanbeyan Age was a difficult one as the family was settled and active in the Crookwell community. They were also feeling on top of their finances after going into considerable debt to co-own The Crookwell Gazette. With family in mind, in particular future prospects for the boys. the decision was made, despite the newly acquired The Queanbeyan Age being near bankrupt.

Jim spent much of the next decade in Queanbeyan re-building the premises and re-equipping the newspaper plant. The Queanbeyan Age prospered as a result with more publications introduced during the week.

In 1971, Jim expanded his business by striking deals that resulted in acquiring newspapers at Moruya Bega and Eden. Braidwood was also added to the portfolio at the time for the unbelievable price of ten dollars (More details about this acquisition and the others can be found along with other insights into the man in his autobiography Looking Back. The ACT Heritage Library has two copies that you can come in and read).
Front cover of Jim Wood's autobiography Looking Back
Front cover of Jim Wood's autobiography Looking Back
Jim's accumulation of newspaper businesses with the Bradleys continued as did his participation and leadership in the Queanbeyan Community. He instigated the Queanbeyan and District Historical Society and the associated Queanbeyan and District Historical Museum in the mid to late 1960s.

In 1985, The Queanbeyan Age celebrated its 125th birthday and marked the event with a donation of the Queanbeyan City's first fountain in the Town Park, to coincide with the Queanbeyan City Council's centenary. Jim also received the Order of Australia that year. Such honorable recognition did not slow Jim down. He was a Rotarian for over 4 decades, through which he was involved with the Queanbeyan Floral Festival and received Rotarian of the Year (1991 - 1992).

Jim was a driving force in establishing the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery, which opened in 1993. He volunteered a great deal of  his time in gathering information. photographs, arranging type setting and putting together many entries. He was assisted by his son Bob Woods, and other staff of The Queanbeyan Age, who volunteered their time to the Queanbeyan City Council project. The same year Jim became Queanbeyan Citizen of the Year.
Front cover of a book about the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre
Front cover of a book about the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre
In 1994 Jim officially retired, at the age of 81, which also coincided with the sale of The Queanbeyan Age to Rural Press Ltd.  Whilst paid work had ended, his community work continued.

The Queanbeyan Printing Museum was officially opened on 23 October 2004. Jim set it up  to illustrate letterpress printing technology over 100 years and the history of Queanbeyan's first newspaper The Golden Age, later renamed The Queanbeyan Age. Jim remained a volunteer at the museum, even as a centenarian.
Catalogue of  The Queanbeyan Print Museum Collection held at the ACT Heritage Library
Catalogue of  The Queanbeyan Print Museum Collection 2006 held at the ACT Heritage Library
Jim's commitment  to the Queanbeyan community and business was well recognised. In 2010, Jim received the Queanbeyan City Council's outstanding contribution to heritage award and in 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queanbeyan Business Excellence Awards.

In 2012, Jim was interviewed by the Canberra Panel of Engineering Heritage Australia as part of its oral history project. A summary of the interview is available on the Libraries ACT Website .  The interview can be listened to at the ACT Heritage Library.

There are so many other stories and achievements that illustrate the man that Jim was and the roles he played in over a century of life. The Queanbeyan community has lost a key citizen, but his contributions will continue to be a part of the community and local history.

Farewell Mr Woods your tireless efforts will not be forgotten.

Jim Woods autograph
Jim Woods inscription in his autobiography held at the ACT Heritage Library
Source: Looking back, p. 1


Bibliography

2013, 'Celebrating Jim Woods' , The Queanbeyan Age http://www.queanbeyanagechronicle.com.au/story/1895730/celebrating-jim-woods/ 

2016, 'Jim Woods', Queanbeyan Printing Museumhttp://queanbeyanprintingmuseum.com/jim_woods.html

Woods, Jim 1997, Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre, Queanbeyan City Council, Queanbeyan, NSW.

Woods, Lial James 1995, Looking back, Queanbeyan, NSW. 
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/137722/20160102-0000/queanbeyanprintingmuseum.com/Looking_Back.pdf