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Benty swaps old for new

Saturday, 8th October, 2011

MOVING OUT: Neville Bent, with his faithful friend, Jedda, is bidding goodbye to his Blende Street business. MOVING OUT: Neville Bent, with his faithful friend, Jedda, is bidding goodbye to his Blende Street business.

 By Kurtis Eichler

Neville Bent, whose second-hand business in Blende Street is part of the city’s history, is leaving the street and his family business behind to start a new life.

The 65-year-old will lock the doors of 181 Blende Street for the last time next Friday.

Mr Bent has spent all but nine years of his working life in Blende Street; working for both the Barrier Miner and the Barrier Daily Truth in his younger years as a paper boy.

“I came here in Easter 1971 after eight or nine years on the mine as a boilermaker,” the second-hand and antique dealer told the BDT.

“But the business has been running since 1948 when my dad, who was a hawker before the Second World War, enlisted and on return, most of the men from the outback had not come back to the large pastoral properties.

“He was at loose ends, and his interest in horse racing consequently meant he met a fellow by the name of Alf Bennetts who was the secretary of the Silver City Racing Club at the time and also an accountant.

“He and Jack went in to business, Alf being not a participating partner, and so they started the firm of Bent and Bennetts on the corner of Chloride and Blende streets.”

Bent and Bennetts relocated to its current site at 181 Blende Street in the early 1950s.

After Alf’s death in 1954, his widow Lorraine worked at the store as an office clerk and in 1976, Jack Bent finished his last shift at the business and his son John joined Neville at the store.

Their partnership lasted 10 years until John bought real estate firm Alan G McLeod in 1986.

“In those days it was vastly different. There were no garage sales, there was obviously no internet trading and, of course one of the big things was auctions,” Mr Bent recalled.

“We’d hold an auction here every Saturday morning that would last the duration of about a couple of hours.”

Since John’s departure, Neville and his wife Colleen have held the reins.

“This firm is the last of the second-hand antique dealers in Broken Hill.

“I know of 14 that have opened and closed.”

Mr Bent said he will miss arriving at the store in his truck with red-heeler cross dingo dog, Jedda, and turning the key on the day’s work at 8:30am.

“I’ve always said when I came here that the day I never wanted to come to work would be the day I closed - and that’s never happened.

“I still don’t want to close but I think it’s time.”

The couple hope in their retirement to visit the UK more often to see one of their sons.

“I’d like to spend a bit of time in the United Kingdom so we’ll make that pretty much our focus.

“I think it’s hard, come 40 years, to not come and turn the key in the door.

“I expect nostalgically I’ll come here every day.”

He will spend the next several months tidying up the store and handing over its paint supplies to Globe Hardware.

“The building is purchased by Paul and Trish Thomas who operate Jade Signs. So they’ll operate from here.”

The Barrier Daily Truth’s Jenny Hall, who has worked next door to Neville for 33 years, described him as one of the “best work neighbours anyone could have.”

“He’s like an icon of Broken Hill and he’s always been a character and his presence will be missed,” she said.

Mr Bent said the last 40 years would not have been possible without the support of his wife.

“To be a success one can only do it if you have an exceptional partner and in this case it’s been my best mate, my wife, Colleen.

“I’ve had a wonderful time here and I’ve met some wonderful people.

“It’s been quite a journey.”

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