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Tale of a bakery

Monday, 12th January, 2015

The old Dyer & James Bakery site as it appears today. The old Dyer & James Bakery site as it appears today.

By Paul Armstrong

The Dyer Brothers bakery was founded in 1888 and did well for a period of time, and then James Dyer took control of the firm.

In 1895, James Dyer was very well regarded and he was elected to the City Council.

Under his drive and business acumen the bakery was doing well and he invited W. R. James to join the firm and soon with very good management the bakery grew significantly.

Then suddenly James Dyer died in 1904, his wife Mary took control and was a strong lady in business. W.R. James was employed as leading hand-manager and quickly brought much confidence into the business in Cornish Street.

Amazingly in 1909 they were baking 3,220 loaves of bread per night and had 4 horse carts, 1 trolley cart and 1 van delivering their baked goods.

The carts were painted bright red and green and handsomely sign written.

They were using 7 tons of flower and 7,000 eggs per week!

Incredibly in a story about the business and their Hygienic bread a description of a baker in his bare feet kneading the dough in a huge vat did not seem to turn heads or cause any consternation?

With the smart work by W. R. James the firm expanded and by 1910 they had 10 branch shops selling their bread and employed 52 workers, including names that still ring true today, being men like Cropley, Draper, Bevin, Gentle, Megaw, Billings, Langford and Trennerry.

In this period, the firm changed to Dyer & James bakery. In 1911 they spent the considerable sum of 3,000 pounds on expansion of the property and buildings. Mr James then modernised the bakery by bringing into the firm the most up to date machinery. 

Dyer & James were doing so well they began to buy out their competitors around the city, in all they took over six other bakeries.

The First World War then brought tough times but they forged ahead until in 1916 Mrs Dyer retired from the business.

To keep up with the times Mr James brought in wholesale grocery items into his firm and it allowed him to get through the war period. It was advertised as the hygienic bakery and had a wide range of goods available. It is interesting to note that the address was originally Wolfram Street but in 1918 the street was then changed and continued on as Cornish Street Railwaytown.

Due to illness in 1920, Mr James had to leave Broken Hill and his son Mr J.C. James was left in charge of the bakery.

While in Broken Hill W.R. James was involved in the YMCA and was President of the Chamber of Commerce and President of the District Nursing Association and a representative on the Broken Hill Wages Board.

Suddenly in 1926 tragedy struck the business when a huge fire destroyed the baking rooms, at a cost of 6,000 pounds.

It was a severe blow but the firm rebuilt and moved forward. They survived the Great Depression due to the hard work and smart business decisions over the years.

It was called the Procera Bakery.

During 1937, J.C. James retired from the manager’s position and went into a milk vending business. His brother A.T. ‘Nugget’ James then assumed control of the bakery. 

In May of 1941, Dyer & James was taken over by Romain’s Bakery, there were 18 staff and they had baked their two millionth loaf of bread.

In the early 1940s, my father Alby Armstrong would drive the old Ford bakers van to the towns down as far as Yunta delivering the bread to the stores and garages, often the van would boil so he had to take many gallons of water with him and the round trip would be close to eight hours.

In 1953, celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation a Parade down Argent Street was held in front of many thousands of people, the Romain’s company had a float which was a huge plywood loaf of bread 17 feet long and 13 feet high. Dyer & James faded into history during the 1950s but the smell of hot fresh bread over the streets surrounding the bakery still lingers in the memory.

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