At the ripe age of 70, Roger Padfield has called time on his career, leaving a lasting impression on many of those who have had the pleasure of working with him.
Flash back to 1967, the Beatles were at their peak, Neil Armstrong was still two years away from landing on the moon and trucks as we now know them were non-existent. That was also the same year that a 16-year-old named Padfield started his motor mechanic apprenticeship with Patterson Cheney.
Padfield started his journey with Patterson Cheney at the company’s South Melbourne car service centre, learning the ins and outs of fixing Holdens, Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Vauxhalls. Within two years, Bedford trucks were added into the mix.
When the company opened its Footscray dealership, Padfield moved there, working as a foreman, then a leading hand and finally a road handler. After around 11 years at that site, Patterson Cheney made the decision to close the Footscray dealership and Padfield moved to Patterson Cheney Isuzu Dandenong in 1983, where he stayed for 28 years as the afternoon shift supervisor in the service department. Though his official title only scratches the surface of the contribution he made during his time there.
“When I started on the afternoon shift, there was only two of us. By the time I finished up, there were about 12 people. I basically handed out the work, controlled what work was going on, booked vehicles in and sorted spare parts as well,” said Padfield, who grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Highett.
His father was a boilermaker and he says that helped to steer him towards a career as a mechanic, coupled with a knack for problem-solving and figuring out how things worked.
When asked what has kept him in the same role with the same company for all these years, he said, “I enjoy what I do. I think that’s the only way I can put it. I love the problem-solving aspect, but it is getting harder these days with the electronics coming into the systems.”
Making the switch from cars to trucks two years into his career planted the seed for what was to come for Padfield. “When I started, there wasn’t too many diesels in Bedfords, whereas now all trucks are diesel powered, not petrol powered. Electronics and turbos have been some of the biggest changes,” he said, adding that it’s been a really rewarding career for him.
“It’s kept me sane. Not all problems are easy to fix, but you try and nut them all out – sometimes it can be frustrating, but I really enjoyed it.”
Patterson Cheney’s service manager Wayne Murphy says Padfield has been a pillar of strength in his department and a cornerstone of knowledge for his colleagues.
“Roger was key in helping us set up our afternoon shift when it first began and he also supported our 24-hour service later on,” Murphy said.
“Roger has done advising work, spare parts selection and interpretation, diagnostic checks on the trucks for the mechanics to help them identify problems faster, road tests, honestly, he’s done a little bit of everything, and done them brilliantly.”
Like Padfield, Murphy has been in the business for many years – and they aren’t the only ones. “Wayne has been with Patterson Cheney for about 40 years or so. One of the blokes who retired recently was there for about 45 years and there’s a few others who’ve been there over 40 years too,” said Padfield.
“I reckon Patterson Cheney were quite good at keeping as many people as possible. They’ve been a good company to work for, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been there for so long.
“At Patterson Cheney, there’s a 10-year club and I’ve been on top of it for many years and am the longest serving member there. But I’m getting older and I’m not as fit as I used to be. I still need to try and be doing something though and it’s been hard with all these lockdowns.”
Padfield officially finished up on July 16 and though his colleagues had planned a big send-off for him, Melbourne had just entered into its fifth lockdown so things had to be a little more low-key.
Murphy congratulated Padfield on his contribution to the business. “It has been a privilege to work with Roger, who is not only very experienced but more than happy to share his knowledge with the rest of the Isuzu dealer network,” he said.
“We have all benefited from his skills and been inspired by his dedication to the brand. It is going to be so difficult replacing Roger that we are splitting his current role into two jobs.”
Patterson Cheney is hoping to give Padfield a well-deserved big send-off once restrictions ease, with a date yet to be confirmed.
Though travel is on hold for the time being, Padfield is hoping to visit New Zealand once restrictions ease. “But I need to talk my wife into that I think,” he joked.