Motor vehicle and farm machinery customers of Pigdons Holden Yarrawonga and family friends joined in an official ceremony on Saturday, April 14 to mark the family’s outstanding achievement of 100 years in business.
“Congratulations on 100 years and being part of this community,” another well-known local identity from a well-known long-time local family, Brian Keenan, told the Pigdon family in front of an estimated 130 people witnessing the massive, milestone achievement at 11am on Saturday.
“I hope you go on serving the community well into the future. It’s a great anniversary. The Pigdons have been great innovators, initially in Wilby then Yarrawonga.”
The former mayor of Moira Shire and four-decade long fire brigade captain recalled considerable history of the Keenan and Pigdon families, and commented about the pioneer spirit of men and women, in what they had to endure.
“I remember Jack Pigdon ran the business. Bruce’s father was at war. Dad (Frank Keenan) got involved with Pigdons,” Mr Keenan said.
“What was always very noticeable to this day was their staff who would go the extra yard whatever it was you wanted - whether a motor bike, Dodge, Studebaker, Morris, Plymouth or Holden, or Headers, Ploughs, McKay, Massey - you name it. During the war years I don’t know how they kept going.”
In referring to the much earlier times, Mr Keenan talked about local families 100 years and beyond, and soldiers involved in war conflict and what they had to endure. “We owe a lot to our forebears for their guts and determination,” he said. And that praise was indeed appropriate to the Pigdon family whose business “became an important stop-over for farmers of the district” Mr Keenan said.
That toughness mentioned by Mr Keenan was emphasised by the current owner’s (Andrew Pigdon) father, Bruce Pigdon OAM.
“My Grandfather (John Pigdon) was a teenager when his father died in a farm accident in 1889. He then found himself caring for his mother, learning the blacksmith trade, then working at the Wilby Butter Factory, purchasing and operating a Traction Engine, then finally opening the business in 1918, the business that we are commemorating today in its Centenary Year,” he said.
Mr Pigdon described his grandfather “a man of vision” and “a good friend to farmers especially during the Depression Years when banks restricted credit”.
“The purpose of this commemoration ceremony is not to pat ourselves on the back but to remember the incredible efforts our ancestors made to overcome and to help make not just this business, but Yarrawonga/Mulwala a better place to work and live - to honour those who have gone before us,” he said.
The original philosophy and purpose of Pigdons still stands according to Bruce: to be ethical in trading, generous when required to be, to provide a first class service to customers, to be a good employer putting employees’ interest above self-interest and to be a good corporate citizen by getting involved in the community.
“Our greatest asset is our customers who think we are worthy of their continued custom and we are forever grateful for their loyalty,” he said.
“The other great asset of the business is all the wonderful people - our staff who have served the business over these 100 years. Special mention should be made of the valuable contribution from Alan Foster, Shirley Connell, Heather Keenan, Geoff Cooper, Darren Sharp and of course my brother Geoff.
“We are especially proud of our more than 30 apprentices, many of whom have gone on to lead very successful lives.”
One such apprentice was Richie Mallows who officially opened the 100 year celebration last Saturday.
“Pigdons was my first employer as ‘an adult’, a 16-year-old,” he said. “I’m deeply indebted to the Pigdon family.”
Councillor Ed Cox spoke on behalf of Moira Shire Council and referred to some very difficult times including two world wars and the Great Depression over those 100 years.
“It was tough going but Pigdons still managed to run a business and how they grew the business was with passion and vision for the future,” he said.
“There have never been challenges like today with overseas competition. I want to acknowledge the Pigdon family contribution to Wilby and Yarrawonga over the years - you can’t put a price on that. I hope you’re here for another 100 years.”
Yarrawonga’s well known Judd family was represented at the ceremony with the boss, Jim Judd describing the achievement as “great”. “We bought our first truck in 1939,” he said of his own business.
“The Pigdons are good people for Yarrawonga and district, they always have the town in mind and very supportive,” he said.
Long time Pigdons’ customers Stan and June Magann of Yarrawonga have bought six Holdens from Pigdons, and like everything about the 100-year-old business, especially after sales care and interest.
Another fan of Pigdons, Tony Scalzo, described the Pigdons as “very iconic”. “For a business to survive and be handed down generations over 100 years is fantastic,” he said.
A very long time customer, Tom Lowe, fondly recalled the time his grandfather, J. C. Lowe, purchased a 1924 Chevrolet 94 years ago from John Pigdon.
“It’s lovely to have it. Everything about the Pigdon family is wonderful - honesty, integrity, you name it - that’s the Pigdons,” Mr Lowe said.
Current Dealer Principal of Pigdons Holden, Andrew Pigdon, told the big gathering: “I’m proud to be a Pigdon. I’m proud of our heritage. Sometime it gets to a point you look forward,” the 42-year-old said.
“I respect our history and need to look forward to what we can do the next 100 years - hopefully we can stay in the business.
“Let’s hope so. We should try and keep everything local to keep Yarrawonga moving in the direction we want it to be.”
To date, Pigdon family members have served the business for a total of 256 years. Andrew’s son, James, has served six months.
Following the formal proceedings, Andrew told the Yarrawonga Chronicle he was very happy with the attendance at the official ceremony.
“I thank everybody for helping us celebrate our 100 years,” the current owner of Pigdons said.
“We look forward to serving the community hopefully for another 100 years.”