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John Chandler Mannum Icon Remembers

Submitted by Kirsty MacGregor
on February 25, 2010

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Memories of Mannum from Mannum Mag

John Chandler loves reading, and is surrounded by books, as well as his beautifully constructed model trains and sailing ships. Chandler’s Soft Drinks and Ice Manufacturers was an integral part of the Mannum Community and surrounding district for many years.

If you step out of the Club and look up the cliff, you will see what used to be Sister Lawrence’s Hospital in William Street, and that is where I was born in 1919. My father was born in Tanunda, so he spoke fluent German, and he learned clock and watchmaking from Anton Olmeyer before moving to Mannum in 1915. He started an Adelaide University Optometry correspondence course that year, and proudly graduated in 1920.

In 1917, Dad had married my mum, who was a maid at the Bottom Pub, and for £600 bought both the places I have and live in today. That took many years to pay off.

After completing school in Mannum in 1932, I did my clock and watchmaking apprenticeship with Dad, and I finished in 1937. He started to teach me Optometry, but the war came, and I joined the army, serving with the Second A.I.F. including two years in New Guinea. It was 1945, and Dad realized that I had to make a living, and saw a need for an ice manufacturing and soft drink factory in Mannum.

It was a good family business with two employees, and when we started, we could only make 30 to 40 dozen bottles a day. Our sugar permit was for half a ton a month, and that’s 16 seventy pound bags. We bought our essences from Adelaide, and over about eight years, I developed my own flavours. The carbon dioxide came in cylinders, and there was the water treatment plant and refrigerator to chill the water.

For the last 22 years, with our fully automated plant, in mid-summer we could make 400 dozen bottles a week. Clem Mines, who leased the back of one of the buildings to print and publish the Mannum Recorder (a weekly paper), printed the labels. Deliveries were made to all the Mannum shops with our small 1942 Chevrolet; and once a fortnight, we delivered to Palmer, Tungkillo, Mt Pleasant and Birdwood. Farmers from the district came and collected their own supplies.

In 1988 new Government requirements came in for bottling and manufacture of soft drinks, and these forced us to close our factory.

In 1952, I married Mannum Hospital’s best theatre sister Naomi McKenzie. She was a Midwife too, and worked closely with Dr Grote. Visiting surgeons came up from Adelaide, and always asked for Sister McKenzie to assist them. She finished nursing when we married, and we had two children, a boy and a girl. Sadly our son died of a cerebral haemorrhage at 19 years of age.

Our daughter completed her Bachelor of Anatomical Sciences, and lives and works in Adelaide. My wife died in 1994.

John Chandler




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