Ron Dickson – about whom he knew nothing. That was the point – our recent new member was to enlighten us on “the Person Behind the Badge” with a short account of his life and background.
Ron at first alarmed us by confessing to being verbose and addicted to Powerpoint presentations, but then proceeded to deliver a very amusing, informative, frank and well illustrated account of his life journey.
He was born in Sunshine, at an early age. Born a Bulldog, he has remained a faithful Bulldog since. His recalled his early years in Sunshine were dominated by the sirens at the McKay’s Harvester Works which sounded the shift change four times each day and set the timetable for the whole neighbouring district. He attended the local Catholic Primary School in Sunshine in the years of World War Two. Play involved football with rolled newspapers tied with string, or games in the air raid shelters with the gas masks. In 1947 he won a Diocesian Scholarship which basically sent him to a little ‘hothouse’ school where students were coached for the Government Scholarship exam which could win them 4 years of paid secondary education. Ron won such a scholarship.
Of the 4 years offered however, he completed only 3. In 1949 he lost interest in school and attended little, preferring to go to the pictures. This truancy was discovered and he was sent to boarding school – CBC in Victoria Parade (now Parade College) where his studies included musical appreciation. An enlightened teacher took him on as a ‘project’, introduced him to Geelong College which had outstanding music facilities and nurtured what became his lifelong love of music.
He left school early to work at the SEC at a basic salary of £6/0/3, after which he joined the Commercial Bank of Australia. He recounted being the victim of a robbery there at shotgun point. The perpetrator was quickly apprehended at the local railway station waiting for his getaway train, having checked the shotgun in at the cloakroom.
1954 was a memorable year. On his 19th birthday the Bulldogs won the flag and Ron, regretting mucking up his education, returned to study accounting. In 1958 he was appointed as assistant accountant to a civil engineering company. Finding this an easy and undemanding job, he had completed an application for another vacancy. When his boss saw this on his desk he summoned Ron to his office to advise that he was to retire and Ron would be the front-runner for the job. Bad idea to leave. Ron stayed, was promoted and in 5 years was the Company Secretary. In this period he met his wife-to-be. They married in 1960 and moved to Adelaide where he was introduced to wine which became another lifelong passion.
They moved back to Croydon in 1963 and began a family. The first two children were adopted but then, having worked out what caused it, they had two more. His career in Community Service began when he joined Apex in 1964. In 1969 he decided he did not like the local council and stood for election. He won and served on Croydon Council for the next 3 years. A memorable achievement in this time was the founding of the South Croydon Football Club of which he became President in 1972.
In 1974 he was transferred to New Zealand as financial manager of a coal mining company. Nearby was Waikato University where he undertook a course in viniculture. The rest of his spare time was apparently spent playing golf, reducing his handicap from 36 to 35 over the next 5 years!
In 1980 they returned to Melbourne where he joined Nortel, a large Canadian Telco. His children attended Aquinus College where he joined the Committee and the theatre group, memorably starring in The Mikado. He left Nortel in 1986 to commence his own accounting practice, starting in an office in the garage with his daughter as receptionist.
His career in Rotary began in 1994 when he joined the newly chartered Rotary Club of Chirnside Park. The Charter President found the job too difficult and Ron took over. He was elected President the next year so serving 18 months as President. RC Chirnside Park was heavily involved in youth exchange, ran a successful Art Show and a Farmers’ Market. Ron served as Bulletin editor for many years, winning Best Bulletin Awards and being recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow for his service. 1998 was a disastrous year for Ron. He lost his marriage, his house and his practice. The personal support he found in Rotary was invaluable during this difficult period.
He met Merle in 2006 and they remain committed partners although he still wonders what a Protestant, Anglophile, Monarchist, football-hater could see in him … perhaps the Jazz and the wine. In 2007 he proved you are not too old to get a job at 72. He began working for major charities in an accounting capacity.
In 2011 he won a substantial sum in a television quiz for knowing the meaning of osculation. This funded his travel over the next few years. First to the RI Convention in New Orleans that year – a jazz lover’s heaven. In 2012 they visitied Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. In 2013, rather than attending the RI Convention in Lisbon, they visited South Africa for the Capetown District 9350 Conference. This is a vast district including all of South Africa, Angola and Namibia. Because of the vast distances, the District Conference, Assembly and Changeover are all held together as one major event. In 2014 they again attended the RI Convention in Sydney.
After 19 years the RC Chirnside Park handed back its charter. Ron remembers his time with Rotary there as golden years and looks forward to similar rewarding service with Rosanna.
The Club certainly shares that wish and, after his brilliant presentation, Ron is certainly no longer a stranger to us.
President Marty closed the meeting delighted that we had found a possible new Bulletin Editor. We would have liked to have time to hear Lois report on her recent trip to Bali where her visit to our RAWCS project at Taman Permata Hati was apparently a highlight. Hopefully we will enjoy that next week.