© Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds
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Timber, Veneer and Plywood 1901 - 1969
World War II begins
Eventually the Great Depression eased but before the end of the decade Australia was once more at war as she joined Great Britain in World War II on 3rd September 1939. The need for ammunition, food, and clothing associated with the war effort proved a boon for many Australian manufacturing industries. At the beginning of World War II, the Deshon Street mill was set up to produce fancy veneers for the furniture trade. As this was not an essential industry for the war, the mill virtually closed.  Plywood, however, played a prominent part during the war, particularly in Australia. The main material in the construction of the Mosquito fighters and fighter bombers was plywood made from coachwood. Thousands of articles were needed for fighting organisations and plywood played an essential part in the production. Thus supply of non-essential items to the general public was drastically reduced. Mac was forced to find an additional site for his business. He found a property in Hunter Street at South Grafton in New South Wales. Local coachwood timber was readily available and Mac concentrated on the manufacture of aeroplane propellers for the war effort. Mill workers had previously been employed through direct newspaper advertising but by mid-1942 a network of National Service Offices registered all available labour of working age. All unemployed persons were required to register and by early 1946 an estimated three million people were placed in employment through the Offices. This system was replaced by the Australian Government employment agency known as Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).
Rear of building at 2 Hunter Street, South Grafton, NSW. A galvanised iron saw-toothed roof building built by Mac Williams in 1941. Williams Collection.
Post-War hardships When World War II ended in 1945, The South Grafton Veneer and Plywood Company primarily used Spotted Gum as a hardwood in the manufacture of many items including axe and hammer handles. Mac Williams then opened another mill in Woolgoolga Road, South Grafton. War conditions had necessitated civilian rationing of clothing and certain foodstuffs in Australia. People were expected to work harder and avoid luxuries and waste. Ration coupons were needed for sugar, meat, butter and clothing, as well as petrol.                                                       Right: Ration card issued to Mac in 1944. Williams Collection. Despite the post-war decline in economy, Mac also continued to operate Queensland Veneer Company in Woolloongabba. About 75 per cent of the plywood manufactured in Australia was used in the furniture trade and Mac sliced the fragrant cedar and camphor laurel timbers that were in great demand.  At that time no substitutes had been invented to challenge the supremacy of plywood. In the late 1940’s plywood was used for boxes, caravans, motor car parts, truck bodies, toys, barrels and canoes. During the 1950’s Mac also took on an interesting sideline – making plywood ice cream spoons for Peters Creameries (Grafton) Pty. Ltd. Fire at Grafton   Damage estimated at £25,000 was caused by a fire that swept through the South Grafton mill in June 1953. Three large sheds with three-ply and valuable machinery were destroyed. Only one building remained and a year later Mac auctioned the Hunter Street property.  
Moulding a new career First rotary lathe in Brisbane Woolloongabba Mills Glue and logs from the country Expansion after The Great War Mac's men at the mills Largest plywood mill in Australia Timber resources The Great Depression Queensland Veneer Company World War II Retirement References