Lucy and Michael Mikedis met when they were both working in Building 20 at Kodak Australasia’s Coburg factory in the 1960s.
Lucy and Michael Mikedis met when they were both working in Building 20 at Kodak Australasia's Coburg factory in the 1960s.
Michael was 18 when he arrived in Australia from Greece, with his family, in 1964. He had completed school and hoped to study mechanical engineering, but his family circumstances required him to work. Having little English language, his options were limited, but Kodak took him on as a storeman at the Abbotsford plant. Kodak had begun transferring manufacturing operations to a new factory at Coburg and the old Abbotsford plant was gradually emptying. It was an intimate workplace where 'everybody knew everyone', and Michael made a lot of friends. His job was to supply stocks of chemicals for film processing. There was little mechanisation for stock movement, apart from a forklift for very heavy items. Michael remembers using 'lot of elbow grease' and a hand trolley for moving most things.
Michael and his colleagues in the supply team were also moving stock to Coburg, while keeping up supplies to the processing department in Abbotsford. Michael recalls: "We couldn't just stop and start again next week, so everything happened gradually. It was a smooth operation, as far as I can remember, considering the amount of stuff that had to be shifted."
In 1966 Michael moved to Building 20 at Coburg, where the new colour film processing laboratories operated around the clock. He was part of the supply team that supplied all the materials used in processing, and also safety shoes and gloves, overalls and the pre-printed forms used by each department. "And we had modern equipment, like electric forklifts – we all had to get licences to drive them. So it was very, very modern for the days, Kodak was an extremely modern factory."
From there Michael was promoted to stock planner, a desk job. He organised supplies from the Coburg distribution centre for the different Kodak branches throughout Australia. He then moved up to stock planning and estimating. Michael outlines this job: "The manufacturers of roll film would give me their estimates of how much film they would produce for the next five years, and according to that I had to work out how many components were needed for that film to be sold to branches – things like cardboard boxes that you got your 35 mm film from the chemist, the little canister the film came in. Each component had to be ordered individually from different places."
Like Michael, Lucy had commenced working at Kodak straight from school in 1964. Her first job was in customer service at Abbotsford, where she handled the mail orders for film processing for customers throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea and some Pacific islands. Lucy recalls another part of her job: "I was the youngest in the office at the time, and I used to have to make a cup of tea for my boss and his assistant and then I also used to have to make tea for the rest of the office people. In those days it was only tea and we had a huge teapot; coffee, you had to bring yourself, if you wanted coffee." When Kodak moved to the new factory in the early 1960s Lucy resigned because she did not wish to travel to Coburg.
In 1967 Lucy's family moved to the northern suburbs, close to Coburg, so she decided to return to Kodak: "I just walked into the personnel office and I just said 'Is there anything going?' 'Oh, yes, we've got a job in the office in Building 20', and I got it!"
Lucy did the typing and general secretarial support for administrative staff in various departments, including Michael's distribution team. Lucy and Michael began a romance and were married in 1969 and by 1970 Lucy was expecting their first child. She recalls that the Kodak doctor kept a check on pregnant women on staff: "There was a policy in those days that when you were five months pregnant you had to leave, so a lot of girls used to try to keep it hidden for a little while if they wanted to work a bit longer. But I do remember cases where the doctor would look at someone and say 'Oh no, you're more than five months, you leave work on Friday'."
Lucy managed to remain until she was seven months pregnant. There was no maternity leave, so she resigned. When her son was a year old Lucy returned to Kodak, this time to Head Office in Building 8. She was secretary to Neville Hesketh, who was responsible for monitoring the environment impact of Kodak's operations. In 1973 Lucy left for the birth of her second child and decided to remain at home with her young family.
Although Michael found his job and pay satisfactory, and he appreciated the staff benefits the company provided, he did not see any opportunities for furthering his career at Kodak. The late 1970s were difficult years, and some employees were made redundant. Although Michael was not made redundant, he decided to accept a job offer from a friend. "It was a hard decision, because Kodak was my first and only job, I didn't really know anything outside, and I didn't really know how things would go, and with a wife and two kids, a mortgage, making a major career change, it wasn't an easy one to make." Michael and Lucy both went on to have other careers, but they have happy memories of their time at Kodak.
Beale, Nigel, 'The History of Kodak in Australia', 1983.
Oral History Michael and Lucy Mikedis, interviewed by Lesley Alves 14 November 2013.