Remembering the Days of the ‘Garbo’

Every Christmas and New Year, it was a tradition to leave some beers out for the garbos…..

I’ve just put up the garbage and it got me remembering back to a time when we had 3 or 4 garbos running up and down the street, dressed in footy shorts and singlet, banging and clanging the old metal garbage bins as they emptied the rubbish into the back of the old garbage truck. How times have changed!

They’d be be banging the bins at 5 in the morning, waking up the neighbourhood, the truck revving up the street and the guys yelling to one another.

It would have been a bloody tough job, cold and wet in winter, stinking hot in summer and I can never recall any of the blokes wearing protective clothing

At Christmas and New Year, we always used to leave some beers out for the garbos, which was the traditional thing to do and it meant that your lid would be put back on the bin and it was always put back carefully.

It would have been a bloody tough job, cold and wet in winter, stinking hot in summer and I can never recall any of the blokes wearing protective clothing either, or those coloured visible vests which they would certainly be required to wear today! OH&S would have a field day if they tried to do it today.

For many it was a way to keep super fit and earn an income. It was not at all unusual to see your favourite footy player kicking goals for your team on Saturday afternoon and then see him on Monday morning running up and down the street, chasing the truck, collecting the rubbish bins.

These days there’s just one person driving the truck, sitting in the air conditioned cabin operating the hydraulic arm, lifting the large wheelie bins and gently putting them back down. The new systems would have been introduced in the mid 80’s(?) with the plastic ‘Sulo’ bins and have now developed into a 3 bin system, rubbish, recyclable and green waste.

In a Facebook post published last year on the subject of garbos, Louie Laudonia wrote of his experience as a modern day ‘garbo’; “I’m a garbo for Mitcham. I agree it used to physically tough back in the day but it is a different kind of tough now!

Photo from Burnside City Council. A modern day ‘garbo’.

Try driving on the left hand side of the truck, dodging parked cars, cars parked in front of bins, bins so close together that they can’t be picked up, picking up a minimum of 1200 bins per day, etc…I come home after a 10 hour day feeling mentally exhausted.

We do a lot more than just sitting on our bums and working a lever….we operate 8 buttons and watch a monitor every time we empty a bin to see what goes in and if it is empty, on top of that we’re watching mirrors and driving. These days a lot of people don’t realise how it operates, how skilled it is and the hours required.

I love my job and occasionally we get the thank you’s, a non-alcoholic drink and a wave from children with their parents and that makes my day as we feel appreciated”.

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4 Replies to “Remembering the Days of the ‘Garbo’”

  1. Where are the shit carter’s hat they were flat n my ma used to make em FLAT AS A SHIT CARTER HAT

    1. Hey Christine, your ma may have been talking about the ‘Dunny Man’ or night cart man. They collected the full pans of human waste from the outside dunnies. That’s a post in itself though

  2. I remember the garbos they were always respectful to my mum if she went out to get the empty bins she knew a lot of them because we were from a small town and some went to school with my brothers. Yes i remember the beer at christmas it was funny buying it because my dad didnt drink so it was strange to see him with it, but you were right our lid was always back on the bin and it was placed down gentely, different days better days in some ways, i really cant see the modern day garbo keeping up the pace of those boys.
    Sometimes you miss the sounds of the past as they fade into the memory and are replaced by the sounds of today.

  3. In manly, Sydney I was led to believe that any good footy player could lkick a Bin over a six foot fence my granny said in 1940s!
    I still put a couple of beers out at Xmas or chase em with a ” Coldy” ‘Both bins !!

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