A “Sparkie” life of family and faith for Frank

Father Frank and great grand-daughter Scarlett

Father Frank and great grand-daughter Scarlett

My father Frank Buxton, who died on October 1, aged 96,  was a cheerful character whose sense of humour reflected a certain Britishness.  He was born in Sheffield, England, on October 22, 1918, however, when he was a two-year-old tot, his parents Emily and Harry Buxton brought him to South Australia on board the SS Beltana with his babe-in-arms brother Lesley. Dad’s British auntie had lived to 100 years, and as the years added up and Frank had no great disease diagnosed, we half expected him also to get a telegram from the queen.

However, his vital organs simply wore out and as my siblings and I sat with him during his last few dying days, we agreed that we had never heard him complain, even though his was a difficult life of a small businessman with a large family. Even though he was born with a lazy eye and in later life he went blind through glaucoma. Even though his hearing faded by the time he was 90. Dad would claim he was a lucky man, that I was his “sweet daughter”.

It was because of that lazy eye that Dad met our mum, Florrie Fiegert, because he failed his medical for military service in World War II.  Florrie lived on a farm in the Mallee near Loxton and when she  went to Renmark to pick apricots with the Women’s Land Army, she met Frank.  We grew up with the romantic story – how dad was working on the adjoining fruit block owned by his married sister Lilian. One day on the local bus for the workers, he caught sight of  “a gorgeous black-haired beauty” and enquired of his sister who it might be.  Soon a ladder, borrowed from the neighbours was returned and dad met mum. He wooed Florrie by letter, the “city slicker” initially frightened by the draught-horses on the Fiegert farm.  He would travel to Pata in his much-loved Nash with its gas producer and wartime blacked-out lights.  He had to join the Lutheran Church to claim her heart, but they married at the Concordia Lutheran Church, Loxton, on July 10, 1943 – despite the warnings of his mates on the assembly line where he worked as a tool and jig maker on aircraft production.   They thought he was mad joining a “German church” in wartime.  However, dad became a stalwart leader at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church was a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association.  Throughout his life, he sang gospel songs around the home.

I was the first-born of the union and mum took me home to their rented rooms attached to a dairy farm in Islington, across the railway line from my grandparents.

Mum and dad had four other children, my three brothers, Dallas, Andrew and Mark, and my sister Anne, born on my 16th birthday.

I had a good childhood with dad before he became consumed with his growing electrical contracting business. Each Friday night he took us youngsters to grandma’s place and then we would go to the Rowley Park speedway to get covered in dust.  (Dad had had a wild youth before meeting our mum and raced motor bikes in “scrambles”, a dangerous sport racing across open country).   Every Saturday afternoon we would go to the Central Market to buy the cheap vegies. But our big outing of the week was going to church.

Dad was a “sparkie” and had a few strategic “breaks of luck” to raise him up from his poor childhood.   He had been very bright at Prospect Primary School, winning a scholarship to attend Adelaide Boys Technical High School. He completed an apprenticeship with Adelaide Electric Supply Company, now SA Power netowrks and after the war, he became a tutor at the electrical trade school.   Soon my father went into business on his own as an electrical contractor.    As dad’s business, Buxton Electrical Company Pty Ltd,  burgeoned and his staff grew to sometimes 20 electrical tradesmen and apprentices, he became less emotionally engaged with his family.  Our mum was a director of Frank Buxton Electrical Company, so ours was a very busy household as she handled school routines, new babies and the business.

My father was so proud of marrying Florrie, his business, his Church leadersip and the two houses he built for his growing family at 137 Galway Avenue Broadview. He and mum built the first humble cottage on the big corner block after the war in the barter system of the SA Home Buiilders Association. Dad told me he took five years to pay back all his subbies with electrical services.

When I was about 8 years old, dad built the big freestone home in front of the cottage, facing Galway Avenue and the cottage became his business workshop.

His life force, though, was his electrical contracting business, which he ran for more than 50 years.  He was immensely proud of being “the bloke who wired Woomera” and he had seven electricians in Woomera with a site office and workshop there.   He saw his legacy to the electrical industry to be the 17 apprentices he trained, including his own three sons.The business moved four times along Main North Road, but the workshop and retail store was at 109 Main North Road, Nailsworth for 18 years. The company handled diverse electrical jobs throughout South Australia from Kangaroo Island to Ceduna to Bordertown. He was a kind boss as he managed a large work force on difficult jobs such as lighthouses, supermarkets and multi-storey buildings. He became renowned in the electrical industry and “wired Target” at Sefton Plaza. He  held the maintenance contract for all the northern metro Woolworths stores.

When our mother became ill, dad closed the business, which had been transferred back to the little cottage a few years beforehand.  When mum died in 1997, dad met a Renmark lady, Elizabeth Schloithe and when she proposed to him on Valentine’s Day soon after they met, dad accepted. We were very shocked, particularly as I had bought Galway Avenue, my childhood home to live with my dad, who was 81 years old.  Instead, in August 2000, he married and moved to Renmark. He acquired three adult step-children. Dad was married to Elizabeth for 10 years and became her carer until she died.  For the last five years of his life, dad lived in nursing homes – at Renmark and for the past three years at Glynde Lutheran nursing home where his sense of humour became legendary.

He always claimed to be 105 and that he travelled to Sheffield to get his birth certificate to prove it.  Yet he died three weeks short of his 97th birthday. Our dad was a true gentle man, who leaves behind his five adult children, in-laws, 13 grand-children and 13 great grandchildren.

Dad and me on his 94th birthday

Dad and me on his 94th birthday



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8 Comments to “A “Sparkie” life of family and faith for Frank”

  1. By Daryl Wittwer, 10/11/2015 @ 2:08 pm

    Hi Nadine, thank you for sharing details of Frank’s life.
    Is it really 20 years, almost, that Florrie died, it doesn’t seem that long.
    I’d love to catch up with you sometime, to talk about her and Sylvia.
    Will you call me to arrange a suitable time please?
    Thanks. Daryl

  2. By Bernie L, 02/02/2016 @ 8:45 pm

    Hi Nadine,

    A great tribute to your Dad who I called in on and chatted with not long before he died. I can assure you that you were the apple of his eye!! I have known your family at least 55 years and have fond memories of our connection mainly through your brother Dallas and in later years bumping in to you at Manna Cafe near our workplaces!!

    Best wishes Bernie L

  3. By Peter Steer, 07/08/2017 @ 4:14 pm

    Hi Nadine,

    Thank you for compiling and sharing this information on your Dad. I was fortunate enough to have been one of Frank’s apprentices from 1972-1975, and went on to become a tradesman, leaving in 1978 to travel on a working holiday around Australia (that’s another story). I commenced work when Frank had the Nailsworth premises, which was knocked down to make way for the shopping centre, we then moved working from the home in Broadview, and later a move to Klemzig.

    Frank would often drive me to & pick me up from jobs, and I vividly recall him telling me on a few occasions that his eyesight was not good as he had an accident when young with battery acid splashed in his eyes. I still keep in close contact with a few of Frank’s apprentices and we often talk about our good times and stories during that period. We have many fond memories of Frank, Florrie and the Buxton family.

    All the best,

    • By Nadine, 09/08/2017 @ 8:36 am

      Hi Peter, Many thanks for these comments. I am intrigued how you found this post which is now almost two years old. Dad was very proud of his apprentices and you all certainly got a mention – not by name of course – but in my eulogy. Dad had written down a few thoughts so I used his words to say how proud he was. I think, from memory there were 18 of you down through the years.

      Kind regards, Nadine Williams Foubert, OAM.

  4. By Tony Branford, 08/08/2017 @ 9:12 pm

    Hi Nadine,
    I was one of the apprentices that Frank trained, along with Peter Steer, Trevor Jones and Trevor Bolahadgen, It was a very good apprenticeship we received a very good verity in the electrical industry and gave us a very good start in our work life and all have done very well.
    It was very interesting to read some of Franks earlier life exploits. I have some very good memories of our time working for Frank.

    Tony Branford

    • By nadine williams, 09/08/2017 @ 8:39 am

      HI Tony, Many thanks for your comments, posted only ehysterday. So thrilled as I have let the website stagnate somewhat after my husband Olivier died so I must pick it up again more diligently if dad’s former apprentices were keen enough to post their thoughts. I got so much spam after he died that I couldn’t cope with any of it. I have nowwritten a memoir called Farewell My French Love which is a bitter/sweet memoir of recovery. What yearswere you an apprentice? Kidn regards, Nadine Williams Foubert, OAM.

  5. By Bruce Hatwell, 30/08/2018 @ 10:47 pm

    Hi Nadine
    I wonder if this is still active, at least as much as my mind??
    I stated work for Frank in 1980. I was 16 and had finished year 11. Frankly, I wept at not completing Year 12 at times, but was kept busy through an apprenticeship until 1983. I left in 1985. I tried hard, and was supported, and finally ‘got it’.
    I used to dig, and get in roof spaces, and at time muck about.
    In those days I was lucky to have a job – the world was different. I always got paid, every Friday by your Mum, in cash. (I spent quite a bit of it on the way home…)
    Some of the work was interesting.
    I loved trade school (one day a week during school term).
    In 1985 I left to find something else.
    I went to anther company where they had flash overalls and so on.
    It wasn’t that good.
    In 1987 I decided to go back to study.
    I finished Year 12 (at night) and entered University in 1988 to do an electrical engineering degree at University.
    In 1990 I finished that course and started consulting as an electrical engineer.
    I was lucky (good) enough to finish top of the class.
    I worked for 3 consulting companies.
    In 2000 I started my own consulting company, called Lucid Consulting Engineers.
    In the period since I have grown the company to be national and of 200 engineers.
    More importantly I married (my wife is Greek, and this is a similar story to Frank, and perhaps your own), and have 3 most wonderful children, without exception.
    There is no lesson, but only gratitude for those beginnings.
    People start, try, move forward and, hopefully, get somewhere.
    Now I am planning my own retirement. Who would have thought!
    It has been a Fantastic Adventure and I wouldn’t change a minute!
    Why don’t you make contact with the 17 apprentices and document their stories.
    It would make interesting reading and be a fitting legacy to your Dad! There are 17 unique stories. 17 more children.
    I am appreciative of ‘doing my time’ with Frank Buxton Electrical, 137 Galway Avenue, Broadview. Ph 261 4001.
    Whatever happens, it is always remembered.
    Many thanks
    Bruce Hatwell

    • By nadine williams, 03/02/2022 @ 10:22 pm

      HI Bruce, this popped up onto my screen miraculously tonight and I cannot see that I responded to your informative test above. I have been writing a third manuscript and have left my website for a few years. When I picked it up again (my manusecript has been sent off to my book editor for assessment) I found your message. Ihad read it many years ago and was delighted that you have done so well.
      Do you remember me at all as a young woman? Probalby more a young teenager? I worked with dad for a year, but it didin’t work out for me and he was very disappointed. I had an eclectic career until I found myself as a journalism strudent and got my degree (same as you) and found a job for 20 years at The aDvertiser. I have a lot of my father in me, being quite driven. I received an OAM for services to the print media in SA…. I did wonder whether you three chidlren were boys, girls or a mixture. I have no idea if you will receive this after so many years. I let my website drop, but now I am picking it up again. Kidn regards, Nadine Williams Foubert, OAM.

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