In Their Words: Carpenter, Mr Robbie Vogler

As a boy, Mr Robbie Vogler couldn’t wait to finish school and follow in his father’s footsteps and become a carpenter. After 55 years in the trade, Robbie says he’s not ready to put the tools down just yet.

The only thing I’ve ever wanted to be was a carpenter—I love tinkering with things. In primary school, I was a bit of a ‘woodshop nerd’. I’d buy timber and spend my lunch breaks in the workshop building things and practising what we had learned in our manual training classes.

After completing my apprenticeship, I travelled a bit, living and working in Canberra, Tasmania, Melbourne and Adelaide. I did this for two years before taking a job in Bundaberg, working for a company that built accommodation and machinery sheds for cattle stations in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

In 1976, at my best friend’s wedding in Toowoomba I met the woman who would become my wife, Desley. Eight months after getting married we bought a caravan and departed on an 18-month working holiday around Australia.

We started in Mount Isa, then travelled to Alice Springs and Darwin before heading to Perth and coming home via the Nullarbor Plain. We’d work in each place for four to five months and explore nearby camping spots on the weekends. Australia was very different back then. There weren’t many bitumen roads and tourist attractions hadn’t been commercialised—for us it was the perfect time to see Australia.

I remember arriving in Roebourne in Western Australia. It was the hottest place in the country at the time—reaching a top of 49 degrees most days—and of course we didn’t have air conditioning in the caravan back then. Thankfully, the sweltering temperatures were eased with the cool of summer rain. We experienced two cyclones while we were in Roebourne. Desley and I bunkered down in the caravan and hoped for the best. Fortunately, both storms went around us and we continued with our travels to Perth. There really was never a dull moment, but eventually it was time to come home.

I started working at BGGS in 1980; so much has changed since then. When I first started at the School, things were much more hands-on—it truly was manual labour. I was responsible for building classroom furniture, book shelves and cases, and walls in the Main Building, along with the other odd jobs that would arise. For example, when the School bought its first three computers, we had to affix them to the wall because they were such a rare commodity—how times have changed!

These days, things are more mechanical, but every day has its own challenges. My favourite thing to work on is stage sets. They’re always different; I love the creativity that comes with the task and the sense of accomplishment of seeing everything come together on stage.

I’ll celebrate my 40th year at the School in July and honestly, there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t enjoyed coming to work. I think you have to have the right temperament to do the work I do, but it’s helped working with, and being surrounded by, such wonderful people. That said, there comes a point in everyone’s career when retirement is on the horizon. When the time comes, Desley and I would like to spend more time with our grandchildren and I’d like to pick up a few hobbies that have been lost in the busyness of life—fishing, woodturning and of course, we’d like to travel more.