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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!Garbage truck 1970s

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.

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.

Photo from Burnside City Council. A modern day 'garbo'.

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

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!

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”.


6 Responses to Remembering the Days of the ‘Garbo’

  1. Sue Thomson January 13, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    this post romanticises the garbos of the 70s/80s as ‘top blokes’ but unfortunately that’s not how I remember them at all. As a teenager, I eventually had to take a different, longer route to school on garbage collection days because I was made to feel uncomfortable by the garbos cat-calling and lewd remarks. Indeed, I was afraid of them. There’s a name for that kind of behaviour these days. It’s called sexual harassment and it’s illegal!!

    • Jay Z June 22, 2021 at 6:10 am #

      They were typical blue collar australian scum!
      No different to the tradesman trash of today, onky today they wear their reflective bogan uniforms and actually believe they are special.
      Horrible horrible people.
      So glad i left that city country…

  2. ken August 1, 2017 at 2:34 am #

    I did it for 4 years. And we had foot ball players running with us (Norwood) and they didn’t keep up.

    • Jaden terry April 18, 2024 at 3:27 pm #

      3 man job. One driver and two working both sides of the street. Glad I didn’t have problems with the garbos
      They was just doing a job.

  3. ken August 1, 2017 at 3:00 am #

    the black and white photo is one of the first (compacters) before that they had side windows (3) and we had to tilt the tipper, and stamp it down, to the back of the truck. We also collected bottles, it sacks, attached them to the back of the money.
    And this was before plastic bins. Have ever picked up a cold TIN bin at 4 am, mid-winter, shake of the frozen lid with your bare hands??
    And in mid-summer, opened a tin-bin, (before people were asked to wrap their garbage in paper) and be attacked by maggots and a smell that 2hr to get washed away.
    After all the sh.t for the locals, there were wins, one day, (in a high class area) they left out a clock, I liked it, and I sold it for 50 pounds. And this happened more that not, in that area.
    Over all, I hated the job but liked it, reasonable pay, bad hours, and the first man in the pub.

  4. Stefan Robert January 5, 2021 at 5:29 pm #

    After all the sh.t for local people, there were wins, at some point, (in a high-class region) they left out a clock, I enjoyed it, and I sold it for 50 pounds. Also, this happened more than not, around there.

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