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Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
Hello ODK history lovers
The 1950s represents the ‘Golden Years’ of Australian
rotary mower making. A myriad of small mower makers
had a go in the early post-war period that happened to
coincide with massive urbanisation. There was a lot of
grass to turn into lawn!

This story is about an early Victa dealership.
Ray Tijou’s distinctive mower shop was once located
at 440 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Melbourne.

I say distinctive because Ray knew how to advertise.
He had a distinctive premises and he knew how to
use publicity to his advantage. He had help from Dad.

That story is discussed HERE.

[Linked Image]

Of course, that story is almost gone now.
The modern Burwood Road streetscape gives only
little hint to the business once conducted there.

[Linked Image]

This story is a tribute to the earliest of Victorian
dealers appointed by Victa in 1955. Ray Tijou
would sell Victa’s first dealership model – the
Model 1 – from late 1955.


Portal Box 6
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART TWO – Backstory
‘Tijou’ is not a common surname in Australia,
and I feel I have found enough records to
speculate how this early Victa dealership
came to be.

My best guess is that the Tijou family was involved
with hardware from the late 19th century.

The first post WWII records show that Ray’s Father,
Arthur Glenn Henry Tijou, “Harry”, served in the Second
World War and, post war, ran a hardware store at 191
Glenferrie Road, Glenferrie
[now Malvern].

My best guess is that Ray worked there as his first job.

Only Son, Raymond, appears to have started a mower
repair shop in 1952 at 5 Frederick Street, Hawthorn.
That would have been about 5km from father’s
hardware store.

[Linked Image]

There is evidence that Ray was selling
reconditioned mowers and chainsaws from the
Frederick Street business, but no new lawnmowers.

That would all change with Ray’s move to new premises
at 440 Burwood Road, Hawthorne. My best guess is that
this move occurred in about the second half of 1954.

The first ad I have is a classified employment advertisement …

[Linked Image]


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART THREE – 440 Burwood Road
Ray Tijou advertised heavily in the first few years,
universally favouring short classified ads in the Argus
and the Age newspapers.

I have found no illustrated newsprint ads.

It’s clear that Ray Tijou operated as a specialised garden
machinery shop – offering sales, spares and repairs.

The first ads are clear evidence that Ray held agencies
for a number of mower brands: Atco, Scott Bonnar, Morrison,
Mobilco, Austral-Villiers …

[Linked Image]

Note the price for motor mowers …
“from 70 pound, 16 shillings”. Ray’s first new
power mowers were all reel mowers.[/b]

All that would change with one single event:
Ray Tijou being appointed as the first[b] Victorian
Victa Dealership
in late 1955. That’s an amazing story!

[Linked Image]


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART FOUR – Victa Dealer Sign-up
Everything changed for Ray Tijou when he was appointed
a Victa dealer in 1955.

John Mason commenced employment with Victa in 1955
as Victa’s first General Sales Manager. His first task was
to set up a Victa dealer network across Australia.

[Linked Image]

It is no coincidence that a dealer network would sell
Victa’s first ‘true’ model – the Model 1, powered by
Victa’s own 125cc engine.

This was a new start for Victa ...
This would be the start of building an Australian icon.

We are lucky that Mason, at 84 years-old, gave us
insight to Ray Tijou. This is an extract of his self-published
book, The Victa Story [2003], about the initial Victa dealer
sign-up. Victa had eight initial NSW dealers, and then six
VIC dealers:

[Linked Image]


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART FIVE – Tijou Advertising
Ray Tijou was a heavy newsprint advertiser of the
Model 1 Victa.

For the 1955-56 season, for example, he would place
classified ads three times per week in the summer months.

The vast majority just advertised Victa, but there were
some exceptions that demonstrate that Tijou’s mower
shop sold a number of brands [see gallery].

However, it’s pretty clear that Victa was the
cash cow for the business.

[Linked Image]

The only bit of ‘flair’ – if that’s the right word –
was an advert for the introduction of the
Model 2 Victa the following season …

[Linked Image]


Attached Images
1955_11_age_19november_p10.jpg (35.1 KB, 50 downloads)
1955_11_age_26november_p10.jpg (82.44 KB, 50 downloads)
1956_01_age_28january_p61.jpg (63.07 KB, 50 downloads)
1956_03_age_03march_p11.jpg (46.76 KB, 50 downloads)
1956_07_age_07july_p54.jpg (40.46 KB, 50 downloads)
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART SIX – Publicity Stunt You Couldn’t Buy
Ray Tijou utilised extensive classified advertising
for the rest of the 1950s.

The advertising highlight must be a publicity stunt
for the Victa Model 2 for the 1956-57 season.

These were the days when Victa made ridiculous
claims about their domestic rotary mowers – that they
could cut any jungle growth and the like puffery.

Victa must have been over the moon when father
Harry and son Ray orchestrated a stunt
[with media invited] that capitalised on Victa’s
claims. In late 1956 the Tijous cut down a large
tree with a standard Victa in 7 minutes!

There is now clear evidence that the Tijous later
repeated this stunt with a Model 3 Victa. This image
courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

[Linked Image]

That 2014 story was told here: -


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART SEVEN – In Perspective
Ray Tijou clearly ran a successful business
selling and repairing mowers and other garden
and leisure equipment.

He was lucky to secure Victa’s first Victorian dealership.
This was assured money in the bank.

However, Ray was an agent for many mower brands,
and held a Supa-Swift agency from 1959. In later
1950s advertising Tijou would advertise as ‘The
Mower Specialist’ and also, the ‘Mower Doctor’.

He was an early user of interest free terms too.

[Linked Image]

Of note is a 1961 advertisement where Ray
claimed he had been ‘27 years in the business’.

My best guess is that Ray Tijou started as a
‘hardware man’ who took advantage of the
post-war lawnmower boom.

[Linked Image]


Attached Images
1959_08_age_29august_p61.jpg (57.93 KB, 33 downloads)
1959_10_age_03october.jpg (110.56 KB, 33 downloads)
1959_11_age_25november_p9.jpg (527.75 KB, 33 downloads)
1960_10_age_07october_p7a.jpg (221.66 KB, 33 downloads)
1960_10_age_07october_p7c.jpg (276.29 KB, 33 downloads)
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART EIGHT – Burwood Road Premises - Gadge
Ray Tijou was a successful dealer because he knew
how to market lawnmowers. With frequent advertising,
publicity stunts, and a distinctive premises, folks
remember Ray’s shop to this day.

[Linked Image]
This image is used with the permission of the author, John Hunter,
a talented photographer and recorder of commercial signage.
Visit his photostream at: -

GADGE continues the story: -
The interesting thing is, this display was originally
motorised, so that the mannequin appeared to be
moving the mower back and forth along the angle
iron tracks its wheels rest in!

The motion was very attention-grabbing if one was
passing by. Made it a bit of a landmark, when we
drove past it when I was a kid.

Dunno just when it became static only, but it was
after the 1970's.

The company 'Ray Tijou Pty Ltd', formerly Ltd,
was registered from 1956 to 2005
[deregistration applied for 2002]; ABN 53 004 359 844
cancelled 2001, according to ASIC.
Last trading name under the ABN was

This motorised sign seems to me to be consistent with
Harry Tijou's showmanship. For those who remember,
the effigy is of former Australian Prime Minister
Robert Menzies, and the mower is a very early Supa-Swift.
The contrast - of high-brow authority against working-class
lawn mowing is hilarious.

GADGE offers this thoughtful and intelligent explanation:

The Menzies thing is really just the photographer's interpretation,
I think. No real political intent; just an attention-getting publicity display.
The facial features have a definite caricature look to them, in any case.

However, there is definitely some 'sendup' element expressed in
that mannequin's attire, which didn't change over the years.
A 'toff' in 'full fig' of top hat and morning suit,
pushing a lawnmower....

The display was certainly there in the mid 1960's, but I don't
know when it first went up. It was certainly unique; I don't recall
many mechanical [as against neon] 'animated signs'
being around then, and no others of that level of ingenuity.

So Harry Tijou, as an engineer, could well have built it himself.
He obviously had quite a lot of ability in the publicity field as well;
this could well have been a combined expression of his skill set.


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian
PART EIGHT – Burwood Road Premises - Robmac
In 2021 another anecdote was sent to me.

This time by ‘Robmac’ who lived about a mile and
one-half away from the Tijou shop.

Rob says his father didn’t own a car at that time,
so they walked or cycled everywhere.

This is a great but typical story of post-war Australia.
Folks were introduced to a myriad of new consumer
that lay – for the first time – in the grasp of
the working classes.

Here I mean fridges, washing machines, power
lawnmowers, and … the family car.

None of this happened overnight, but ‘battlers’ did
make progress.

Robmac tells the story: -

[Linked Image]


Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 6,938
Likes: 279
Forum Historian

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