Alive and well

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on January 19, 2019

RETIREMENT holds no allure for Wakes Music and Sewing Centre owner Eric Wake, despite being in the industry for more than half a century and having two close encounters with death.

Mr Wake opened the doors to his music store on Albany Highway in July 1967 but said he was operating a business well before then.

He said he helped his father run a BP service station in Katanning from age 12 and was in charge of ordering fuel, chocolates and cigarettes.

“I’d get on the train to Albany and pick up the order,” the Albany business stalwart told The Weekender.

“I’d go and have a milkshake and share the chocolates with some of the other passengers on the train.”

When an apprenticeship opportunity arose at a Katanning electronics shop, teenage Wake jumped at the chance to gain more work experience.

“It was called TS Young and Co and we sold everything,” he said.

“Records, electronics, guns, lawnmowers…

“Then one day, a rep’ from Elna came in and asked if we sold sewing machines, so my boss asked me to do demonstrations.”

Mr Wake surprised himself and said he found sewing “quite interesting.”

So much so that he decided to take it upon himself to open an Elna store in Albany when the Elna represesntative expressed interest in migrating the brand down south.

“They really needed someone in Albany, so I moved down and started selling LPs and sewing machines,” Mr Wake said.

“One day, I got a letter with a plane ticket to Switzerland to visit the Elna factory.

“Switzerland’s beautiful.”

Mr Wake continued to run his Albany store in conjunction with an East Perth music shop and a Katanning sewing shop in the 1970s.

But committing to three stores – and the associated travel up and down the highway– nearly ended in disaster for him in the early 1980s.

“I was spreading myself too thin,” he said.

“And I didn’t like the travel.

“I had a head-on collision near Mount Barker where the other driver came onto the wrong side of the road.

“Then a couple of years later, I was involved in another crash and the bones in the lower half of my body were all broken.”

Mr Wake was told he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and would never walk again.

“I actually died on the table,” he said.

“I felt myself leave my body.”

Three years of rehabilitation got Mr Wake back on his feet.

“I was in a wheelchair but I didn’t like that, so I was on crutches for a while and then I was hobbling around on a cane,” he said.

“I gave Poptronics [the Katanning store] to my brother and closed the Perth shop.”

But nothing was, or is, going to stand between Mr Wake and his beloved Albany shop.

“If I retire, I’d only talk to the dog and do the gardening,” he said.

“I’d miss the wonderful relationships with the lovely people who come here.

“The older I get, the more I want to help people, so when people come here as a stress reliever, it gives me a buzz.

“Music is love, warmth and friendship.”